Ed. Note: This essay written by Eric Kaiser, the chief of the Jourdanton Police Department, in Texas, expresses perfectly what so many of us feel about our careers in law enforcement. We thought it was one of the best pieces that we’ve seen on this particular theme. Eric wrote it especially for Police Week. Let us know what you think in the Comments section below.
So few people get to follow their calling in life. Most of us work to provide for our families and many even enjoy what they do for a living, but few get to call their career a calling. But I do.
I and the roughly 800,000 other law enforcement officers in this country get to wake up everyday and have the honor of serving our fellow Americans in a way that few qualify to do. You see, of those who profess to have pursued a law enforcement career, only about two percent of those people ever actually pin on a badge.
The reality is that less than one percent of our citizens are law enforcement officers. We are a small fraternity.
And while our profession has been on the front lines the last few years, taking a beating in the media, being scrutinized by those who look for fault in every action an officer takes, we still consider ourselves fortunate.
Our jobs help us to raise our families, pay our bills and at the same time serve our neighbors, our families and our friends. When you hear people say “someone ought to do something about that”…we are the ones that get to do “something.”
The efforts of police officers make our streets safer, save lives at accident scenes, get property returned to its rightful owner, and put rapists and murderers behind bars. While officers will be the first to tell you that they don’t enjoy cleaning up the carnage of a drunk driving accident or seeing the aftermath of a sexual assault, they do the joy of seeing a case through to completion. They know the satisfaction of being able to help someone put the pieces back together again after a life altering trauma.
Officers see the worst society has to offer and still come back to work the next day with the knowledge that sometimes it is actually within their power to fix the world’s problems.
I will be honest, though. This line of work takes a toll on those who take it on.
Police officers have a life span that averages 10 years shorter than the average American. The divorce rate is higher than average. Officers often miss birthdays and holidays with family because of bizarre hours. They know that no matter how far they excel at their profession, it will never make them wealthy. They know that any given shift could find them in the hospital or worse. They know that when they have to use force on someone, a spectator will likely be recording the incident, and that those recordings are often manipulated or edited to further the cause of those who disrespect authority in any of its forms.
So why then do they go back, shift after shift, day after day, year after year? Why do little boys and girls put on plastic badges and cap guns, openly telling you they want to be a police officer when they grow up? Why do college-educated people, who could certainly make more money in the private sector, choose instead to become a cop?
Because it’s their calling.
They have heeded the call to serve and it becomes a part of them. You see being a police officer is not what you do, it is who you are. If you are doing the job correctly, you are following your calling to serve society, and make a difference in the lives of those around you. And while you may see the ugly side of the job on the news tonight, I see the great work done by officers everyday. I see the countless hours spent tracking down a lead or a suspect. I see the difference they make in peoples’ lives. I see that our society is one thin blue line away from chaos. And I will see them show up to do again tomorrow what someone blasted them for doing today. Protecting me and my family. Serving me and my family.
I hope you see that too.
Eric Kaiser can be reached at (830) 769-2241 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.