By Stephen Owsinski
“Thank you,” said the meth addict. “For what?” the policeman asked. “Thank you for arresting me,” answered the in-custody drug user. And that is the gist of a dialogue that salvaged a life and cemented a bond between two individuals: one a cop, the other a man seeking rescue from the grip of methamphetamine.
Uniquely qualified individuals become law enforcement officers because they authentically seek to remedy problems and uphold Constitutional tenets. Although receiving gratitude is not foremost on the minds of cops, it is nevertheless appreciated. In a recent case involving Denny Bak, a Fullerton policeman for seven years, and Raul Anthony Perez, 27, a decade-long drug addict and strung-out meth user, duty and redemption resulted. Officer Bak potentially pulled a life from the brink of drug-induced destruction.
Because of his actions and humanistic handling of a drug case, Bak enabled a father and his toddler-age son to have a life free of substance abuse. It was a second chance, of sorts.
How it unfolded is inspiring and timely, especially given the current tension-filled climate in our nation. In February 2014, Perez binged on meth and felt trapped, in bondage to a life-defeating drug. After working a midnight shift as a security officer, he wound up contemplating his life’s downward spiral. As a 13-year meth addict, Perez deliberated what he felt was personal ruin. Perez parked in a remote corner of an Arco fuel station where he sat in his vehicle. In retrospect, an epiphany was evolving.
Perez dragged on a cig. He called his mom who lived nearby and cared for his 3-year-old son. His mom told him to stay away if he were high on drugs again. Perez’s uncle got on the phone and offered a foreboding message: “Something’s going to happen to you if you don’t sober up.”
Perez prayed and uttered to his maker “Can you just take me out of this life?” His prayer was answered, in the form of a blue-uniformed, compassionate rescuer. Enter Fullerton, Cal., police Officer Denny Bak.
Bak rolled up and noticed Perez sitting in his car in a remote corner of the lot, arousing his suspicions. As reported on Behind the Badge FPD, in his side-view mirror, Perez saw Bak approaching. Bak saw Perez watching his advance. Bak determined nervous behavior when he asked for Perez to produce ID; his police instincts kicked in. A pat-down ensued. A glass pipe was found in the pocket of Perez. Methamphetamine residue was present.
Handcuffed in the rear of Bak’s police cruiser and facing felony drug charges, Perez uttered a statement rarely heard by law enforcement officers: “Thank you for arresting me.” That chance meeting between Officer Bak and Mr. Perez culminated in a success story. Perez is clean, working as a barista, and filling his duties as a responsible dad. Perez has vivid recollection of seeing his young boy one day prior to being arrested by Bak. “Daddy, are you sick?” were his son’s words. Perhaps a chord was struck at that moment.
Since his arrest, Perez has steadfastly maintained a drug-free life. Solidified by a handshake, Bak and Perez joined company once again on January 6, 2015. The two chatted and reminisced the day they became known to each other. As Perez put it, ““God came to me in the form of a Fullerton police officer.” He added “He didn’t talk to me negatively.He wasn’t the ‘jerk cop’ that a lot of people assume cops are like. He was very calm and professional.”
On its webpage, Fullerton PD’s credo is “We are committed to the safety of our community through problem-solving partnerships, emphasizing a prompt response, a caring attitude, and a visible presence.” Given police Officer Denny Bak’s handling of this chance meeting involving Mr. Perez, I’d say that mantra was thoroughly fulfilled.
Ever had a similar experience while on duty? Been on the receiving end of gratitude for taking control (custody) of a life ready to crash and burn? “Thank you for arresting me.” Indeed, it only takes one such statement to validate the Police Officers Oath.