Funny the little memories you treasure because you are reminded of someone's humanity or are pleasantly surprised at an unexpected kinship.
All of my memories of Officer Robert Jacobson are like that. They come freshly to my mind because Officer Jacobson, now retired, was found dead in his home Wednesday night. Masslive writes about it here.
Many community-based organizations have a generic wariness of law enforcement. That was equally true for
us at Arise for Social Justice; our focus on decarceration and decriminalization put us at odds with much of the mission of law enforcement. Then there were the two years when we ran an underground clean needle distribution (and collection) program. We didn't flaunt it but as time went by the program was more and more an open secret.
The first time Officer Jacobson came to our Rifle St. office my heart skipped a beat, but then I saw he was accompanying a very bedraggled woman with a black eye. "She could use some clothes and a cup of coffee," he said, after he introduced himself. We said we'd take her in hand.
A month or so later he brought us another woman, much better turned out but with the jitters of someone in withdrawal. "She needs some food," he said, and then, sotto voce to me, "I think she's ready for a program, if you can get her in."
In the next two years Officer Jacobson brought us another half dozen women, most of them prostitutes, right up until the time we closed our Rifle St. office. He was always gentle and friendly, with a core of quiet. He treated the women professionally and with respect, with never a suggestion of overfamiliarity. He told me once that every day is a new chance, that he believed people could turn their lives around with a helping hand.
I'd heard Bob Jacobson had retired and knew he'd be missed. I hope men and women of his quality continue to serve on the Springfield Police Force.
Patch photo from the Urban Compass.