Last Sunday, I went to early church with my wife. She went in ahead of me. There were about 500 cars in the lot.
While I sat there for a few minutes, I was approached by a young cop in a short sleeve shirt (it was cold outside). He explained that he was looking for people who had left valuable packages on their car seat while in church. He was leaving them notes to remind them to put their packages out of sight, so that they wouldn't return to a broken window at the end of Mass.
I was taken with the effort and told him so. Whether it was the chief's idea or his own, he was the one freezing his butt off. Kudos to him!
I sat there thinking: what kind of cop do I choose to be?
I want to be the cop in the restaurant who finishes his meal, sees youngsters with their parents and fishes a junior badge from my pocket for each one, encouraging their good behavior.
On a slow day, I want to take my patrol car by the school playground at recess so that all the kids can see it from the inside.
I want to talk to elementary school classes about the value of good behavior and doing good deeds for each other.
Can I always do this "feel good" stuff? No. Time and emergencies don't permit. As I learned in a class many years ago, the sense of positive or negative in most situations will turn on 1 second or less of conversation. How often can I NOT afford that one second? Rarely.
A few years ago, I attended the joint funeral of two Detroit officers: Fettig and Bowen. From the church to the cemetery stretched a funeral procession that was 5 miles long of cop cars with their lights running.
Average citizens stopped their cars on busy Detroit streets and stood in the rain - often at attention - as the procession passed by.
In 2003, at the funeral for my friend Tye Pratt of the Omaha Police Department, nearly 5,000 attended his funeral. The entire funeral procession route was lined with citizens - each holding a flag and standing at attention.
We earn that kind of respect (or tear it down) collectively. Where are you on that scale?
I hope you will join me at Police Week in D.C. in May to remember our fallen. Please try.
The attitude of our citizenry toward our fallen is a direct reflection of the way they've been treated by those of us who are still able. Think of what you do each day - in the smallest measure as a show of respect for them.
Remember how you felt when The Badge was first pinned on your chest? Try to carry a piece of that memory with you each day as you do your job. You'll be a better cop for it.
Fraternally, Jim Donahue.