On May 12, 1962, General Douglas MacArthur gave his farewell speech to the graduating cadets at West Point. His speech was simple and profound--"Duty, Honor, Country--those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be."
My brother is in Iraq. He has been in the military a long time. Like many of the soldiers over there, he left behind a wife and two teenage girls who miss him very much. He didn't want to go to war. He sure didn't want to leave his wife and girls. But he knew that when he was called he would go. He understands Duty, Honor, Country. He took an oath and he is living by that oath.
Back here in the civilian world, The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics is an oath many of us have sworn to uphold. I don't know that there are three words that can adequately represent the Code but I am going to try--Courage, Compassion, Justice. I beg your indulgence in this endeavor because I don't have the words or the abilities to say all that those words mean to me. I do believe that like Duty, Honor, Country, these words also represent "what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be."
When I was a young cop, I wanted to be viewed as courageous by my peers and my friends. I wanted to be involved in the big gun fight, the one-on-one hand-to-hand fight with a bigger opponent, and the car chase that topped 100 mph and ended in the capture of the FBI's most wanted person. I wanted crooks to fear me and neighborhoods to be at peace because I was on patrol. I thought that's what courage was about. But that's not courage, that's just recklessness; something common to young men and women. Some of the best police work wouldn't happen without it; just don't mistake it for courage.
It took me some time, but I learned that courage in law enforcement isn't about physical courage. It's about standing up for what's right; it's about doing the right thing for the right reasons, even when the consequences for you will be bad.
But I didn't come to these realizations in a vacuum. I had partners and supervisors who took me aside and sometimes gently, and sometimes not so gently, reminded me of my obligations to them (first of all), then to my family and the citizens. They didn't mention the "oath." They didn't have to; they lived it. Compassion for people of all races and a sense of justice for even the lowest levels of humanity were more than just part of the job, they were the heart and soul of how these officers lived. And now I have a brother who is living his oath of Duty, Honor, Country, and once again I am reminded of the importance of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, and the meaning of justice.
There is a tendency to equate "Justice" with moral justice, and it just isn't true. Criminal justice is a question of applying the law to a set of facts. If there is fair representation at a court of law there's justice. It doesn't matter if an innocent man is convicted of a crime he didn't commit ,or if a guilty man goes free. We apply the law and supposedly everyone gets a fair shot at "justice." But real justice, community justice, doesn't come from the law. It comes from individual acts of compassion and justice by individual officers. And I'm not talking about "street justice." Street justice is an act committed by thugs, usually cowards. This gets me back to our starting point.
There are around 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Men and women who are living their oath of Duty, Honor, Country and they are giving their lives, their limbs, and their families for their country; for us. They don't refuse to fight because they don't believe in the war or the politics that started it, or any of the other BS that cops use to justify testilying, creative report writing, or acts of violence. They fight and they die because they swore an oath to protect us. You did the same. You swore an oath to "protect the innocent against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality, and justice."
Don't dishonor the men and women who fight for our country and are living up to their oath to protect us all. Live up to your oath. Whether it's Duty, Honor, Country or Courage, Compassion, Justice -- it's time to step up.