Memorial Day. A day when we reflect on the selfless sacrifices of the countless men and women who gave it all on behalf of an ideal…on behalf of a belief…on behalf of those they’d never met and the generations that would follow them.
I always wonder how soldiers, often not even old enough to legally have a beer, found themselves so passionate about our core values and the need to defend them at any price. It’s something that has always amazed me. More than that, it’s something that generates a feeling of gratitude that I could never quantify. Thank God for them. Thank God that we have men and women walking amongst us that possess the drive to take an oath and attack when ordered, whether the fight is even theirs to fully understand. That life and that mentality is not for everyone and some may even find it offensive. Regardless, every freedom we enjoy today was facilitated by it. There is NO debating that.
In that way and many others, law enforcement mirrors the military and why so many former soldiers and those who have served often seek a second career as a police officer.
Every time a police officer is attacked, a false narrative about the American police officer is rolled out or when insults and disregard are directed at our profession, inevitably there are two general reactions. There are some, often the majority, that immediately want to respond and do so in a manner leaving no doubt as to where they stand. They usually tend to be the younger cops and/or the street cops – aka the ones who actually have to deal with the mutts on the streets. See, because the street cop understands that, while words are only words, they can still lead to the creation of a condition. Example: A cop allows a perp to sit on the corner and yell insults to him every day and simply dismisses them as nonsense “not worth his time”…simply words. Meanwhile, the rest of his mutt friends are watching and now they feel empowered. Suddenly, in no time, one knucklehead turns into 2, which turns into 5 an so on. Before you turn around, the perps now OWN the block and there is little if any respect for the cops patrolling it; and good luck maintaining any form of constructive force should the need ever arise.
The portion of our profession that attempts to encourage the others to “let it go” or classifies direct and pointed verbal attacks/false narratives as “wastes of time” to fight, is a cancer; a disconnected pied piper leading us down a road of apathy and affability where we have to rely on making TikTok videos, lip sync challenges and “humanizing the badge” in order to hope that perps don’t kill us.
Our President/Founder, retired NYPD Police Officer Michael J Burke, said it best when addressing the latest tirade from Michael Millan Fernandez of the Spanish Pavillion directed at the Harrison (NJ) Police Department: “You will accept the treatment you think you deserve; and we, as police officers, have set the bar way too low”.
Maybe I look at this thing we do differently because of the road I traveled. This was not a profession I just stumbled into nor decided on a whim late in life that I’d give a shot. I took 10 years worth of police tests, worked as both a dispatcher locally and for the state and worked for state corrections before finding my final “home”. I have given way more of myself to obtaining/maintaining this job than it will ever give back. This profession is who I am as a person and likely why I find it so hard to NOT pick up every sword I see lying at my feet, whether the fight is mine or someone else’s; and there’s many more like me.
On this Memorial Day, I find myself wondering, what if the millions of soldiers that have given their lives on behalf of this country, our flag and our freedom were as dismissive of the value or worth of the fight as some in our own law enforcement ranks are towards the ones we find at our feet today.
“You and I must have the courage to say to our enemies: ‘There is a price we will not pay. There is a point beyond which they must not advance’. And this – this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s ‘peace through strength’”
~Ronald Reagan – “A Time for Choosing”
It is more than simple pride. If you find yourself laughing off flagrant disrespect hurled your way and NOT taking it personally, know that you are single-handedly making the job of every street cop who one day WILL have to go hands on so much more dangerous. Ultimately, there will come a time when all those unanswered insults, false narratives and threats come to fruition.
Before respect can be earned, it must first be expected and demanded. If you can’t wrap your head around that concept, there are always social workers needed. Meanwhile, sit down, shut your mouth and stay out of the way while the real men/women earn your safety.
To the soldiers who have gone before us while believing in something bigger than yourselves, we thank you for both your example and your sacrifice.