While at Police Week, I ran into a lieutenant from Maine. In our conversation, he explained that in his agency, the rank of lieutenant fell just below chief. There was nothing in between. So, in his real life his job was quite comparable to that of a deputy chief. Clearly the role of this small town lieutenant is vastly different than a job of the same rank in a large metropolitan agency.
When I lived in Michigan, reserve officers were generally comprised of two types of individuals: young people who used it as a stepping-stone to full time police work or more mature people with established careers who simply wanted to contribute something to their community. The training varied from agency to agency, as it was not regulated by the state in any way.
When I moved to Florida, I learned that the ranks of reserve units (in my area) are largely comprised of retired career officers. They chose the reserve role to stay involved in the LE community and to keep their state certification active. In Florida, a reserve officer must be fully certified by FDLE, the sanctioning agency. When arriving at a scene, it is often the case that the reserve officer is the senior man on scene. His opinion is sought and his direction is welcomed. That's quite a difference from Michigan.
Labels should be used carefully and never in a way that reduces or demeans the role of another.
When labels are misused, the public picks up on it. When poor attitudes accompany those misused labels, it can encourage miscreants to feel emboldened about challenging an officer's authority or ability to control a situation.
Our diverse uniforms, multiple ranks, and differing agencies often make us look different. Those elements are all evidence of what covers a very common inside. We are all called to fight the good fight. We are all willing to put ourselves on the line for others. We all have an innate sense that separates good from bad.
I was at the graduation of an academy class a few years ago while the devastation of the attacks of 9/11/01 was fresh in everyone's heart and mind. The keynote speaker referenced the terrible loss of life on that day, with a special note about the law enforcement officers who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
The speaker said that they were all heroes. He quickly added this, "It was not their deaths that made them heroes. Rather, they became heroes on the day that they pinned on the badge and became willing to sacrifice their lives in the protection of others." Amen.
Each one of those graduates became a hero in their own right on that day.
I have a friend and brother who is very near and dear to me. His name is Earl. He is a reserve officer for a suburban community in metro Detroit. Earl is much closer in age to 70 than 20 (by a long shot). He is probably the most active and most supportive member of our F.O.P. Lodge. Earl represents the best of what a police officer can and should be.
A couple of weeks ago, early one morning, he suffered a minor stroke at home. First responders were there in a flash and medical care was excellent. The prognosis is that there will be no permanent loss of functionality. Thank God.
Earl is home now, recuperating. Yesterday, the police officer who had been first on scene that fateful day stopped by Earl's house to check on his wellbeing. As is Earl's style, he thanked the officer for his effort with all of the sincerity a human being can muster.
The officer's response: "No problem. You are one of the family. We take care of each other and that is what I did for you." You are one of the family.
What makes someone one of the family? Earl pondered. When someone in a crowd needs first aid, some stand and watch while others rush in to assist. When there is the sound of gunfire or a car crash, some hide or crane their necks to see the carnage while others race to stop the threat and rescue the injured.
It is the ones providing aid, stopping threats, and saving victims from certain death who are One of the Family.
No matter the label.