As told to Barbara A. Schwartz
I don’t go to work to hurt anyone. I don’t polish my gun when I get up hoping to kill someone during my workday.
I became an officer to keep the public safe. I took an oath to safeguard lives and property, protect your rights under the Constitution, and to police without prejudice.
I don’t racial profile. I criminal profile.
That’s what the public tends to not understand. I know things you do not know. I may pull you over for a broken tail light, that is my probable cause under the law. What you don’t know, what you don’t understand, is that a person burglarizing homes in your neighborhood was driving the same color, make, and model as your car; and you match the description of the burglar.
I am doing my job–not racially profiling.
You do want me to catch the burglars before they hit your house, don’t you?
Traffic laws are designed to keep the public safe. I am paid to enforce those laws. If you don’t want to see my strobe lights in your rearview mirror, then don’t speed, stop at red lights at the designated stop line, don’t roll through stop signs, use your turn signals, and keep your vehicle’s safety equipment in proper working order.
I cannot stop you indiscriminately. Years of case law dictates what I can and cannot do. I act within the law because I may have to defend my actions in front of a judge and jury.
I will treat you as a criminal until I can ascertain otherwise. I have to. You see, I wear a very hot and bulky Kevlar vest in the heat and humidity for a reason. You don’t go to work wearing one. I do.
I MUST treat everyone like they are a THREAT until proven otherwise. I have to. I want to go home at the end of my work day and enjoy my loved ones. Most of you don’t encounter threats to your life during the course of your work day. I do. I wear Kevlar for a reason.
Don’t be a threat to me. Don’t act as if you are a threat.
Don’t resist arrest.
Your actions define mine.
OBEY THE COMMANDS THAT I GIVE YOU
Those commands are designed to keep you and me safe. Don’t fight me. I don’t want to fight you. I don’t want to injure you.
Because in doing so I might injure myself–physically or emotionally or financially.
Being a police officer is my job, career, livelihood. I don’t want to hurt or kill you. That may jeopardize my ability to make a living and provide for my family. I don’t want to lose health benefits or future financial security by losing my pension. I have children to put through college.
If you don’t like the commands I give you, the street is not the place to argue with me. You will have your say in court. You can contact Internal Affairs and officially complain about me. I will be happy to provide the phone number.
Hell, maybe the PD needs an app for that.
Speaking of cell phones, one of the biggest fears that my family and I face right now is worrying that a person will act up on purpose–during an encounter with a police officer–to capture a video to post on social media.
Don’t try to become the next viral video. I don’t want to star in it, thank you. Don’t put my job, my life, and my family’s well-being on the line so you can be an Internet sensation and get your fifteen minutes of fame.
Let me remind you: interfering with an officer is a chargeable offense.
Every day when I hit the streets my career and life are on the line. I don’t know what I will get into. I don’t know what type of call I will be sent to or what I will be called on to deal with.
I have to be ready for anything at any time at any place.
You are allowed to make mistakes. I am not. Every decision I make must be correct. I have a nanosecond to decide whether to shoot or not shoot. Whether to pursue dangerous felons or let them go. Do you have to do that in the course of your workday?
Make a life or death decision in a nanosecond?
A decision the entire world will critique from the safety of their arm chairs.
Not all police officers make good decisions. Please don’t blame me for other officers’ mistakes. I had no control over their actions.
When I arrest you, you are considered innocent until proven guilty. Police officers are guilty, in the court of public opinion, until proven innocent. An officer may have done everything right according to department policy and procedure and under the law, yet no one waits for the facts and evidence.
LISTEN WHEN I TELL YOU TO DO SOMETHING
Believe it or not, your safety is paramount to me. Even before my own. For I am fully ready to lay down my life for you.
If I wasn’t prepared to do that, I couldn’t pin the badge over my heart everyday, leave the safety of my home, and hit the streets.
Obey my lawful commands. Don’t argue. Don’t fight me. Do what I tell you. These commands are designed for your safety and mine.
There has been a lot of talk about whether police officers should be called warriors or guardians. I am both. My job is keeping you safe—not to harm you.
I do not care what color your skin is, how old you are, your sexual orientation, or your political affiliation.
I care that you obey the law and not put others in jeopardy.
That is my job.
I am a PUBLIC SAFETY and PEACE officer.
Copyright©2016 Barbara A. Schwartz. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara A. Schwartz has dedicated her life to supporting the brave officers of law enforcement. She is certified in first responder peer support by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support (LEAPS).