It’s Police Week and there are several events underway to help celebrate the service of our police department employees as well as to honor those who have given all in the service of their communities. Police Week has grown from the 1962 Presidential declaration of May 15 at Peace Officers Memorial Day, and includes thousands of events across the country. Certainly a highlight of this week is the national candlelight vigil service on Saturday May 13th, as well as the national Memorial Service conducted on May 15 at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. Anyone who has attended any of the D.C. events will attest to the solemn and reverent mood as the names of officers killed in the line of duty from the prior year are added to the Peace Officers Memorial.
I am of the mind that every week ought to be “police appreciation week”. Week in and week out, police officers, dispatchers, records staff, forensic technicians, police aides and cadets along with countless others are working 24/7 behind the scenes to keep us all safe and secure. While the public may hear of noteworthy events, what isn’t often reported are the many, many acts of kindness and humanity shown by police as they assist people on their worst day. Thanks to a disjointed national narrative for the past few years, too many members of society condemn the institution of policing, and the enmity that results makes it even more challenging for officers to carry out their already difficult mission. Ironically, some of those who shout loudest about police misconduct would be the first to shout even louder if they were victimized and the police didn’t quickly resolve the situation. I am not suggesting for a minute that there isn’t a need for continual reform in policing. In the middle of this Police Week I will surpass my 40th anniversary of first taking the oath as a police officer, and in that 40 years I’ve seen tremendous growth, improvement, and reform in how the police exercise the unmatched responsibilities we’ve been given. Throughout my tenure as a chief, I have worked on reforming the culture of both individual agencies AND the industry, and it is clear we have plenty of work yet to do. However, I remind everyone of the old proverb that my father raised me to always be mindful of: “until you walk a mile in another man’s shoes, don’t judge him.” Unless you’ve been where police officers go each and every day, you will never fully understand the challenges, stresses, fears and realities that comprise a police officer’s tour of duty.
There are many ways that citizens in our community can show their appreciation for police. If you happen to stop in at one of our periodic Coffee with a Cop events, take a few minutes to chat with one of the officers gathered there. When you’re out working in your yard, wave at the passing patrol car and perhaps even engage in some “get to know you” conversation with the officer on the beat. We certainly invite citizens to our 2017 Police Memorial Service on Tuesday, May 16th, 7:00 PM at the Mariner’s Museum. You may be shopping at a local business where an “extra duty” officer is working; take time to say hello. We are out and about, every single day, and there are opportunities to say thank you if you look for them.
Police Week is a good time to stress the significant need for more police officer applicants. We are trying to fill an inordinate amount of police officer vacancies, and we need good applicants. Our recruiting section can be reached at 757-928-4150 and you can research the job requirements here.