Think back to when you were trying to get into police work, specifically the interview process. Most of you were probably asked the question, Why do you want to be a police officer? You most likely answered with something like, Because I want to help people. When I was doing the hiring for my department, I heard this answer almost every time I asked the question. How long has it been since you really thought about and committed yourself to what it really means to help people? Notice there are no qualifiers, such as when it benefits me, when everyone notices or when it means I ll make more money.
Last month, some of our advertisers decided to go the extra mile and help others with no expectation of return. I m referring to their assistance with Project Inspire II an effort to help a Macon County, Tenn., department that had taken a knockout blow after the region was struck by a deadly tornado. The advertisers efforts didn t go unnoticed by the local sheriff s department, which had been sifting through rubble for victims. We have gained strength from this and become inspired to focus on the job at hand, and to continue this mission until it is complete, said Lieutenant Bill Cothron, the investigations commander for Macon County Sheriff and a veteran of a tour in Iraq. (See the Project Inspire II story on p. 11.)
So, when was the last time you helped someone with no expectation of a return or payback? Hopefully, something immediately comes to mind because you did get into this business to help people, right? Well, I have a challenge for you: Next time you walk through that station door, promise yourself to make a positive difference in someone s life. It might be a coworker, it might be a kid or it might even be a crook. Go the extra mile and do something you don t have to do to make a difference in someone s life. Sometimes we forget the effect we can have on other people s lives. Remember: The routine call for you may be the worst thing that has happened to someone else. An extra minute, a comforting word or a phone-call referral to a relative or social agency that might provide assistance can demonstrate your commitment to helping people. In the overall scheme of things, you can make a difference with just a small amount of effort.
And by the way, don t look over your shoulder to see if someone is watching. If you do, it won t be nearly as meaningful. Even if the next call is waiting or it s time for your meal break, just make the effort with no expectation of return; you ll be a better cop for the experience.
One more thing: Most of you work in some type of training or leadership role, so your actions serve as a model for the newer members of your agency. Over time, you can change the culture and service level of your department just by doing the right thing on a daily basis.
National Police Week
Every day cops go to work in every kind of environment imaginable, from the smallest rural town to the toughest big city. But regardless of the assignment, I doubt anyone goes to work expecting to not make it home. Unfortunately, it happens, and last year it happened more than three times a week on average.
Next month our nation celebrates National Police Week to remember officers who gave their lives while fulfilling their commitment to help others. Hopefully, you ll have an opportunity to participate in a ceremony in your area or perhaps even make it to Washington, D.C., for the national ceremonies. We all must pause to remember, even if we haven t personally suffered a loss.
If you do make it to Washington, keep an eye out for me because I would really like to hear from you. I can most often be found at the National Memorial wall, on which 17,000 names of fallen officers are inscribed. I visit whenever I m in the D.C. area. It s always been somewhat of a touchstone for me, and I find I m both humbled and more grounded in the meaning of service and sacrifice after spending time there.
Dale Stockton, Editor