As a young man, I remember a Los Angeles Police Department black and white pulling up and parking right in front of my house in Pacoima. Two officers exited the car, and as they put on their hats, I remember how awestruck I was seeing that car park right in front of my house and how professional they looked. Mom told me to always respect the police and do whatever they said because they were there to protect us. I believed her because, after all, it said “to protect and to serve” on the side of their car.
I have just recently wrapped up a 44-year law enforcement career. During this transition, I have had plenty of time to think about my beloved career and to consider the current status of our society in America. Additionally, I thought I would share some thoughts and facts you may have never realized or been aware of concerning your local law enforcement. Here is a partial list of secrets from your police department I’ve learned over many years:
Human beings. Law enforcement, fire services and paramedics are recruited from the human race. As with you and your family and friends, they have strengths and weaknesses. They have flaws and imperfections. These professionals are held to a higher standard, but that never deterred or scared them from pursuing their chosen careers.
Educated. Today, many patrol officers hold a doctorate of philosophy degree in various subjects. If you want to be a chief of police today, at minimum, you will need to have a master’s degree, as well as an advanced management and executive education from an organization such as the FBI National Academy.
Calling. To many, law enforcement is a calling, not just a job! Many times, it is a family business. Most received inspiration from their parents, family or friends to enter this profession. My generation received inspiration from television shows like Dragnet and Adam-12, including Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Patriotic. Emergency response personnel include Republicans, Democrats and Independents. They tend to be deeply patriotic and have a great love for this country. If you were to ask most why they joined law enforcement, many would say they wanted to make a difference, or they wanted to help people. Furthermore, many would say they wanted to protect those who could not protect themselves.
Unique. Emergency responders are a unique bunch of characters. If you were to ask any cop, “Why would you run into a building after an active assailant?” or ask any firefighter, “Why would you run into a burning building?” everyone would say, “We do it because it is our job. We took the oath, and it’s what we do.”
Oh, and by the way, each of us thinks the other is crazy for doing what they do on a daily basis!
Law enforcement has a warped sense of humor! Many of us use humor as a coping mechanism. We all see things that no human being should ever see, and many times it has a career-ending effect.
Cops love kids! Kids should never be afraid to talk to the police if they get lost or need help. Parents, the worst thing in the world you can ever do is tell your children a police officer is going to take them to jail for misbehaving!
Every person who gets involved with emergency services folks will slowly learn a new language, and soon, they will begin to speak it when around other law enforcement or emergency response personnel.
Recently, I found an image of the two police officers from the television show, Adam-12. In the photograph, both officers are wearing a Class “A” uniform with hats. Both officers were smiling and looked as if they were about to meet an old friend.
Next to the photograph of the two Los Angeles police officers was a photograph of an unknown sheriff’s office specialty unit dressed in a full tactical uniform. The deputies are lined up as if they were about to execute a high-risk search warrant, with each member carrying an assault rifle. The photo of Adam-12 was on the left, and the photo of the tactical team was on the right. Above these two photos was the question, “When did this … become this?”
In 1829, Sir Robert Peel created the London Metropolitan Police Force. Moreover, Peel, besides having London’s Bobbies named after him, also created three core ideas on policing and nine principles on policing that are as accurate today as they were when Peel published them in 1829.
The seventh of Peel’s principles simply states: The police are the public and the public are the police. To illustrate, the police adjust the way they do business in order to better serve the public. I know this to be true, for when I started in law enforcement, mass casualty active shooter events in public schools were unheard of.
Currently, our country is dealing with such emotional issues as cancel culture, wokeness, “defund the police” and Black Lives Matter. Indeed, Americans are just as passionate today about these and other issues as they were about the issues in 1968 and the early 1970s. To illustrate, despite our differences, we will get through these issues as we have in the past by working things out and adjusting our ways of life and moving forward. To be sure, this is the greatest country in the world, and as we have done in the past, we shall overcome.
In conclusion, the last secret I will share with you should be no surprise. Speaking for my colleagues, thanks to all the citizens and communities we have had the privilege to serve. Thank you for the trust and support on a regular basis. You thanking us for our service has such a positive impact.
Local law enforcement will change as needed and, more importantly, how society demands. The bottom line is local law enforcement is here to provide America with the best service possible.
One final thought, the question of “When did this become this” can be simply answered by Sir Robert Peel when he proclaimed law enforcement are the people, and the people are law enforcement!
Something to think about.