The purpose of National Police Memorial Week is to recognize and honor our brothers and sisters in law enforcement who have lost their lives in the service of the public. Although this memorial period remains largely ignored by that same public, it serves as a poignant reminder to active and retired members within the police service of the unique and sometimes dangerous challenges inherent in their chosen profession. By remembering the fallen, we can reflect upon the importance of duty in the face of danger, the sacrifice made by those no longer with us, and the burdens carried by their families and loved ones. As reminded by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, it’s much more important to honor how those officers lived, not how they died.
In my career, I was blessed and remain forever thankful to have worked among genuine, down to earth, committed cops who possessed integrity and common sense and who understood their role in society . Some were hard charges in their approach, and others were laid back, but all went about their duty just trying to do the next right thing. The occasional miscreant was as rare as a Massachusetts politician with courage and integrity.
When speaking with other retired cops of my era, we often agree that we were fortunate to serve in the period that we did – anywhere from the 1970’s through the first decade of this century. Society seemed more mature and responsible then, and displayed much less of the confusion, entitlement and insecurity I see today. People were real; they played the hand they were dealt as best they could, and were not as prone to blame the world for the misfortune that came their way or that they had brought upon themselves. It seems to me that they had more grit, and grit can get you pretty far in life. The laws seemed less punitive and much simpler to comprehend and apply, the public more supportive overall, and leadership less intimidated by politicians, “activists,” busy-bodies, and other noise makers. Materially speaking, salary and benefits were on the rise, with the health, longevity and life-span of officers all increasing over decades past. Indeed, a career in policing meant entry to the middle class, which for many of us, may not have been otherwise.
Much of this seems in stark contrast to the reality of policing today. The misdeeds and crimes of a thimbleful of officers are held against the whole and amplified by a gutless political class, motivated race-hustlers, progressive academics, social media mobsters and sensation-slinging, mindless talking heads from the press, radio and television. Once established, the condemnations play in loop fashion; continually repeated and regurgitated, sewing confusion, mistrust and outright animosity in the public. This is then followed by polls which report, not surprisingly, that public trust in the police is shattered. In this environment, it is little wonder that police officers are leaving the profession at an accelerated rate, and that recruitment of new candidates to replace them is more than a challenge.
In this environment, finding hope for the future can seem a daunting task. And although we seem on the verge of some type of change, I don’t believe that history has ever revealed a particular arc toward any definitive end, but is more of a long circle of new episodes of the same play. Police Officers, like everyone else, have their role to perform in the world, and one which is far more vital than any talking head or self-serving pol. Most folks support and want the best for the police. Right now they don’t have the loudest voice, but like most bothersome noises, the squawk from the detractors will eventually fade and the will of the people re-emerge foremost in the public square.
Until that time, please hang in there, we need you now more than ever.