Demonstrators recently have taken to the streets of Berkeley to assert that #BlackLivesMatter. I have good news. Black and all other lives already matter to the people of Berkeley including the BPD. Here’s how I know.
My brother died on the Berkeley Pier on January 26, 2013. Civilian first-responders saw him fall to the pier in obvious medical distress. They rushed to him and immediately called 911.
BFD responded and administered first-aid while transporting him to Alta Bates. The ER doctor made every effort to revive him. The Chaplain administered last rites.
After leaving Alta Bates, I called BPD for help once I realized that my brother had driven to the pier in a car that was out there somewhere in the sea of cars in the many lots at the pier. The Lieutenant who returned my call assured me that BPD would locate the vehicle and tell me exactly where it was. Then he asked, “What happened to your brother?” As he pursued this discussion, it became clear that he wanted to know whether I knew or suspected that my brother had been a victim of foul play. That shocked me because the ER doctor has been absolutely certain that a “cardiovascular event” had taken my brother’s life.
I agreed with his assessment based on what I saw and knew of my brother’s health. But my and the doctor’s conviction did not deter the Lieutenant.
A short time later, a BPD Sergeant called to tell me that he had located the vehicle and instructed me to stay where I was and he would come pick me up and drive me to the vehicle. When he arrived, he explained that he had contacted the paramedics and he gave me the information they had received from the civilian first responders.
I offered to show him my brother’s things. He examined them – especially his clothing, his wallet, and his telephone. He determined that everything was in order with them.
He drove us to the pier, took the key, opened the car doors and trunk, and carefully examined the interior and the trunk of the vehicle. Again, he found nothing amiss.
He started the car, backed it out of the parking space, put me in the driver’s seat, and bid me adieu with one last expression of sympathy.
I recognized that I had received from BPD an unexpected and invaluable service that was delivered with great compassion. I had recovered my brother’s car. But BPD had gone an extra step by taking the time and effort to determine that my brother had not been the victim of a crime. They clearly would have undertaken a full-scale investigation had they determined otherwise.
As I completed the paperwork attendant to my brother’s death, and arranged for his burial, it struck me again – Americans keep track of everybody from cradle to grave. Everybody counts.
My brother was a black man. The civilian and BFD first responders didn’t care, the ER doctor didn’t care, the hospital chaplain didn’t care, the dispatch call-taker didn’t ask, the BPD Lieutenant didn’t ask, the BPD Sergeant didn’t care. Each of these people did the right thing, the Berkeley thing – they responded to a person in distress (first my brother then me) with professionalism and compassion precisely because they understood that my brother’s life mattered.
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