To Chief Monroe, the chiefs of our other distinguished departments represented here today, to the command staffs, distinguished guests, families of the officers who have given their all for us, and to you active duty officers who now diligently protect and serve us; thank you for your service and for allowing me to express the gratitude so many have for you and for your service.
Although it seems almost a lifetime ago, it really, certainly in the scope of eternity, was not long ago that I stood at a podium much like this, in a room much like this, to talk to a group of people much like you. Elected to represent my graduating police academy class as the class speaker for session #73 of the Prince George’s County Police Department at our graduation, now, looking back, it seems like I was just much too young to be able to say anything weighty or profound about the illustrious profession – the career in which my classmates and I were to embark. While I am older, in the shadow of these giants whom we celebrate today, sometimes words are just hard to find. But, sometimes, that is just what we need, the right word at the right time.
My academy session’s motto was “together we stand, never we fall.” Early on, our trainers inculcated into us the idea that we could not do this vocation alone, that we all need good back-up. And I want to say to you – the families who have lost loved ones, sacrificed in the battle for good - you are not alone. We come together today - maybe to step back just a bit to peek at the bigger picture – we come together to respect, to honor, and to remember.
You see for those of us in the family of law enforcement, we know the unrealistic demands society places on those who have answered the calling of this profession. Let me ask this, how many of you have been dispatched to this call: “King 1 and King 2 respond to 123 Main Street; meet the – the complainant – He and his wife are getting along marvelously, their kids are straight A students and obey their every word, and they’d like you to come share a glass of tea and celebrate that with them”? We can chuckle at that but we know that the peace officer is at once the most needed and yet also the most unwanted.
For many the peace officer is an oddly nameless creature who is “sir or ma’am” face-to-face, but otherwise is some other sometimes unmentionable name. The peace officer is expected to exercise world-class diplomacy in the midst of some of the most depraved circumstances, settling conflicts in such a way that everyone involved comes out a winner. The peace officer must make, in an instant, decisions which in the hands of the judicial system may take months to litigate. The peace officer must know where all the vice is – and yet live out only the highest of virtue. The peace officer must be a minister, a social worker, ready to rumble, yet be kindhearted and inoffensive. And the peace officer must pull all of that off with elegance and aplomb. You see peace officers are the barbed wire that separates the sheep from the wolves.
But, this seemingly impossible-to-keep list reminds me of another well-known one from God’s word. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things... So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Faith, we all need to trust in something – in someone. This is why the vocation of being a peace officer is so crucial, so vital to the well-being of our society and even for each of us individually. For without trust, without confidence in the good, the right, and the true we cannot obtain nor can we give the respect for which this vocation calls. Again, God’s Word tells us, “Pay proper respect to the [peace officers] who work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. Think highly of them and treat them with the greatest respect because of the work they do.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)