I took an interesting call this week. It was nothing out of the ordinary from what we normally do.. but interesting and somewhat disheartening. It came on a Saturday at the end of National Police Week, where we honored the fallen and where my department wore a black taped badge due to the loss of an officer at a neighboring department. The call that night caused the shift to end on a strange note, leading to a bit of a restless night, and then to an early morning where the call was on my mind. We don’t take work home with us, in theory. But sometimes it comes along for the ride whether we welcome it or not. When I woke up that next morning, I started thinking about..the way things are and the way things are going in cop land. I pondered crime. And victims. And the cultural, generational, and all other disconnects between so many folks that are putting such huge barriers in between the police and the citizen. I thought about right vs wrong. And personal responsibility. And the justice system.
I happened upon some theories on Lady Justice, her scales of justice, and her double edged sword. Thought about not only the figurative meaning, but the literal meaning and all of the variables that play into the justice system- from the law enforcement, to the prosecution, to the defense. Even the actual elements, desires, and motives that drive the specific person into a criminal act. I spent the rest of the day wondering how we have gotten so far away from the meat and potatoes of the issues at hand. I ran across a Martin Luther King JR. quote that is so simple in nature, yet so profound: “The time is always right to do what is right”.
We are seemingly in an age where personal responsibility is no longer the primary standard by which a person is judged for crminal wrongdoing- especially in controversial instances where stories are grabbed and turned into inflammatory headlines and the media milks every last ounce of coverage from it. So if personal responbility and overall accountability are not at the forefront, how are you and I- brothers and sisters bound together by a common goal, supposed to stay unified to fight what sometimes feels like a losing battle? How do we stay strong, and focused, and continue to be the Thin Blue Line? I don’t mean the symbolic picture that we put on our cars, social media pages, or phone backgrounds. I mean the ACTUAL blue line. The line that stands in the middle to protect those who otherwise would not be able to protect themselves. How do we maintain that status in today’s society where it feels that every few days some new instance arises where the police are automatically blamed and criminalized whether their actions are legally justified or not?
I spent some time having good conversations with individuals that are way smarter than I am. I spoke to people form all walks, many different fields, varying levels of education, and got a wide array of input about the current state of affairs. And I came to a conclusion.. Even if it’s just for today. And while it is so simple, and so practical, it seemed so significant to me. The solution is to just stay the course. If things are wrong, we must fix them. If practices, policies, procedures, and protocols are wrong, we must amend them. If and when we see that change is necessary, we must make it. However, we do not change the overall goals that we have all set out to achieve. We do not stop the primary mission which, although idealistic and cliché at best, is still the same as it has ever been. That mission is to protect and serve. That is the key. That is the purpose. That is the course that we must stay on.
One of the hardest things to understand, not only as an officer, but as a human being, is that at the end of the day you can’t save everyone. And in all reality, you might not be able to save anyone. But giving up is never the option. Throwing in the towel is never the right choice. No matter where you are, what you do, who you know, what you’ve done, or what you want to be.. Somebody needs you. And when we stop trying to help people because we can’t save the MASSES, we will absolutely miss saving the ONE that would listen, the ONE that would be receptive, and the ONE that needed us. Love God (if that’s your thing). Love people.. because that has to be your thing. Do right.. Or at least try. Be safe. Be firm when it’s necessary. Be kind and gentle when possible. Say hello. Open doors. Communicate better. Talk the talk. Walk the walk. Protect. Serve. And just stay the course.