Monday, December 01, 2008

Good cop, bad cop

Back in the day, I worked--- mostly nights --- at a university hospital, as a ward clerk. As part of my job, I met quite a few security guards, of which a significant number were either in law enforcement, had been in law enforcement, or planned to be.

Around that same time, I read the LA Times...a lot...and there was a lot of bad news about the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. There was also bad news about the LAPD.

One night in the emergency room, a sheriff tried to impress me with the fact that he had beaten up some guy in the course of arresting him. The sheriff looked completely unruffled. The young man he'd arrested was extremely bloodied and had a couple broken bones. I was not impressed. In fact, I was sickened and disgusted.

Of course, I don't know the story of this man's arrest. But, a few years later, I was an eyewitness, more than once, to what I can only describe as unprovoked police brutality.

There were some other dealings with police over the years. Some good, some bad. But I grew cynical about the sort of person that was attracted to police work, and about what police work eventually did to even the best of people.

And then I met two police officers who made me toss out all those stereotypes and prejudices. One morning, after a long night shift, these two men, practically strangers to us, cheerfully helped us move, joking and laughing as they easily carried our heavy bookcases upstairs, actually seeming to enjoy the hard work, and apologizing that they couldn't stay all day, but had to get some sleep before their next shift.

One of those men was Mark Riddering. We barely knew him when he helped us move, but that didn't stop him from eagerly volunteering to help. As we got to know him...well, I have to admit that he sometimes made me feel like I did when I was a little girl and hero-worshiped a heroic policeman.

Mark Riddering was a good cop. He was a true hero.

He was also one of the sweetest, kindest men I've ever met. I loved watching him interact with his kids, loved watching how he looked at them, how he played with them, how he so obviously cherished them and his wife. He enjoyed life...enjoyed his family...enjoyed his many, many friends. I don't think I'll ever forget his smile or his laugh.

We knew Mark during the time when he began noticing troubling symptoms, and when he received the diagnosis of ALS. He was an important part of the weekly Bible study that first met in his home and later in ours. We all watched him walk through this time of uncertainty. If he felt sorry for himself, we never knew it --- his concern was always for his family...and that he would be found faithful in God's eyes. Over the months and years, we watched his big strong body deteriorate. Never once did we hear him complain. Instead, we still heard him laugh and still enjoyed his smiles, his loving concern for our family, and his sense of humor. He encouraged others over and over again.

As his body weakened, it was as if Mark grew even stronger. The last few times I visited him, I felt as if I were standing on holy ground. Jesus shown that brightly through Mark. It sounds cliche...but it was true.

One local news story reported that Mark Riddering "lost his battle with Lou Gehrig's disease". That doesn't seem accurate. From what I know, and what I've heard from his family and friends, Mark finished the race, the long tiring marathon of the last 15 years, and he finished it well. He fought the good fight. He kept the faith. He persevered to the end. The prize is now his. He didn't lose; he won.

Tomorrow I have the awesome yet sad privilege of attending the funeral of a true hero of the faith. Mark Riddering has left behind an awesome legacy. I cannot help but think that Jesus greeted him with the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Read more about Mark Riddering

Edited for readability.

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