I have been spit on, shot at, punched, kicked, scratched and stabbed at. I have been threatened, had the lives of my family threatened and have felt the fear of being solo and jumped by a family of three; of being attacked by someone larger, heavier and intent on doing me harm. I have seen children killed at the hands of their parents, seen lifeless decapitated bodies as a result of drunk driving, felt the pain of the victim of sexual assault, had one of my officers killed in the line of duty and had another shot in the line of duty. But through this all, I have also had the greatest honor of having citizens come up to me and say “thank you for your service” and of hearing "you don’t remember, but you helped me that time when I needed help.” These instances make everything else pale in comparison.
My brothers and sisters on this line have been short, tall, fat, thin, White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Arab and Native American; but you know what? When the duties of this job have come calling, they have never been any of that—they have just been the police. There is no color or ethnicity on this line. I am honored to have walked with officers who I have seen deliver children on duty, dive into rushing flood waters to rescue citizens, who have suffered pain and injury to maintain and restore order in the chaos of active crime scenes and who have suffered crippling career ending injury while doing their duty.
My time on the line has allowed me to see and police through the aftermath of the Rodney King Incident up to the tragedy of the assassination of NYPD Officers Liu and Ramos. I was able to be a part of the reduction of gang crime and shootings in the early 90’s and now I am able to see the fruit of those team labors as my community is now rated the safest city, four years in a row, even though we live next to the murder capital of the world.
The theory of the academy and textbooks serve their purpose as the base of an officer’s knowledge, but next comes the application of those theories and techniques in the real world. Suddenly that officer is faced with an incident that requires them to immediately act and to apply their training in a reasonable and lawful manner. I have also learned to police through my experiences and through those of my senior partners—one who has been on the job 47 years (he started in 1967) and others who also spent more than 30 years on the line; as well as well as through visionary and stand up leaders. As a whole, and to better serve society, the police—the watchmen and guardians of society— learn from their best practices as well as from their failures.
Times, laws, experiences, and policing change, but the ultimate mission of maintaining the peace never does. The peace that is maintained and enforced is not a peace mandated through laws created or legislated by the police, but rather it is the peace created and mandated through laws made by elected officials and voted on by the electorate of that jurisdiction and enforced through the police.
Evil exists, it causes people of all race, creed and color to commit the evil, horrendous crimes that they do—society cannot forget or choose to ignore this because it is what the police face every day. No police officer elects to go to work every day, to abuse or to pick on a race, creed or person of a color that is different than theirs!
Rather than place the fear of the police into children by telling them that if they don’t behave that the police are going to come and get them, or that the police are the enemy; instead, let us promote the value and importance of the service that the police provide to society. Promoting negative expectations and fear towards the police ultimately affects the behavior, expectations, and outlook of individuals brought up in that manner— ultimately becoming self-fulfilling prophecy when something “goes wrong".
I refer to policing as a calling, the ultimate calling, and hopefully this aids the civilian to better understand why. Nowhere, I say again –nowhere—else does one go to their job and on a daily basis, strap on body armor and carry a gun. All with the knowledge, that today may be the day that they don’t go home? Police officers do this every day, sometimes for a career of 20 or more years. This translates, to an average of five-thousand work days and forty-thousand work hours of wearing body armor and carrying a gun, only to suffer some form of Post traumatic stress disorder at the end of their career, that is if they make though to the end.
If you want to come to this line only to make a paycheck, then this is not for you, because that is but a small byproduct for the sacrifices that you will make. Those who have held the line know deep down inside, that they were—called—to do this, to serve their community, to sacrifice for the greater good of society. If you are on this line, then you better live the calling, stop to talk and interact with your community, arrest those that need to be arrested, and serve and raise up those who need your help—those who are in fear, those who are abused, those who are victimized. And, do so with honor!