This is in acknowledgement and praise of Officer José Rivera Suarez’s stepping outside the box to help a woman stranded by the highway. I was heading south into Santa Fe for my weekly errands, recycling and grocery shopping when my Kia Sorento stalled near exit 171.

Shortly after arranging for roadside assistance, I received a text message from the tow company indicating that because of the coronavirus, I would need to secure alternative transportation, that I would not be permitted to ride in the cab of the tow truck.

I called a taxi company, Lyft and Uber, but all were closed based on restrictions. I then called 911 dispatch and explained my situation. I was told officers do not normally transport people stranded on the side of the road due to vehicle stalls, but to please hold, they would put a call out to see if anyone is willing to help. Soon afterward, I received a call from Officer Suarez asking for my exact location.

I feel it is important not only to acknowledge Suarez’s decision but also point out that dispatch staff indicated they were unsure if any officers would be willing to assist. When I inquired as to why Suarez was helping me, he indicated the other officers refused because they are not a taxi service. This begs the question: What does it mean to “protect and serve” and where is this motto not applicable?

These are historical and harrowing times, and the possibility that the other officers did not know how to handle this kind of situation is somewhat understandable.

Considering that in “normal” circumstances, either a family member or commercial transportation can be accessed; nevertheless, it is important to ask why was it so easy for the other officers to not follow their moral duty?

While I was waiting for dispatch to get back with me, I couldn’t help but wonder why this was possible. Given that my only alternative was to walk or hitch a ride into Santa Fe, it was too obvious to me the risks to my safety. Given I had not brought a coat with me, I was ill equipped to make the trek.

I am incredibly grateful to Suarez’s kindness and compassion and his willingness to rise above standard protocol. Considering the negative publicity law enforcement is receiving these days, officers can ill afford additional, negative feedback. I hope this services as a tool to reassess what it means to provide service and protection to members of our community, and perhaps, provide the necessary push to investigate adjustments that need to be made as we all continue to navigate this pandemic.

Paula Krizan has been a conscientious citizen of New Mexico for five years. She lives in Española.

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