Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends -Jesus of Nazareth
By the time you read these words, it is likely that another law enforcement officer left for his shift and did not return home. This isn’t happening in some far away place that you’ve only read about in books or seen in a documentary; it’s not just happening inside your television or on your social media newsfeeds; it’s happening to real men and women of valor in our own back yards and roads; It’s happening right here, right now.
Still, as tragic and life altering as these stories of fallen warriors are, most of our brothers and sisters in blue will return home; but they will not return home unchanged. They will see the world just a little bit differently each shift because, quite frankly, they see a different side of this world – a side they get to look at from a perspective many are unwilling or uninterested in acknowledging. In order to accomplish their tour each day, they will collectively endure countless assaults, insults, and falsehoods. They will often return home fatigued and sometimes even downright depressed. It is no easy task to run toward the sights and sounds that everyone else instinctively runs away from; it is with no gratuitous pleasure that the depraved soul and seared conscience of the criminal must at times be met with swift and terrible violence to hold the line between order and chaos.
But, my friends, that is not the end of the story, not even close. No, we have reason to be absolutely full of hope. You see, the overwhelming majority of people may not see the world from the same perspective as an officer, but they understand enough to know that we need and have their full support. While it doesn’t seem to be as newsworthy as controversial arrests or officer involved shootings, we cannot forget that also by the time you read these words someone has offered a random act of kindness to a cop they’ve never met. A coffee has been provided for an officer whose eyes are barely able to stay open to finish that last report; a water has been given to an officer who has stood in the heat for hours; a thank you card has been read in a roll call room from elementary school kids who hope one day to get their chance to drive fast, catch the bad guy, and be a hero; a quick and sincere thank you has been said to an officer on the street; sometimes that thank you even comes from someone an officer has arrested months prior, because it helped them to see that their life needed change. Like the frame of a house, the unseen is the most critical at holding the things everyone else sees together.
I recently attended the National Police Week in Washington,D.C., with a group of fellow officers. While we were standing in the office of the Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, he shared some significant words with us that I won’t soon forget: “There will always be people who will criticize and hate us for what has to be done to keep them safe, but we take comfort in knowing we’ve preserved a world where they have the freedom to have that opinion.” Yes, there are those who are critics of law enforcement, that are happy to perpetuate lies and myths rather than embrace the truth, and who will encourage and incite others to rally against us. Yet, let’s not be hasty to forget that the vast majority of the citizens we so willingly serve are thankful for what we do and really do have our backs.
We have hope because we stand united on the side of truth and righteousness in each of our communities, executing justice and fighting to keep our moral compass pointing true north. We have hope because no one is forced into law enforcement in the service of their fellow man; rather, it is by way of a sacrificial commitment to them. The tales of our warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice should be heard and continue to be told time and time again to inspire coming generations.
So let me state here, clearly and loudly, that those who seek to destroy us can try, but they will lose. We have already won because evil can never defeat self-sacrifice. Those who seek to shatter what is good about law enforcement will ultimately fail because they cannot take from us what we’ve already willingly laid down, even our very lives.