How do you perceive police officers — be they male or female? I came from a family where three uncles and a cousin were police officers. Growing up, my grandmother and I would visit my Uncle Bob in Tulsa, Okla., from time to time. Uncle Bob was a police officer there, and on one occasion when I was about 6 years old, he took me to the police department to show me around. Part of the tour was the jail. I remember when we walked into the jail how afraid I was, and how I did not like the smells and noise.
My Uncle Bob walked me down the aisle and he would stop and talk to the prisoners, most of whom in that day were African Americans. I would stand behind him like the frightened child I was as he talked with them. “How’s your Momma and Daddy?” and call them by their names. He seemed to know them all and they knew him. They called my uncle “Mr. Bob.” He would ask them “What did you do this time? Don’t you know you’re about to break your Momma’s heart? You need to grow up and quit messing around.” They would laugh or sadly acknowledge they knew they needed to straighten their life out. Uncle Bob always talked to them in a friendly, caring manner, like a big brother or father trying to give them words of wisdom and encouragement. To this day I have a clear picture in my mind of Uncle Bob and have always tried to emulate his example of humanity to others. Sadly within a year Uncle Bob would no longer be with us.
The law enforcement profession is facing the challenge of attracting qualified individuals today. Fewer people are applying for jobs, and more are leaving the profession for a myriad of reasons, including other careers. As our world has changed it has created entirely new industries, many having to do with the internet and technology. These jobs provide very lucrative salaries, and not all the stresses of a law enforcement career. The stories of “dot-com millionaires” are absolutely true.
Being a cop today is also growing more and more difficult. With a daily media barrage of stories about the bad things “some” cops have done, many people think, “Why would I put myself through that?” While there are officers who do not uphold the honor and nobility of their badge, I am here to tell you that statistically cops who tarnish the badge has been reported to be less than 1 percent of the whole.
I know many cops, myself included, who have rarely if ever, had a citizen complaint lodged against them. I know many cops, men and women, who volunteer in their communities, coach youth sports, are involved in their church, become foster parents, help out in their kid’s classrooms, and are known as great neighbors. I know cops who are foster parents, who are involved in Big Brothers and Big Sisters, who volunteer at homeless shelters and kitchens, and on and on. Tens of thousands of officers each year receive numerous commendations and awards during our careers, some for valor in the face of death, and some who make the ultimate sacrifice.
You’ll find that we are just like you in many ways. We are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts — just like you. We come from varied backgrounds where some were raised in large extended families, while others come from broken homes and single parents — just like you. Many of us have served in the military in times of conflict and peace — just like you. Some have been married to their high school sweethearts for many years, and others have been divorced — just like you. We laugh and grieve, worry and stress, and have ups and downs in our lives — just like you. Are we perfect? Of course not — nor is anyone else. Do we have our good and bad days? Of course — just like you. We worry about our kids and the kind of world they are growing up in — just like you.
What makes us different is the job we have. The stresses of our chosen profession are great. We see the underbelly of society, the depravity of what people do to others, we witness death and its’ aftermath, we deal with some folks at their absolute worst, and others at their best. We carry many of these memories in our soul day in and day out. Some officers become hardened as a psychological coping method. Some cops only surround themselves with other cops as their friends. I have chosen a different path and surround myself with friends, none of whom are in law enforcement. I love my brothers and sisters in uniform and would give my life for them if need be, but having friends from many different career paths brings balance to my life.
If you wonder if there really are good cops of the world, I invite you to go to “Good Cop Stories” on Facebook. It’s officers like those depicted here that make me proud of the 39 years I’ve spent in this career.