By Eric Kaiser
For those of us in law enforcement, Police Week is one of our most important celebrations of the year. It is always celebrated during the week in which May 15 (Peace Officer Memorial Day) falls.
Primarily, Police Week is geared towards remembering the 21,000 names that are on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial walls in Washington. As an officer that has participated in those events I wanted to take a moment to explain why it is so much more than just a memorial to many of us.
The important thing to know about Police Week is that while it has its somber moments, it is an exciting event that all officers are honored to participate in. I can tell you that there is no way you can gather 20,000-30,000 police officers from around the nation together in one city, especially a city like Washington D.C. and not come away with some great memories.
I was recently telling a friend about a place that they set up on the outskirts of Washington D.C. It’s been established as a rest and relaxation spot for visiting officers and it is referred to as “Tent City” (due to the fact that there are no buildings, just HUGE open-air tents). It is about the size of a city block and it’s here that officers can grab a bite to eat, have a beer, socialize with fellow officers and let their hair down away from the formal events being held around the city. And it was here last week that several members of the Pipe and Drum bands from various agencies came after competing with each other earlier in the day.
In this impromptu meeting officers grabbed their bagpipes and drums and played to the cheers and applause of fellow cops who were gathered nearby. There was no press there. There was no trophy to be won. There was just officers from cities and counties all over the country who decided to have a little fun together.
These are the types of encounters that lead to friendships that last for lifetimes. When I was in D.C. I met a countless number of officers who ALL greeted me and my colleagues with a smile and a sense of brotherhood. Among those who I had the privilege of becoming friends with was an elected Sheriff from a large county in Florida, a Captain from the Capitol (D.C.) Police Department and several members of the NYPD. Every time I have gone to Police Week I made a friend, who even today, I can call if I need assistance with any matter, professional or personal.
What I hope that the public takes away from this week and the numerous events around the country to honor the sacrifice and commitment of our law enforcement people around the country is that while we mourn our losses every year, we also celebrate our accomplishments and encourage each other to go back to our cities and towns and return to work with a renewed sense of purpose.
In his recent retirement speech, New York Yankees great Derek Jeter listed his five steps to success:
- “Get up every day.
- Put on your uniform.
- Go to work.
- Do your best.
- Don’t make any excuses.”
When I read that, I couldn’t help but think that those very directives apply to police officers every bit as much as they do to baseball players.
So, while we will never forget those who paid the ultimate price in their service to society, I hope that we won’t lose focus on those nearly 1 million men and women behind the badge, who are continually working to insure that our profession is one that is respected and honored and who everyday get up, put on their uniform, go to work, do their best, and don’t make excuses.
These men and women are my heroes, and I am honored to work among them.
Eric Kaiser is the chief of the Jourdanton Police Department in Texas.