To the Heroic men and women of law enforcement, thank you for your service.
I know you generally deflect when someone uses the terms “Hero” or “Heroic” to describe you so let me explain what I mean by the term Hero.
Christopher Reeves said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” You are ordinary men and women who have chosen an extraordinarily difficult profession in which to serve. You do that daily with professionalism, grace, humor and humility. You persevere and endure in spite of often seemingly overwhelming obstacles.
The ancient Greeks believed that everyone had it within them to be a Hero. They defined a Hero as a Protector, someone willing not only to protect themselves but also to protect others. Heroes have the necessary knowledge, physical skills and a desire to serve. They believed Heroes possessed three core strengths:
- Commitment to something bigger than themselves.
Every day you demonstrate compassion for victims and other members of the community you serve and for your brother and sister officers, some of whom are struggling with the weight of the demands of the profession, the constant exposure to trauma, the long hours and the constant spotlight and criticism. Be sure you also have self-compassion, as you are only human and you are doing a very difficult job.
I know that you love what you do, you love whom you do it for and you love whom you do it with. I know that because you do not do it for the money, the fame or the glory, you do it to be of service. I know that you love whom you do it for because you will put your life at risk to save people in your community who you may have never met and some of who may not like you, and may even despise you simply because of the uniform you wear. I know you love whom you do it with because you will put your life at risk to help, save, or rescue a brother or sister officer, even if you have never met them.
The fact that you are in the law enforcement profession, a profession of service, shows that you are committed to a cause bigger than yourself. You show up regardless of the weather, the political climate, the time of day, or the type of call, which shows me you are committed to something bigger than yourself. You leave your family and show up to serve when there are floods, wildfires, hurricanes, ice storms, tornados and riots showing your commitment to something bigger than yourself. You go to work knowing there are a high risk of injury as well as a risk of being killed, a sign of someone committed to something bigger than themselves.
I know this is an extremely challenging time for you. Because of the uniform you wear and the profession you have chosen you have become the target of protestors, politicians, social media trolls and the media who make broad negative sweeping statements about an entire profession making allegations of systemic racism and brutality. You have been attacked verbally and physically, yet you continue to show up so those who wish to protest peacefully can do so safely. You remain stoic in the face of the insults, accusations, threats and vile comments.
Many of you are frustrated that you have become the target and are getting blamed for all of societies ills and problems and you wonder “Why?” I believe it is because you are the most visible of all professions in society. Educators, lawyers, doctors, reporters, social workers, mental health professionals and politicians do not wear badges and uniforms when they are out in public to identify themselves. I believe it is because you will always show up. You will show up when people call for help. You will show up when people are in fear for their lives. You will show up at the domestic, the suspicious person call, the murder, the sexual abuse call, the call about a person with mental health issues who has become violent, the suicide call, the check on the welfare call, the traffic crash where people have been injured or killed and all the other calls. You will show up to render the scene safe for fire or EMS to respond. You are the ones who show up at people’s door to tell them their loved one has been killed in a car crash or murdered in a drive by shooting. You will show up when their baby stops breathing. You will show up, cut down and try and resuscitate their loved one who has hung themselves in the garage. You are the only profession who will show up when people are protesting against you. You will show up to ensure their safety and protect their right to free speech. You are also the only profession who will wear a body camera, and another camera in your car to record every interaction, every word uttered and capture those few instances when you do misspeak, misstep or make a mistake.
Is it fair that you have become the target for all social issues in society? No. Is it your reality? Sadly, yes. Do we own a piece of it? Yes. Can we do better? Yes. Will we? With your help and continued commitment, yes.
You are not Superman or Superwoman, yet people expect that you will perform super human feats. Yet, you are human. You are subject to the same limitations of human performance as everyone else. You have emotions. You are impacted by the trauma, the taunts and the attacks, as are your family members. And, through all that you continue to serve and protect. When you screw up, be sure you stand up and own up. Be there for your brothers and sisters and remember that ignored behavior is condoned behavior.
I would ask that you remember the small number of Haters who get a lot of time on the 6 o’clock news and who are most vocal at the protests, and on social media, do not represent the majority of citizens in your community who trust you, support you and need you. Too often however, the majority of citizens who support you remain silent for many reasons.
I would ask that you do not quit. I know this is a lot to ask from the comfort of my home, as I am no longer on the front lines. If you do quit, I understand why and thank you for your service. I would just ask that you consider that if you quit, the haters win, the criminals who are rioting, looting and burning win and the politicians who are doing what is popular and expedient so they can get reelected instead of what is right win. If you quit the citizens who trust, support and need you, even if they are afraid to publically show that, lose. If you quit the profession loses; we lose good men and women who have committed their adult lives to a profession of service.
So I ask that you stay. Stay and be part of the change moving forward. Stay and continue to serve. Stay and seek to have at least one non-enforcement contact every day with a member of the community you serve where you can have a conversation (we need conversations not debates) to find out about them and their needs. Stay and continue to Be a Good Ancestor. Stay and embrace the pursuit of excellence and be willing to Dare to Be Great. Stay and be a courageous leader in a time when leadership is badly needed.
To the men and women of law enforcement, you are my heroes; thank you for your service.
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