I am currently not following major league sports, instead finding that appetite fed by collegiate activities that will soon be corrupted by money and endorsements as well. When I read the paper, however, I do note the activities of league leaders in batting, wins, and saves by the bullpen guys. It must be nice to hang a nice tidy statistic on whatever it is that you do for a living. Police officers don’t have that luxury. Here is why…….
This morning I read about a 3 year old child that drowned at a swim beach on Table Rock Lake. The child was left unattended and found floating before rescue attempts ultimately failed. This tragedy reminded me of the good side of policing, a facet that gets little attention because you can’t develop a stat relative to your efforts in educating our “clients” the citizenry we protect. Specifically, it reminded me of my Award winning daughter and her tireless efforts at preventing these tragedies as a member of the Marine Division of the Highway Patrol. Her reputation for fair and aggressive enforcement was overshadowed by her zeal and presence in the classroom, delivering common sense water safety and regulation to thousands of folks over her career. Unfortunately, the results of her efforts can’t be measured, as it is impossible to know how many lives were saved by her enthusiasm and skill.
In our careers we answer hundreds of thousands of questions. Seldom, in the day, did we sit down for a quick lunch and not have an opportunity to educate an inquiring mind. Weather conditions, road conditions, favorable routing and equipment advice as well as legal inquiries were usually the topic. How much of this advice made a quantifiable difference? We’ll never know. In my day we placed a manicured Patrol Car in a fire station on the Optimist Cub’s respect for law day. I loved this opportunity to show kids the workings of a Patrol Car and answer hard questions about why we carry guns and what difference traffic and criminal law make to each of us. The response to these events was rewarding but not quantifiable.
We may never know how much solace we provide after the death of someone in an accident. Our authority and ability to bring some organization to the details surrounding an untimely death is not quantifiable. Being an authority figure in these circumstance requires a great deal of composure and brings some degree of certainty to the circumstances, but it can’t be measured.
I have loaded badly hurt dogs in my Patrol Car and taken them to a vet, seeing to it they were either provided medical attention or saved from their suffering. I have stood next to a carnival pony, tied to a mileage marker on the interstate with a broken leg awaiting a local vet’s arrival to put him down. In both cases, we made an immeasurable difference to one of God’s critters.
Finally, there is the consideration of presence. What difference have we made by simply being at the right place at the right time? Years ago, we lived on an acreage outside of Jefferson City where we were in the process of building our home. I drove out there, in uniform, and climbed a ladder to watch the roofers work for a few minutes. They had no idea this was my house they were working on. After watching for awhile, one of the roofers walked over to me and asked how I knew about him (he was wanted). This assumption being prompted by a trooper sitting down next to him as he worked, for no apparent reason other than to arrest him. I asked where he was wanted, climbed down and confirmed the warrant, cuffed him and took him to jail. He asked how I found him and we both laughed hard when he discovered that I had no idea about him and the house was mine. It is where presence, alone, compelled a surrender. How many times has presence, alone, prevented an untoward event? We’ll never know.
To all the defund idiocy that is still wafting about, you have no idea what we do. It is not a life, as depicted on television, of shootouts and incredible enforcement tactics. While these things do happen, we contribute in thousands of ways that cannot be captured on paper with a number. It is usually after you have left the business that you start thinking about the “other” ways you have contributed to the greater good. We were paid to make a difference that cannot always be captured as a statistic.
Have a great week!