Fit to Serve

The question is valid, considering the circumstances. And it was one of the first to come up in the morning meeting the day after: Was Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Rein, at 76 years old, too old to function in a physically demanding job? My unscientific survey of news reports over the last few days seems to indicate a lot of people, including some of my colleagues, think so.

Allow me be the one to argue it. No one who did not know Deputy Rein can possibly make that judgment.

Age is, increasingly, a non-issue in so many ways. True, if you don’t use it, you lose it – and too many people know what that’s like. But Deputy Rein apparently used it, kept himself in good shape and enjoyed the good health that allowed him to pass the same physical tests and training as his colleagues of different generations passed. If age had deteriorated him somehow, wouldn’t that show up in the results?

If age is a determining factor, should gender be, too? Is anyone ready to deny jobs to female police officers, firefighter and soldiers? Those who do those jobs have proven themselves in physicals and field tests alongside their bigger bulkier male counterparts.

Consider your public safety compromised in the absence of testing. For example, my dear mom, age 70+, received her driver’s license renewal by mail recently, permission from the state to pilot a two-ton machine on crowded highways, no questions asked. Her eyesight and reflexes happen to be on par or better with drivers 20-to-30 years her junior, but the state has no way to know that. No required tests, no required proof. How many half-blind, reflex-impaired people are out there on the road “too old to drive” because no one has bothered to check??

Remember the local newspaper layout a few years ago that proclaimed “60 is the new 30”? (which, I suppose, puts me at some point in puberty)…
There has never been more information on, awareness about and cultural value placed on health, fitness and mental acuity and their fountain-of-youth effects. I am blessed to have friends in their 30’s and friends in their 60’s. I have friends in their 40’s that act like frat boys. I have friends in their 20’s who can hardly keep up with me on a jog. It’s all about state of body, mind and soul.

Deputy Rein, may he rest in peace, may have violated BSO policy, may have trusted too much, may have made a bad judgment call. We may never know. We do know he paid dearly.

During his funeral this week they will recite the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning, which never mentions death or grief, but rather celebrates life, peace and the spirit, both human and divine.

Isn’t that ageless?

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3 Responses

  1. Although much has been much has been made of Deputy Rein’s age–his age was not responsible for the tragedy–departure from procedure was the primary cause. The Deputy should never have stopped to let the inmate out of the van. He made a mistake, one that could be made by anyone of any age.

  2. Age shouldn’t matter at this point, since there is no height/weight limit. If age is a factor than weight should be too.

  3. Ms. Milberg,

    I agree with you 100%! As a 41 year old correctional officer and 15 year department veteran , I must admit age at times challenges the body. It is the lifestyle and spirit of each individual that enables one to meet each one of those challenges differently. Yes, Deputy Rein paid an ultimate price. Although I never met him, I firmly believe he was better than many performing his duty. He met his challenges with great exception!
    Rather than focus on his age; why not focus on why the department failed to provide a protective vest for him or have the funds for a second officer? I commend Sheriff Lamberti for admitting truth however I think it is time to be proactive before other loss of life occurs. The inmate’s charges should have been a great indication as to the amount of increased security B.S.O. should have taken. The risks correctional officers/detention deputies take each day are unknown to many unless a tragic event like this one happens. I hope more proactive measures are taken before another officer/deputy and their families lose a significant other. Thank you Ms. Milberg for understanding that age is nothing but a number and for trusting that Deputy Rein is a fallen hero. God bless him and his family.

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