The day that you graduated from the academy and the moment that you learned that you had passed your state certification test are two of life's truly memorable events. You were bright-eyed with enthusiasm. Your whole law enforcement career lay ahead of you. Working was such a thrill that you would arrive early, stay late and even thought about going in on your day off without getting paid. You just wanted to be there. Those were heady days, indeed.
I am wired tightly to my family, my faith and my country. My father was a WWII veteran of the European theatre. He fought through the Battle of the Bulge. He came home a very proud and patriotic American. Though I would not fully recognize it until later in life, my Dad planted those seeds of patriotism very deeply in me. They have come to define who I really am, at the core of my being.
To me, one of the ways I best act on my patriotism is by serving in the law enforcement community and The Brotherhood to the very best of my ability. This is a tangible way for me to live the American Dream and return some of what I have been given. Most of my brothers and sisters share my values. But, not all of them do.
This message is for the new, the young and those who are still somewhat naïve. If you are a dinosaur (like me), you probably learned this lesson long ago. In your heart, you wish it weren't so.
LISTENING FOR THE SNAKE'S RATTLE
Your travails through each shift brings you up and takes you down. You have trained hard to fight the evils on the street, i.e. guns, drugs, gangs and the like. You have learned that suspects lie. Hopefully, you have already learned that some people want to kill you just because of the uniform that you wear. When on duty you become hyper-vigilant to sources of danger. Or, so you think.
You face enormous danger from where you least expect it: other cops. They are the snakes, the scum and the vermin that can hide behind a false smile and a badge. It would be great if they wore a sign that revealed their internal rot, but they do not. They usually look just like you and me. But, if you listen and watch carefully, their behavior betrays them. It is just like the rattle of the rattlesnake. When you hear it: run the other way.
THE RUDE AWAKENING
WAR STORY #1 - Many ears ago, I was elected to public office. While there, we started a police department. At the outset, we had 24 reserve officers. Ultimately, we sent those first 24 reserves through the full academy where they earned state certification as career officers. I used my elected position and took the fledgling department under my wing.
A short time after the end of my term of office, the town council hired a new chief. Things were not good in the department. This new chief seemed an ego-centric maniac. He would not tolerate any dissidents among the troops. A few really good men quit because they just couldn't stomach their new leader.
Within a year, his M/O was clear: he enjoyed the media spotlight. He would propose only those initiatives for the department that improved his personal image or enhanced his own resume. Any of the local reporters who challenged him or worse, said something negative about him in print were subjected to being cut-out of the loop.
This new chief became emotionally abusive to the cops who had given birth to the department. Never one to shy away from sharing my opinion, I fell into disfavor with the self-anointed king.
At that time, I sincerely believed that all cops were altruistic. Cops focus on public service. Cops are supposed to be shining examples of people who put the needs of others ahead of their own, I thought. This guy did not come close to fitting those expectations.
WAR STORY #2 - Years later, I remember being a newly-minted cop. I basked in the warmth of The Brotherhood, feeling safe. Wow, was I in for a jolt. The dose of reality shook me hard. Yet, I wanted to believe an attack on me by another officer was an isolated incident. Surely, this must be a rare exception. Cops almost never hurt a brother cop, I thought. Wrong, again.