On Christmas Eve, my brother-in-law rolled into town for the holidays. He lives in Virginia, and I was happy to see him, as always.
Not only has he been a good brother-in-law over the years, he's also been a wonderful uncle to my daughters and father to his 10-year-old daughter. The holidays wouldn't have been the same without him, and I'm glad he came.
My brother-in-law, in addition to being a nurse anesthetist, is an auxiliary police officer with the Chesapeake Virginia Police Department.
As I celebrated Christmas with him on Thursday, I thought of two police officers who didn't get the opportunity to spend the day with their relatives. Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, two New York City police officers, were killed by a crazed gunman on Saturday while sitting in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood not far from where I grew up. The suspect, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, then committed suicide.
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Before perpetrating such violent acts, Brinsley posted a disturbing message on Instagram suggesting that he planned to kill police officers in revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Garner died in New York while a police officer had him locked in a chokehold. Both men's deaths, and the lack of indictments in the two cases, have ignited protests all over the country.
Brinsley, who had a long criminal history in Georgia and Ohio, first shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore before fatally shooting Liu and Ramos at point-blank range. It's a tragedy that should have never happened, and my heart goes out to all the families whose Christmases will forever be linked to sorrow.
There's been much controversy in recent months about police-related shootings and the disconnect between some police and the communities they serve. Some of us may disagree on the issues, but one thing should not be forgotten. Most officers are good people who risk their lives to protect us. It's also important to remember that they are human and have families at home who love them.
That, of course, doesn't mean officers shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. Respecting the humanity of another person goes both ways, and police must value the lives of the people they are sworn to protect.
My brother-in-law isn't the only one in my family in law enforcement. One of my sisters is a probation officer in Brooklyn and my nephew's father is a retired NYPD police officer.
I wish them -- and all law enforcement officers -- peace and love for the holidays.
Alva James-Johnson, 706-571-8521. Reach her on Facebook at AlvaJamesJohnsonLedger.