Where’s a policeman when you don’t need one? Maybe on your back porch?

I’d like to thank the Madison police officer who did a status check at my home last night. We had the perfect storm of coincidences: My husband was traveling, and when he phoned, I casually mentioned that a man was acting very erratically just behind our house. The gentleman appeared to be completely jacked up on drugs – not in a medical sense, but in a drunk sense. The man noticed me, standing on my deck, and started to approach the house, at which time I went inside and continued my phone conversation.

Then my daughter called and asked me to “hold on” when someone else beeped in. This is a common theme; usually she forgets me and I sit holding a dead phone. Instead, I hung up after a couple minutes. Sad to say, I apparently didn’t disconnect.

My cell phone was off, because I’d moderated a discussion group, then hadn’t turned it back on. So Daughter #1 called back to get a busy signal and my cell went right to voicemail. My husband called to say goodnight with the same results. One or both of them called Daughter #2 to ask her to call, too. Same results.

What I realized, at 10:30 last night, was that my dogs were frantically barking at someone’s insistent and loud knocking on my door. I (then) had filmed windows and no peephole. There was no car in the driveway, no sign of a police car, and the pounding on the door was very insistent and LOUD, making my dogs so much LOUDER that I couldn’t even hear what the man was yelling beyond “open the door!” But only a fool would do that.

Suddenly I noticed that the deadbolt, always a sticky lock, wasn’t engaged, so I shouldered the door and frantically tried to get it bolted, feeling the hard knocking through the door on my shoulder even as I pretended not to be at home. I also realized that I hadn’t yet set the house alarms, which automatically call the police if triggered. Truth be told, my adrenaline kicked in about then, and I was admittedly freaked.

Then the man moved to the deck in the back of the house. My dogs ran to that area, barking up a storm. They wanted to get at him, period, hair standing up straight all along their backs, growls hysterical. No doubt my fear pheromones were feeding their frenzy. I ran upstairs, peering out clear windows – no squad car in sight. So I grabbed my cell phone, turned it on, and frantically called 911. I asked the answering dispatcher if there was an officer on my property.

Yes, to my great relief, the dispatcher reported that there was, and I started to relax.

“WHY?” I demanded.

“Do you have a daughter named Brook who is a police officer in Chicago?”

My heart froze. Was this a death notification? “Is she HURT?” I managed to ask.

“No. She wants us to be sure you’re not hurt,” was the answer. “She called us to ask for a home visit to be sure you were okay because you aren’t answering your phone.”

So … my family assumed I was likely dead on my kitchen floor, hacked to death by a jacked-up drug addict. They must have thought that to call the police, right?

The officer was very polite and respectful and assured me I hadn’t wasted his time – that my safety was the most important consideration of the night. He laughed with me as we pieced together what must have happened and he suggested I check my phone and then call my family.

This blog has to do with the business of community policing, and customer service. The officer who responded to my house frankly deserves a medal in that area, because he was good-natured about the dogs (once I gave them the command to sit and drop), and he was equally calm and reassuring with me. In fact, he was the steadying presence, and that made all the difference in the world.

Thank you, thank you.

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