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I was dispatched to a call of Christmas lights that were vandalized. The street was in an affluent neighborhood. The cul-de-sac was very friendly and the neighbors were all very close. Every year during Christmas time, they would have a competition for the best lights. The neighbors would all gather on the street at night, and one-by-one, turn on all their Christmas lights. Then one morning, they woke up and realized that someone had gone into their yards and vandalized their lights. The neighbors were all upset and some were so angry that they never wanted to put up lights again.  

Even though this was a call that didn't mean anything to anyone else, I always felt called to go above and beyond when time permitted. I walked door-to-door down the street and spoke to many neighbors, to see if they saw anything suspicious. One of the neighbors saw and heard two teenagers who were walking down the street talking about it. They indicated that one of the boys probably lived just further down the street because he had been seen there quite often.  

I located the two teenagers after knocking on several doors, and contacted their parents. One, was a single parent. I talked to the single parent about the problem with her son and the Christmas lights. She was a very concerned mother and wanted to take care of the problem. The other was a mom who was a recovering alcoholic. 

I went over to the second house and found out that she had another son who had died unexpectedly, several years prior. and she was still in full grief and would not give her other son any credit for anything. He could never live up to his brother's memory. He wanted to grieve for his brother also but his mom would not let go of her grief. Both were from well to do households. I called a meeting with all involved. The victims agreed that the boys would pay restitution and clean everything up. They could only meet at night, so I showed up to the meeting after my shift had ended.  

When the alcoholic mom showed up at the friends house, she was drunk and had begun to drink again because of the stress. I would not allow her to go to the meeting even though she insisted. She began to cry and hug me imploring me to allow her to go, but I insisted that she should not. I took her car keys from her. The guilt of what he had done was clearly written on her sons face.  

During the meeting with the neighbors, the boys apologized. One parent asked where the one boys parents were and he didn't know how to answer. He was upset, anxious, and embarrassed about his moms alcoholism and blamed himself for her relapse. I interjected and said that she wanted to be there, but because of some personal issues, I felt that it was better that she stay at home to get better. I took on the blame for her not being there.  

The look on the young mans face said it all. It was a look of utter relief, but most of all gratitude. After we left, I took the young man home and he said that he wanted to talk to me. He said that he appreciated how I handled the whole case and because of my professionalism and the fact that I didn't judge him, he felt that he now knew what he wanted to be in life. He would finally dedicate himself to becoming a police officer like me. That was very moving and I still think about him and hope that somehow my actions influenced his life for good. 

About the Author


Lester L. T. Letoto, Everett Police Department, Washington (ret.) is a 27 year veteran of law enforcement.  He can be contact via the website publisher.

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