Special Agent Tom Ackerman was one of the principle instructors in my academy. He was the one who stood above the rest and will always be remembered for the role he played in my formative days in law enforcement. He remains a role-model for me to this very day.
During one class, Tom was using slides of newspaper articles projected on the wall. Up came one headlined, "COP FOUND GUILTY OF BEATING WIFE." Tom spun around and looked intently into the eyes of the recruits saying, "See the first word in that headline: COP. If you screw-up, the headline of the newspaper article will start with that word: COP. You will make all of us look bad, so don't do it!"
Noted and remembered - permanently.
It seems in this life that bad news and all negative information travels ten times faster than the good stuff. Just look at any news broadcast. There are not very many stories talking about what has gone well that day. Married guys will relate: I can be a great husband for weeks, but do one thing wrong and all my points get wiped away in a single stroke (sigh) - and she never forgets a screw-up.
As a boy, my folks taught me that there was a select group of people in society that were a 'cut above' most: teachers, preachers and cops. They were to be respected as servants and protectors of the public good. They were to be heeded and obeyed when they asked me to do something.
Unfortunately, today's world has stolen much of that naïveté from us. We can find stories of teachers who have crossed the line. The Vatican has wrestled for many years with claims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and is a long way and millions of dollars from final resolution.
As for cops, in the past few days we have witnessed:
- A Florida chief ousted less than a month before retirement, accused of covering up misdeeds by an officer.
- An Oklahoma officer charged with stealing livestock.
- A Massachusetts chief resigned over an alleged affair with his assistant.
- A Florida deputy accused of grand theft.
- A Los Angeles officer made up a story about having been shot on duty.
- Multiple officers arrested for DUI.
A cut above? These folks certainly did not live up to that expectation. Maybe we are guilty of kicking our own legs out from underneath ourselves.
Remember the Norman Rockwell painting of a cop and a kid sitting next to each other on stools at the counter of a diner? The cop leans over talking to the kid. You've seen in plenty of times. It speaks volumes without a word being spoken or written. The story of life for a cop - whether on or off duty - is that we win hearts one person at a time.
Why Have We Become Targets?
Just last week, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund produced a story. In that writing it asserted that certain segments of the U.S. population have declared war on cops. We are under siege. Wow, that's a pretty strong statement, eh? It appears fairly accurate, to me:
17 cops killed in one month
11 cops shot in a single 24 hour day
5 cops killed in my home state of Florida in one week
If you take the current rate and project it for the year, it turns into 207 line of duty deaths - a 28% increase from 2010.
Take a look at these names and consider that each one represents a grieving family and a grieving group of brothers / sisters at the agency where they worked:
- Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Hopper, Clark County Sheriff's Office, OH
- Deputy Sheriff John Norsworthy, Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office, TX
- Chief of Police Ralph Painter, Rainier Police Department, OR
- Police Officer William H. Torbit Jr., Baltimore City Police Department, MD
- Police Officer Rogerio Morales, Davie Police Department, FL
- Police Officer Kevin P. Marceau, Dallas Police Department, TX
- Police Officer Christopher Matlosz, Lakewood Police Department, NJ
- Police Officer Larry Nehasil, Livonia Police Department, MI
- Police Officer Tom Hayes, Columbus Division of Police, OH
- Detective Roger Castillo, Miami-Dade Police Department, FL
- Detective Amanda Haworth, Miami-Dade Police Department, FL
- Corporal Charles Richard (Chuck) Nesbitt Jr., Sumter Police Department, SC
- Sergeant Tom Baitinger, St. Petersburg Police Department, FL
- Police Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, St. Petersburg Police Department, FL
- Officer David S. Moore, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, IN
- Corrections Officer Casimiro Pomales, New York State Department of Corrections, NY
- Correctional Officer Jayme Lee Biendl, Washington State Department of Corrections, WA