I’ve seen the loss of a fallen officer minimized more times than I care to count. They signed up for it. It’s their job. My short response- that’s absolutely absurd. But I have much more to say than that.
I started writing this 10 days ago when people tried to take the lives of an officer in three separate cities on one day. I noted that it’s so sad that I could type that any day and it'd be true. Sure, there aren't hundreds murdered every year, but there are over 50,000 assaults, many of which are serious and even more with the intent to be serious. The (at least) three officers who were shot on 1/8/16 will fall under the 50k+ statistic no matter the extent of their injuries. But today I write with the absolute tragedy that two officers were killed within the last 24 hours. Officer Barney was killed in UT as he responded to a traffic accident with injuries, another officer was also injured. Hours later, someone in OH went out to kill an officer and found Officer Cottrell.
He signed up for it. He’s just doing his job.
What the what? Every officer knows that he or she might lose his life in the line of duty or due to job-related injuries or illnesses. He might lose it entirely or just have it drastically redefined. But that's not their job. The likelihood of something like this happening is obviously greater for law enforcement than an average person. It is a matter of when a major incident will occur in every city, not if. But how can this be translated for these nay-sayers to understand?
Violence also happens in regular corporate America. Truth be told, crazies can attack anytime, anywhere. You need look no further than San Bernardino or the movie theaters, malls, and schools that have become scenes of violent crime.
So, imagine you're sitting in your corporate cube. You're feverishly typing away or maybe secretly playing Candy Crush on your phone. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to you, Joe Schmo has decided to unleash vengeance. Perhaps his ex works in the building, he was just fired, or he feels slighted by something. No matter the motive, he lets the evil take over, enters the building, and walks into your row. As you hit the space bar on your keyboard or make a striped candy, he charges down the aisle and unleashes the bullets. No one would ever say you signed up for it. I mean, you work in corporate, but does that mean you've signed up to be a victim of work place violence?
Or, you're sitting down to watch a movie. You splurged for popcorn with extra butter. And, as the lights dim down, the bullets ricochet through the theatre. No one would ever say, "Welp, you went to a movie. We all know shootings can happen on release night so you signed up for it.”
A student sits down to take her test after staying up late to study the night before. As she pulls out her sharpened pencils and runs through her last few notes, another classmate pulls out a firearm. We would never say she asked for it; we know shootings can happen at schools, so it’s just part of getting your diploma.
Or what if someone barged into the coffee shop I’m currently sitting in due to a domestic situation with a barista and I got struck with a bullet or a fling of a knife? No one would say I signed up for it by entering the world outside of my cozy home, that this is a risk I accepted by wanting a caramel macchiato.
Violence can strike anywhere and will continue to do so as long as human beings walk this planet. But, just as a movie goer, corporate employee, student, or coffee drinker do not sign up to be a victim upon entering the building, neither do officers sign up to lose their lives when they go 10-8. Indeed, anytime someone leaves the safety of their controlled home, they walk into a world where something can happen, even if he or she doesn’t acknowledge that risk. And, sadly, some don't even have to leave their bedroom to face violence.
It is true that officers have to reconcile that evil exists; it's a reality that an officer will see violence. It's a reality that officers are targets because many people do not want to be detained for their actions and some simply despise the badge. However, officers do not sign up in order to die. They sign up to fight and keep evil in check so that all of us, including themselves, can live. Because they acknowledge this evil and accept the fight, they train, relentlessly think through scenarios, and have a duty belt as part of their uniform. Without a group of men and women willing to place themselves in harm’s way and willing to proactively patrol the streets, we would live in a land completely overrun with danger and violence. And, the weakest and poorest of society would be put most at risk. Officers know they may face serious harm or death when signing up for the gig, but they do not sign up with the intention to die no more than a student signs up to be killed when enrolling for classes.
The reality of officers being targeted and killed is an uncomfortable one. If one is honest about that reality it may weaken other negative views about the police. But, I simply cannot sit idly by as some continue to minimize the ultimate sacrifice.
Officers- please keep up the fight. Our very lives depend on you to keep evil at bay. And know that #weseeyou. Your life is of immense value and we here at Humanizing the Badge, along with so many others, will never equate your courage to face evil with a contrived notion that facing death is a job requirement. You were made to live. Keep fighting. Don’t lose hope. And from the depths of my heart- thank you for standing in that thin blue line between good and evil.