As published October 29, 2013, Appleton Post Crescent
My daughter raised her right hand to be sworn in.
On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.
I always knew this day would come. Before she could write, she scribbled ‘tickets’ to offending family members. Lights and sirens evoked heartfelt prayers and a million questions. Halloween ‘uniforms’ were easy. Unusual gifts included handcuffs and police scanners. Most mothers encourage children to avoid traffic. As a Police Explorer, my daughter’s whistle and expertly executed hand motions finally allowed her access to busy intersections. It really struck home when a bulletproof vest hung in my laundry room.
Some public servants, like my daughter, are born for policing, ingrained with a sense of justice, undeniable passion to help, and unwavering commitment to goodwill.
One veteran officer choked up hearing the oath. “Those words drive me everyday. To hear them spoken out loud makes my commitment to the badge very real.”
An Appleton officer quoted, “Police officers are modern day knights. For civility, we need peacekeepers to build, preserve, and protect and warriors to attack and defend.”
The police badge represents the shield medieval knights carried into battle. Daily, they strapped on armor, shields, and weapons as they protected the people. Brave law enforcement officers do the same today.
None of us know what we may face when we walk out the door on any given day. Neither do our public servants. The difference is when they get ready for work; they strap on a gun, bulletproof vest, and shield and rush to help with unforeseen tragedies. They walk out their door in the morning with a noble purpose– to protect and serve.
I interviewed dozens of law enforcement officers, looking for the proverbial bad apples– the power hungry bullies above the law whom the media loves to vilify.
I could not find one. Although the media would have us believe most citizens resent police officers, I found the opposite.
Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson confirmed most people respect police officers. “We consistently deal with 2-5% of the population in their worst moments–people with tremendous needs.”
One officer said, “Sometimes just showing up in uniform helps people make sense of a bad situation. We provide whatever service we can.”
Safety agencies want feedback to prevent negative perceptions. Chief Peterson said, “We encourage people to contact us if they were treated unprofessionally. We only get a handful of complaints and we take them very seriously. We want the best for our community and demand it from our officers. That is why the hiring process is so rigorous.”
Mark Kohl, Law Enforcement Academy Director, at Fox Valley Technical College, trusts the academic system. “We set extremely high standards for these young men and women. The recruit process weeds out candidates with wrong motives. Abilities to multi-task, problem solve, collaborate, and meet high cognitive standards along with physical stamina and precise technical skills are what graduates must prove.”
Peterson added, “Values like honesty, humility, discipline, integrity, and compassion are what we seek in officers. We can teach policing skills if they have the raw core values they need to succeed.”
Kohl and Peterson agree that recruits entering policing today are a special breed. “They are collectively humble, intelligent, determined, and justice oriented with a rare selfless desire to help others. Policing today is so much more than law enforcement.”
Though part social worker, healthcare provider, translator, counselor, and advocate, police officers are also fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, mothers, and daughters just like us. The difference is their commitment to a job most of us would never consider.
Academy Recruits from FVTC shared their perspective about policing. They agreed values like honor, courage, and commitment to community have been passed down through legacies of law enforcement. Eager to uphold values from their oath, they trust the training, academics, and character tests that prepare them to take their place as the next generation of public servants.
While visiting NYC, I met NYPD Officer Lawrence Deprimo. You may remember him as People Magazine’s Hero of 2012. A tourist’s photo of Deprimo giving shoes to a homeless man went viral. Fans crowned him a hero. Critics defamed the act as ‘a well orchestrated publicity stunt’. Officer Deprimo humbly said, “It was just a normal day on the job. I got up, went to work, and helped someone. Any officer would have done it. We do it every day.”
Most police officers are men and women of integrity who honor the badge and oath they swore to uphold. So next time you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, get cited for a traffic violation, or are asked to inconveniently detour; before you curse or concoct a plausible white lie, remember these men and women are working to protect the community, ensure public safety, and save lives. Today they may provide that service to you or someone you love.
CITIZEN POLICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY ACADEMIES
For more information about how you can get involved and learn more about local law enforcement and public safety in your area, consider attending a Citizen Police and Public Safety Academy. These community awareness programs are designed to build a bridge between public safety officers and the communities they serve. They inform citizens about local policing operations including topics such as Traffic Law, Court Procedures, Investigations, Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Crime Prevention, Hands-on demonstrations, Police ride-alongs, and more. Contact the agencies below for applications and registration details.
Appleton Police Department
Fox Valley Metro Police Department
Officer Van Schyndel
Grand Chute Police Department
Neenah Police Department