Here stands a proud Patrolman. Proud to wear a silver badge that says Patrolman across the top. I'm proud to stand amongst the rank and file, both male and female, that wear the same badge. Many of my friends who still work for the Sheriff's office where I once worked, still proudly wear a badge that says Deputy. Feds I've known for years still wear Special Agent badges and are proud of it. Patrolman is not the lowest rank within the agency: it is the beginning and the backbone of any department; it is the foundation from which all other ranks and badges obtain their power. You can't get there without being here first, and for an entire career the rank of Patrolman is a fine goal. Patrolman - it is all I ever wanted to be and that badge carries much hard won experience and expertise.
Don't get me wrong, I once wore a Detective badge but it was not a promotion in my agency, just a badge that I wore in my street narcotics assignment at that time. For 12.5 years I also wore a subdued badge that indicated I was a member of my agency's SWAT Team and although I was given Team Leader status, I was still a Patrolman.
Lately there seems to be a trend in law enforcement to put down or lessen the role or impact of the Patrolman. Study they'll say, take the sergeant's test as soon as you can. Patrolman is a dead-end position. Success for some may be based on chevrons on the sleeve or bars on the collar. In the band-of-brothers I hang with, success is based on the skills and abilities of a good officer - a butt kicking, lights and siren, adrenaline dumping get there and takes care of business, police officer. A cop in my and my brother's lingo (and no one is allowed to call a police officer a cop to me, unless you've worn the badge and the uniform and tread a mile in these worn out shoes, you haven't earned that right). In my agency and in my area I know who the cops are, who the blue centurions and worker bees are that take care of business and they know me. A mutual trust and mutual respect built upon too many resistings and arrests made in bars and back alleys. I don't have to look back to see if they've got my six; they'll be there because they are built that way and I'll be there for them as well. At this point in my career, I may be a little slower on foot to get there but I'll be there and I hit like a ton of bricks.
I had some political appointee once state (not to me directly) that I shouldn't have asked him a question in a class for supervisors I was sitting in on because I was "only a patrolman." My point was germane; my question was professionally asked but my "lowly status" (in his eyes) should have kept me from querying his lofty position. It was as if Who are you to ask me a question? Oh, I love to be underestimated. My 26 years experience, advanced study in police tactics and use of force and my court recognized expert status did not impress this politically appointed wiz-bang. Really? Buddy you wouldn't last a minute wearing this uniform and this badge on these streets.
Nothing wrong with getting promoted, some of my best friends are supervisors. Although I've joked that I never wanted to get promoted because I wanted to part of the solution not part of the problem, agencies need leaders in supervisor positions (notice I wrote leaders not managers which we desperately don't need). I've been accused by some of being anti-supervision. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are some supervisors that I would follow through the gates of Hell (and some I indeed have). There are also those whose main ambition in getting promoted was to work less and those who think that Patrolman exist to take care of them not the opposite. They've forgotten that they once wore a Patrolman's badge and how hard it was for them on the streets. If you choose the promotion path remember the main dictum of leadership: take care of the troops, take care of the troops, take care of the troops.
The Mighty Patrolman
So... there isn't such a thing as a lowly Patrolman. There may be a worthless Patrolman who, for instance, expends more energy getting out of doing things than working but the rank of Patrolman is a noble one. Much like the medieval knight or samurai warrior who learned and mastered his skills and abilities and fought the battles and skirmishes for the king or warlord, the Patrolman is on the front lines taking care of business. He or she represents that thin blue line we hear about that separates order from anarchy.
Recently I testified as a use of force expert for the prosecutor's office. Prepping for my testimony in his office the prosecutor said, "You're a Sergeant, right?" I told him proudly, "Nope, I'm a Patrolman - just a general purpose police officer." One of a legion that continue to do much with very little, who attack society's problems day after day and night after night with much risk and little reward. Whose actions although unheralded continue to make supervisors, despite their best efforts, look good.
Patrolman Davis or Officer Davis, I like that. I've earned it. It speaks volumes about who I am and what I do as well as who you are and what you do, my brothers and sisters in blue. I align myself with other ground pounders who've been there and done that. So shine up that shield, star or special agent badge and pin it to a chest swollen with pride for what it represents; for all those that have worn it before and the fallen brothers who were killed in action with that badge or star on their chests. I proudly wear my Patrolman's badge now and will carry that mantel for the rest of my days as have so many others who've gone before me. Denigrate it at your peril!