Which of these best describes you and your career status?
• Marking time, collecting a paycheck and hoping I get to retirement; or
• Serving with honor, making a difference and committed to improving my skills.
If you had to objectively place yourself in one of these categories, which would it be?
To gain the broadest career perspective possible, I talked at length with two officers from opposite ends of the country. They’re also at opposite ends of the career timeline. The first, Officer Lola Acedero, is serving her first year with the Honolulu (Hawaii) Police Department. Born and raised on Oahu, she was formerly a buyer for a large candy company. Acedero said she came into law enforcement after some tough experiences as a young adult. Her family was surprised by her decision to become a police officer, but she felt called to serve those who struggle in life. She hopes to be assigned to Oahu’s Pearl City area where she grew up, a section known for being tough on families. (See Acedero’s photo on p. 76.)
More than 5,000 miles to the east, in Fair Lawn, N.J., I found Lieutenant Bob Kneer. I first noticed Kneer while in Washington, D.C.; he was directing dozens of officers from around the country who lined up to pay tribute to the survivors of the fallen. Kneer’s appearance caught my attention: rows of hash marks, ribbons towering over his badge and an absolutely flawless uniform from head to toe. Everything about him shouted, “I’m a professional and proud of what I do.” (See Kneer’s photo on p. 84.)
After 34 years of law-enforcement duty, Kneer still exemplifies service in every aspect. In fact, when I last talked to him, he was spending a vacation day coordinating the delivery of a large Sept. 11 memorial exhibit to Ground Zero. When I asked him how he felt about his job, he said he still shines his boots and polishes his brass every night because he feels so strongly about conveying the right message to coworkers and the public. He was inspired to join law enforcement because of an officer named Fran Valzine. “Growing up, I never really had a dad,” Kneer said. “It was a ghetto area, very rough, and Franny took time to educate me. A lot of people respected him, and I always wanted to be what he was. He retired just a little while back; must have been in the business more than 40 years.”
Kneer’s wife, Rose, shared this with me: “I’ve been told so many times, ‘You’re married to Bob Kneer? He’s awesome. He helped my family.’” Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
Where are you on the career timeline? More importantly, where are you on the career-commitment scale? Officers Acedero and Kneer exemplify what your career should be all about: service, commitment and selflessness.
Change gears for a moment. Envision an ocean-going schooner, the type with several sails and requiring a well-trained crew. Just like officers in a department, the sails of a schooner come in varying shapes and sizes, and hold different positions on the masts. For the schooner to accomplish its mission effectively, the sails must be maintained properly. Tattered sails won’t work well, and if the rigging doesn’t properly function, progress is hindered significantly.
Your career is a lot like those sails. You’ve got to maintain it and remain ready to deploy at any time. Vigilance is an absolute. Sloppiness, laziness, apathy won’t cut it. Do a little self-inspection: Have you charted a course? Have you assessed your role in the overall organizational structure? Are you ready to get through the stormy times as well as the smooth seas?
Whether you’re getting ready to set sail, like Acedero, or whether you’re nearing the end of a long voyage, like Kneer, now’s the time to decide. Not whether this job is right for you, but whether you’re right for this job. Do yourself and everyone in your organization a favor. If you’re not willing to stay the course, sign off. If you find there’s no wind in your sail, maybe it’s time to chart a new course—perhaps by taking on a new assignment or developing a new program. For a reality check, take a look at this month’s Bullethead column.
The missions will be many and varied, the journeys sometimes long and the challenges frequent. We all have a responsibility to do our part. —DALE Stockton, editor