Op/Ed: When you see a police officer, take time to thank them
By John Street
Who are we? We are the men and women of law enforcement. We are the thin blue line that separates society from the clutches of utter chaos and total anarchy. We are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, flesh and blood and heart and soul.
All too often I observe others quickly judging our actions, criticizing us on what we should, or should not have done in situations that required the best decision at the moment. We have the pressures of a profession where we are legally entitled to remove someone from the freedoms of the life they live and, if necessary, in some unfortunate situations, to end a life in the line of defense. This is an obligation we take with the utmost consciousness, concern and thought. We are faced with making life and death decisions in a split second and we have to live with the consequences of those decisions for the rest of our lives.
While the majority live in a world of black and white, we live in the gray area in between. Yes, we do see the best of what society has to offer but, all too often, we see the atrocities of what one human can do to another. In those times, we often compartmentalize what we see, tuck it away in a part of our brain so that we can move on and not let it slowly eat us up and tear us down.
We don’t do this job because we have nothing better to do with our lives. We don’t do it for the glory and certainly not just for the pay. We do this because somewhere deep in our souls something calls us to this path. Some innate force that compels us to stand up against evil; to support those not as strong and to keep them safe from predators that roam amongst us.
Most times law-abiding citizens see us patrolling in our cars or maybe grabbing a quick meal or cup of coffee. But, unless we have some interaction with them, we are gone from their memory just as soon as we are out of their sight. They don’t think about us having to put on 20 pounds of uniform and equipment, including body armor, so we can do our jobs to the best of our ability all while remaining as safe as we can to face the unknown. They don’t think that when we kiss our loved ones goodbye each night and tell them that we love them that it could be the last time they ever hear those words from our lips. That we are out there 24 hours a day, in the blistering heat and biting cold so that they can sleep peacefully at night. That we too want to be home safe at the end of each shift and sleep in peace as well.
Would I have you walk a mile in my shoes if I could? Would I wish that you could see and hear what I do? No, I wouldn’t. I have a lifetime of haunting memories from what I have experienced as a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) and a defender of my country, memories I would never wish upon another. All I ask is that you take a moment to consider what we do and what we encounter every single day. It’s a profession that can take an emotional, mental and physical toll on all of us. I’m not asking you to like us, only to respect us and acknowledge the full gamut of our responsibilities as a Law Enforcement Officer. When you see us out there, consider taking a moment to say, “Thank you for all that you do.” Those seven words can greatly impact our day in the most positive way. It is an honor to have been called to this profession and we are eager, determined and proud to serve you and our community each and every day.
As you read this, I hope you’ll take a moment to honor all those that have given their lives protecting us from those that seek to do us harm. To my entire fellow LEOs, stay safe, stay strong and be proud of who you are and what you do.
About the Writer: John Street has in law enforcement for 17 years; 15 years with Chesterfield County Police and two years with the Ashland Police Department. He is also a 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps.