Bond of brotherhood: BPD looks out for fellow officer

Published 5:26 pm Thursday, August 9, 2012

Most people view their local police department as a “thin blue line” of defense, protecting those who are law-abiding citizens from the criminal element. Police officers are praised, sometimes scorned, but mostly just taken for granted: A cop will always be there when you need one.

Amongst themselves, police officers everywhere consider themselves to be a brotherhood of highly skilled, dedicated men and women who are willing to take on the mostly thankless task of serving and protecting their fellow citizens. They put their lives on the line every day, whether they are detectives out in the community asking questions, trying to solve a crime, or patrol officers making so-called routine traffic stops. They must always be on their guard, never knowing whom or what they’re going to encounter that may endanger themselves or others.

To be a police officer is to be in a profession where everyone who wears that uniform is a brother or a sister: Someone who will “have their back” whenever they need help.

So when Bogalusa Police Department Maj. Edward Gomez was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma back in 2007, the brotherhood responded with whatever help they could. Gomez, a 25-plus year veteran of the department, was in Ft. Payne, Ark. at the time, training to go to FBI school at the National Academy in Quantico, Va. But once that first diagnosis was made he had to scrap his plans and return home. And since his initial diagnosis he, of course, has piled up a huge amount of medical bills, putting a hardship on himself and his family.

But. said Gomez, “I’m a fighter — I always have been. I’ll never give up.”

Gomez said he had no idea he was sick. “I had been hurting in my left elbow,” he said, but at first doctors really didn’t know why. But then, according to Gomez, he saw a doctor at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans who ordered a kidney test. Almost immediately he was in surgery, where his left kidney and a portion of his left lung were removed. Since then, he has been having chemotherapy twice a week.

Through the years, the department has helped out with small fundraisers, but this year, thanks to Kay Evans, who works in the BPD records department, a full-fledged, all out fundraiser has been set.

Evans said it all started when she asked Capt. Kendall Bullen to get a softball team together. The idea was a softball game between BPD personnel and Bogalusa Fire Department personnel. But in the meantime, she said, she heard someone talking about a fundraising event that they held for the Relay for Life event. That got her to thinking: Why think so small? Why have just two teams when you could have a full-fledged tournament? And so the idea was conceived for the Inaugural Bogalusa Police Department Charity Softball Tournament, to be held on Saturday, June 2, at the Avenue B Sports Complex.

This year, said Evans, the event will benefit Gomez, but in the future, the annual event will be dedicated to any person or cause the organizers believe need their help the most.

“It’s all about helping you when you need help,” said Bullen. And it’s not limited to the police department, he said. “We just want to find someone in need.”

But of this year’s event he said, “We’re all one big family. We look out for each other. It’s all about taking care of each other.”

And true to Evans’ original intent, the first teams to match up in the tournament will be BPD versus BFD.

Deadline for team signups

The deadline for signing up teams for the tournament is May 22, with an entry fee of $200 per team. In addition to the BPD and BFD teams, a number of others have signed on to offer support, including Washington Parish, St. Tammany Parish and Slidell sheriff departments. And area businesses have stepped up to show their support, including Double D Meats, Zesto’s, Coca Cola, Reddi Ice, Holsum Bread, Walgreen’s, Pon’s Food, Food Depot, White’s Business Machines, Nielsen’s Pharmacy, AllStar Graphics, Travis’ Supermarket, Lawrence Stogner, Bernie Brennan and the employees of Hibbett’s Sports. Donations are still being accepted.

There will be two brackets for the tournament: one bracket for professional teams (police, fire, sheriff, etc.) and the other for civilian and coed teams.

According to Bullen, there will be a lot happening at the event besides playing softball, including a Spacewalk for the kids, courtesy of Curt Hodge, and the Northshore Rolling Video Game.

The entire event promises to be a fun-filled, exciting day, with a concession offering hot dogs, chili, hamburgers, nachos, drinks and other snacks, to go along with the main event, the softball tournament.

Both Evans and Bullen stressed that to make this event a success, volunteers are needed to work the gate and the concession. Anyone interested in volunteering or helping to provide concession items, either the actual food and drink products or monetary donations, can come by City Hall to the Chief of Police’s office with their donation or to put their name on the volunteer sign-up sheet. There is also a sheet to order T-shirts, with the deadline May 22. The shirts are $10 each.

“With your help, we can make this a success for Maj. Gomez and his family,” said Evans.

Bullen said, “After 18 years (in the department), it’s like a brotherhood. I guess all workplaces feel that way,” he explained.

“But there’s a special bond because of what we do.”

True, said Gomez. “Officers coming together to do this makes me proud to work with them. They’re my second family.”