Policing is not for the faint of heart. A police officer is going to see and hear things that he or she will never un-see or un-hear to the day they exit this world. When the unspeakable happens, the officer will be there, usually among the first to arrive, and will assume his or her sworn responsibility to determine what happened and why. A fact that is under reported is that officers, on any given day, would much prefer to help someone out as opposed to take someone out. With this basic principle in play, we continue to kill and maim our officers at an unprecedented rate, and the day is coming when the unthinkable happens and the folks affected are going to wring their hands and wonder, who are you going to call?
When an infant is casually discarded in a plastic bag, only to be discovered by neighborhood children and saved from a slow, agonizing death, who are you gonna’ call to see that justice is served?
When a man makes a mistake(s) behind the wheel, or worse, and loses control of his vehicle killing a number of motorcyclists in a matter of seconds, who are you gonna’ call to sort out the mayhem and bring this incident to a factual conclusion?
When a felon attempts to pass a bad check in a local business and is detected in the act, who are you gonna’ call to sort this crime out?
When a felon must be transported within the criminal justice system, who are you gonna’ call to handle this movement?
When a human being loses all hope of coping with his or her life and calmly sits down with a firearm, or drives his or her vehicle into solid concrete seeking to put an end to their misery, who are you gonna’ call to carefully chronicle this violent and ugly ending?
When a couple chooses to end a disagreement with violence toward one another or worse, ends the disagreement with the finality of death, who are you gonna’ call?
When vehicular traffic is suddenly snarled as a result of outdated engineering and roads that are carrying traffic that far exceeds their capacity, who are you gonna’ call to open it up and get folks moving again?
When a dangerous fugitive from justice is located in a motel room, thought to be armed and known to be violent, who are you gonna’ call to apprehend him?
When justice is served and an individual on probation violates the court imposed terms of that probation, resulting in a warrant being issued for his arrest, who are you gonna’ call to bring the individual back to face the judge?
When the neighbors complain of a foul odor emanating from the house next door, who are you gonna’ call to make entry and sort out the horrible mess that is moldering in a back bedroom?
When a school bus stops to discharge a couple of students at a neighborhood stop and is passed by a truck hauling a farm implement with insufficient clearance to make the illegal pass, resulting in the decapitation of three children sitting in the back of the bus, who are you gonna’ call to lend dignity to this horrifying result?
When your neighbor is killed in a single car accident and you slowly pull into your driveway, exit your car, square your hat up and walk not into your house but the house next door to notify the young, now widow, that her husband is not coming home, who are you gonna’ call to to save you the discomfort?
Some of the events noted above are current events, some are from my personal catalogue of events that I will never unsee.
The point is this. In a free and open society, bad people and sociopaths operate with little fear of folks who are not sworn to stand between them and the society we enjoy. Today, any action by a police officer is sure to be captured by a camera, which builds just a smidgeon of hesitancy into the officers response to an event in front of him or her. If it is a deadly force incident, there will be the usual and proper multi layer review of the officer’s actions that will not satisfy those who have an inherently biased view of the police. The police are an essential part of the society we live in, indispensable if we are not to descend into absolute chaos, and yet police killings continue with each occurrence marked by the ritualistic reviews in the press and moments of reflection on the part of folks who knew or associated with the dead officer. Officers are being killed simply because they are officers, in many cases posing little threat to the killer. Lost in this sometimes deadly business is the fact that our officers are involved in hundreds of humanitarian, warm, and gracious acts of kindness to those we protect for every violent interaction. That is also our sworn responsibility.
My family is a police family. I have a daughter who is a trooper and a nephew that is a state wildlife officer in Florida. I am proud of their commitment and participation in this noble occupation, but would not recommend it today. Police agencies across the country are not enjoying the robust numbers of candidates that once upon a time were attracted to this business. An officer is not only threatened with increasing levels of violence but is under immense pressure by posturing politicians who are crafting ridiculous rules of engagement sure to result in more death and injury to our officers. The changing times have not been kind to this profession.
That being said, I ask again, who are you gonna’ call when things turn ugly?
God bless our Centurions.