Afterward, we re-grouped and talked about how fortunate we are to be part of such a huge brotherhood that is so tightly wired together. Amen.
If you haven't been yet, I hope you'll consider coming to Police Week in the future. It's a trip you won’t regret. If you can't be there, please do what you can to remember the fallen and their families wherever you are.
I wrote an article recently, published on Officer.com, It started with this sentence, "I've penned a few articles urging the real cops among us to be part of Police Week in D.C. each May."
There are those who took my words to mean that the determination of who is (and is not) a real cop hinges on whether or not the person has attended Police Week. I didn't say that and I didn't mean to imply that. For whatever confusion came, I apologize. I should have made my intent more clear.
The rest of that earlier article listed steps that a real cop could take to honor the fallen no matter where they are, e.g. at work, in their hometown, in church, etc. I hoped that everyone could sense that they were a part of honoring and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
But to the point: this epilogue is about real cops vs. plastic cops. One can see the plastic guys in lots of places. Their names will be at the top of the list of any detail posted for overtime. Similar postings by the Salvation Army or Toys for Tots that seeks volunteers to get toys for poor kids at Christmas won't find their names anywhere on it.
The plastic cops can always find ten things to complain about, and rarely (if ever) see anything positive about the job. On payday, their biggest concern is to be certain that they got paid for every minute of extra/overtime work. If so much as a few minutes are missed, they whine and throw a tantrum.
When a hot call comes out, i.e. man with a gun, etc. they will tell dispatch that they are "tied up" on a traffic stop or some other benign activity. When the crew goes out for a beer after the shift, rather than engage their co-workers, they will spend their time ensuring the badge bunnies (or their equivalent) know they are a cop. They have no compunction (even if they are married) about "nailing" one of the women and proudly letting everyone else know of their "accomplishment."
This year, there was a group of plastic cops sent from the northeast by their union - all expenses paid, of course. When asked what they thought of the Candlelight Vigil, their response was, "We were playing cards in the room and didn't realize the time; we didn't make it." When asked what if they had visited The Wall and seen the mementos from families and fellow cops, their reply was, "Yeah we saw it off to the side as we got off the subway, on our way to the beer tent." Chances are, these guys wouldn't even be in D.C. if it weren't on the department's or union's dime.
Real cops on the other hand, come in all sizes, shapes, career paths and styles. They will be there for those in need, be it a fellow officer or a member of the community. While they like getting paid (don't we all), money is not the lynch-pin of determining whether or not they will get involved in an activity.
They will be at a fellow cop's funeral - no exceptions. They will help their fellow officers with needs both big and small. They are proud to their core of being a cop. They may be frustrated or pissed-off at the administration, but they could not imagine being in any other line of work.
They walk by The Wall or other memorials to the fallen and choke up. They hear a piper playing Amazing Grace and tears will appear on their cheeks. They see a surviving wife and child and yearn to reach out with an expression of love and concern.
When asked about truly meaningful experiences on the job, they will cite how they saved a life or put an indelible mark of goodness on a young child or a frail senior citizen.
Real Cops support the world around them - because that is what they do. They right wrongs and defend the truly weak, whether on or off duty. Their pastor likely knows who they are. And they spend time with their families because they truly enjoy those moments together.