Off Topic


Years ago, my niece Sophie coined a phrase that still resonates with me. “Aunt Mary, Off Topic.” It was directed at me. I know I have shared once or more that I go off on tangents quite often. I am way more focused at work. In uniform, I am able to make a quick decision, negotiate with savvy, drive Code 3 without plowing into the seemily immortal high school students at lunchtime. When I am off duty, I get off track. Think I just did it again…

Ok so, my family got a 8 week old puppy in November 2015. I flew down to San Diego and picked her up as a surprise for our daughter. Not wanting to have an animal companion named after a candy or cookie, we gave our 8 year old three names to choose from. She picked the name Olive.  

I forgot to mention that someone promised our child a puppy before that December Holiday season. I think I rolled my eyes, sighed, crossed my arms on my chest and stomped my feet all at once. An over 50 tantrum. I felt it wasn’t a great time, for those 2 maybe, but not for me. Do you know how much an 8 week old puppy needs to go out to pee and poop? In the wee hours too?!  Training? I knew it was going to be my gig. “You are so much better at that stuff honey.” ” But I promised her…” 

The last couple years haven’t been easy. My resiliency has waned. My capacity to compartmentalize has taken a dump as well. Age? Length in the job? The overall policing and political climate in recent years? Yup, definitely some of those and a whole bunch more. 

I started to joke that our little Shitzu is my emotional support animal. I have given to “Paws and Stripes” and watched media pieces about service animals and emotional support animals. I truly get it now. There is something so simple and so wonderful about petting an animal. Holding Olive. I adore the exquisite way that Olive rubs her sweet little head against my leg, the way she stares up at me when I scoop her up, and the meditative way in which she scurries out across the yard to fetch the ball over and over. The unconditional love.  I feel my anxiety soften and my mind slow. 

Testing Time


Standing at the back, I saw the passage of time. I saw the heads of some of the men and women that I worked with over the years. A few of them had even retired a few years after I was hired. Nearly 20 years ago. So hard to imagine it. I remember when I was a new cop, a rookie, in field training, that a group of them wore these cute dinosaur pins on their uniforms. Those pins were an unofficial badge of honor. An arrival to an elite group. The veterans. The older guard. The old boys. 

I stood at the back at this memorial for a man, a former Chief, who had given me a chance. A chance that has become a 22 year career. It struck me hard when I heard he had died. He was only 66 years old. 

I had arrived a bit late on the rainy Friday afternoon, but felt more at ease in the rear of the small chapel. I could see some of my past at the City of Berkeley Police Department so easily, but they couldn’t see me. 

I bowed my head with respect and with reverence. I shed a few tears. Not only for Chief Butler, (rest his soul) but for those whose heads I saw now. Not all of them were supportive of women or me, but I found the endearing qualities in most of them in order to negotiate many challenging times. Despite our differences, in some ways, we were…and are…the same.