Make the Right Choice

February 4, 2020

By Matt Brilakis, Patrol Officer

As I start my 35th year in police work, and as we begin 2020, I was recently working night shift, driving the streets of Powell in the early morning hours. I began to think about certain calls that I have handled over the years in Powell and at my former police department in Florida, where I worked for 21 years. In almost all of the calls that I have handled that involved some type of enforcement action, there is a certain thing in common with all of them — and that is the person or suspect made a bad choice.

I look back at the drunk driver who turned in front of a vehicle driven by a 19-year-old female with her 6-year-old twins, brother and sister, in the back seat. The vehicle that was struck was forced into a light pole and the 6-year-old boy was killed. I looked in the back seat and saw another officer holding the boy with a look of utter frustration on his face. The drunk driver was arrested, convicted at trial and did a few years in prison; he made a bad choice that night and a beautiful child was gone forever.

I can still see the face of the 28-year-old man who died of a drug overdose. I can still hear the screams of his sister at the hospital, not wanting to believe he was dead. The man made a bad choice by using illegal controlled substances and his family has to live with it.

I think back at the young man who robbed a gas station not realizing the clerk knew him. The offender was arrested when he was found near the store. The suspect made a bad choice and he spent a year in jail thinking about it.

I can think of many, many other calls I have handled which involve alcohol or drugs. Statistics show 85% of all of Powell police arrests involve drugs or alcohol. We can debate for hours the difference between disease, addiction, weakness, experimentation, peer pressure and other things that a person thinks about before he/she ultimately decides to put a foreign substance into their body, but it is their choice to do it.

I have learned over the years that the only difference between anyone is the choices we make. I have made some bad choices over the years. Eating an unhealthy diet and not exercising lead to my heart attack in 2009 and probably lead to my open heart surgery in 2011. Being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2019 was NOT a choice, it is a disease that neither I nor anyone else has any choice on whether they get it or not, but we do have a choice how we will respond to the diagnosis. Luckily I was treated and my chance of it not coming back is 97%, which are pretty good odds.

I fondly remember the two foster children my wife and I have had and loved like our own over the last few years. They both came from drug-using parents; fortunately, the parents have changed their ways and now have their kids back. But I have seen many people’s lives and families ruined over the use of alcohol, pills, methamphetamine and other drugs.