Jeff Ackerman: Self-appointed critics disparage officer |

Jeff Ackerman: Self-appointed critics disparage officer

It did seem a little funny at first. A Grass Valley motorcycle cop gets his $800 helmet stolen outside Nevada Union High School while he is on campus helping to educate students on law enforcement.

It officially stopped being funny when two 18-year-old high school seniors were taken from their classrooms in handcuffs after the helmet was found in a vehicle belonging to one of them. I doubt the students or their parents are laughing much today. It’s not a good idea to steal from anyone, let alone a cop. Especially when you are 18 and no longer eligible for juvenile hall.

That didn’t stop the pithy comments from some of our Internet “bloggers,” who seemed particularly tickled to see one of our young police officers embarrassed.

“One has to ask why anyone would leave an $800 helmet containing expensive communication equipment lying around the motorcycle. Sounds incredibly irresponsible,” read one posting.

Notice the “blogger” didn’t assign “responsibility” to the ones who stole the helmet. As to why anyone would leave an $800 helmet “lying around a motorcycle,” I think that’s generally where motorcyclists leave their helmets. I see them all over town. Perhaps Officer Hooper thought his helmet would be safe with his motorcycle, since it had … you know … the word POLICE on the side of the tank. I bet the students would have left the helmet alone if there had been a jacket with a Hells Angels logo “lying” next to it on the motorcycle. The Hells Angels are probably a lot less forgiving than the Grass Valley Police Department when it comes to people stealing things from their bikes.

But that’s where we are today. The Hells Angels get more respect than the people tasked with protecting our lives and property.

“Boggles the mind to think such shallow and non-critically thinking men are put in such positions of power over citizens, some of which have brains enough to ALWAYS lock their helmets up,” wrote another sensitive blogger. Interesting how he (or she) uses the terms “shallow” and “non-critically thinking” while exchanging blogs on the Internet.

Unfortunately, there were no blogs posted the last time Officer Brian Hooper made the pages of The Union. That was in early October under a headline that read: “Grass Valley police officer saves elderly woman’s life.” That’s right. It turns out Officer Hooper is a hero. Hooper was investigating an abandoned vehicle in early August in the parking lot of McDonald’s when he noticed some commotion inside. According to the report, Hooper went inside and found an elderly woman on the floor, choking and struggling for air. Hooper called for an ambulance, and then the woman stopped breathing and started to turn blue. Hooper and the woman’s son administered CPR until she started breathing on her own again. The Grass Valley City Council would later commend Hooper for his action, following this report from his superiors: “Officer Hooper’s quick thinking and swift response saved this woman’s life. Officer Hooper is an asset to the Grass Valley Police Department and an outstanding representative to the community.”

How is that for “critical thinking”? There was nothing in the report indicating where Officer Hooper’s helmet was while he was trying to save the woman’s life. My guess is that it was out in the parking lot with the motorcycle.

While the men and women who serve and protect us here in our paradise-like setting may not possess the same level of sophistication, or even qualifications, you might find in some urban areas (although Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster has a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco), they do a pretty decent job. Unfortunately, you don’t realize that until your home is being robbed or you are gasping to breathe on the floor of a fast-food restaurant. Grass Valley, in particular, has difficulty recruiting because the city can’t pay as much as some neighboring areas (Roseville, for example) that also offer a lower cost of living. And so we “make due” with the likes of Officer Hooper and other young police officers who have chosen to put their lives on the line (and driving a motorcycle up here is putting your life on the line) for barely a living wage.

The least we can do is try to be more appreciative of that and a lot less “smarmy” when it comes to the ridicule.

At the same time, I hope the two young men who have reportedly admitted stealing the helmet are dealt with in an equally compassionate way. From what I have heard, they are both seniors preparing to graduate and you could make a good argument for temptation in this case. There’s the helmet. There is nobody around. Should we, or shouldn’t we? Looking back to my senior year of high school, there is no doubt that my buddy Frank and I would have had to take the helmet for a ride. In fact, I can’t say for certain that Frank would have stopped with the helmet. He always wanted a Harley with sirens and lights.

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