Cops on Top

Humphreys Peak


June 2013

Over the past month, as Lisa and I drive home from various hikes, she is twice stopped by the police for speeding.  Both times she is ticketed.  By my standards Lisa is a safe driver, but she just doesn’t seem to be able to slog along slow enough not to attract the attention of the uniforms.

Here in Arizona, while with Peggy, Lisa’s very long time friend, I hear the story about the time, back when Lisa lived in California, when a bicycle cop hailed her on Sierra Madre Boulevard.  That time he ticketed her for rolling through a stop sign.  As Lisa was one of many drivers who did not come to a complete stop, she said to the trooper, pointing over her shoulder, “You’d better get backup because I’m not the only one.”

Very few people who are cited are happy about it, so our law enforcement officers become familiar with abuse.  The cop responded to Lisa’s comment by saying, friendly but ominous, “Miss…” at which time Lisa shut up.

Today we are hiking to Humphreys Peak, the summit of the state of Arizona.  We are surrounded by police officers.  I tease Lisa that all the cops on the hike are eyeing her, just waiting to be able to whip out their pads and write her a citation.

Why all the cops?  Today is “Cops on Top Day.”  Since 1999, groups of law enforcement officers volunteer to summit “the world’s most respected mountains” in honor of “police officers who have been killed while protecting and serving their communities.”  Cops on Top has climbed several of the highest peaks in the world and recently started filling up the state high points.  As they say, “The purpose is to bring to the public’s attention the dangers, stress and life-altering effects on the average police officer.  A fallen officer’s memory serves as our banner and a memorial is placed on each summit.”

Cops on Top honors fallen firefighters too.  Today in retrospect, we honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the men who lost their lives in a huge blaze the day after the Cops on Top hike.  This is another story.

It is by chance that Lisa and I find ourselves hiking Cops on Top Day, and we immediately feel a comfort with our law enforcement officers.  Even Lisa.

Have you ever hung around with cops while they are off duty, especially on the hiking trail?  These guys are a hoot and a half.  There is the stone-thrower at trailhead, a guy peppering the outhouse with rocks.  His buddy is inside.  Both of them, cops.

We stop and chat with a friendly group from Phoenix who are two police officers and their families.  Eight matching shirts.  Every year they come here to summit on Cops on Top Day.  One guy explains, “This would be the best day to need help.  You could just yell out ‘911’ and in no time, a dozen cops would be standing right next to you.”

We leapfrog with them most of the way to the summit so over time, we have a chance to get to know each other a little.  One of them, when finding out we are from Pittsburgh, says, “Oh sure.  I’m on my way there tomorrow.”  Of course.

Be nice to your police officers.  They’re just like you and me.  Especially the ones who climb to the top.

there are cops in this photograph
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