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A Cop's Thanksgiving

Child: “Mommy, why are we eating dinner so early?” Mother: “Because daddy has to go to work and we want to enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner with him before he goes.” Child: “Mommy, how come daddy has to work today?” Mother: “Because crime doesn’t take days off…

This conversation, or something similar, will be played out all over our nation today.  Some officers will get home after a relatively slow day shift and relax into an evening of thanks with their families.  Some officers will eat early so they can have dinner with their families before going on shift.  Some officers will wake up after about five hours of sleep so they can enjoy family time before going to work the midnight shift.  Some officers won’t get any family time at all, for whatever reason, and will have to figure out what their Thanksgiving dinner is going to be between calls.

Thanksgiving and Christmas – no matter what religious faith you do (or don’t) celebrate – seem to be the two holidays where the streets calm down a bit and it gets tempting to relax some on duty.  When and where conditions permit that, so be it.  When that’s not safe, avoid the lull and stay on your game.

One of the things I’m thankful for today is the law enforcement family I belong to.  Yes, I’m talking about the fraternity…. The brotherhood… both masculine terms that include both genders and people running in age from 18 to 70+.  For as far back as I remember as a small child, I wanted to be a police officer when I grew up.  I joined the ranks at the age of 18 when I enlisted in Uncle Sam’s Army and became a Military Policeman.  Once out of the army I attended the police academy and became a “civilian” officer.  That was over 25 years ago (MP was over 30) and I’ve been proud to be a part of the law enforcement family all that time.

Sometimes we forget that the “law enforcement family” also includes the families of our fellow officers.  While cops of every stripe make the sacrifice of being away from their families to work holidays, weekends, etc., the families also make the sacrifice of being away from their loved ones.  We need to be thankful for the supportive families that help our brothers and sisters behind the badge.

I also wanted to be a police instructor and was arrogant enough to think that I might be able to bring something better “to the game.”  I became a police instructor at the grand old age of 25 and, trust me, I was teaching skills, not knowledge or wisdom.  My experience was severely limited compared to those more veteran than I, but in my youthful ignorance (and arrogance) I thought I could teach them something.  Then I learned my most important tidbit of knowledge:  I had far more to learn than I would ever be capable of.  I am thankful for the 24 years I’ve spent as a police instructor and the (hopefully) positive impact I’ve had on those who have sat in my classroom or stood on my firing line.

I also wanted to be a writer and I’ve been doing that to some extent since 1999.  I’m no Stephen King or Tom Clancy or Brad Thor, but I make the bulk of my living now hitting this computer keyboard with my fingertips, writing, editing, coordinating and managing content.  I run two websites and oversee two law enforcement magazines and through that have a much larger potential to impact my law enforcement family than I ever dreamed of when I was growing up.  I am thankful for the opportunity and the responsibility – and that does cross my mind each and every day.

I am thankful for the generations of cops before me and the generations that follow.  The one immediately before has provided me with much knowledge, wisdom and guidance… and exercised a lot of patience in doing so.  The one immediately after me is facing challenges never before experienced and seems to be doing it without fear, without hesitation and without an overblown sense of arrogance.  Confidence is not arrogance and the next generation of cops is rightfully proud of their competence.

As I think about my brothers and sisters in blue (or whatever color your uniform is) out on the streets today, I’m thankful for the citizens who support us. There are plenty of them.  They are the folks who see you working, flag you down and ask if you need a place to eat dinner.  They are the folks who smile and wave and yell, “Happy Thanksgiving!” as you drive past.  They are folks you may not even be aware of who include you in their prayers as they say grace over their dinner before the turkey gets carved.  I’m thankful for those who appreciate the thin blue line.

I am thankful for having the chance to share these thoughts with you today.  Enjoy your family whether it’s your day off, before shift or after shift.  Remember this: if you don’t have family at home, you DO have family at work.  “He who sheds blood with me shall be my brother.”  We may not all bleed together, but we do make a communal sacrifice.  You are not alone.  You are appreciated.  Stay safe.