It’s an old Irish saying: “Iron fist in a velvet glove.” That is an Irishman’s way to describe a demeanor that is soft and gentle yet prepared to beat your ass, if necessary. Because there is Irish blood running through my veins, I was raised hearing a whole array of these kinds of sayings that continue to make sense today.
Speaking of “times,” these are strange times, indeed. The nightly news covers a President who is operating like no other, citizen demonstrations that much too often turn violent and a world order that seems to be on the verge of exploding at any moment.
As cops, we must remember that many of the people whom we are sworn to serve are feeling worried, scared, frustrated, unhappy and angry. In recent days, I have heard two or three friends tell me they have never witnessed our country in the kind of turmoil we are facing now.
It is affecting attitudes. It is having a profound effect on the way citizens are treating one another. Most important, it is affecting the way many are interacting with cops.
Think of what just happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Just last night, eight Chicago cops were sent to the hospital over fake news swirling on social media falsely claiming that the cops had shot a citizen.
As of today (08/24/17), there have been 456 murders in Chicago this year. Over 95% were black. Yet, there haven’t been any demonstrations in the streets over that so far.
In years gone by, there were Republicans and Democrats. Back then, both groups had much the same vision for where they wanted to take the country. Their differences were on the best way to get there.
There are still two sides, though some would suggest the names have changed: they are now Conservatives and Progressives. Whatever.
However, now the two sides have very different goals for the country. Conservatives would favor returning the country to what the founding fathers envisioned. Progressives seem to want to have the U.S. more closely resembling European countries, i.e. socialism.
THE VELVET GLOVE
There are many citizens who look to us cops for comfort and reassurance when we arrive on a scene. I think it bears similarity to a frightened child who seeks Mom or Dad’s reassurance and protection during a bad thunderstorm.
Frequently, those folks want our advice and value our opinion.
These are the people who value law enforcement officers. They see cops as their friends and allies.
As I think about how these American patriots view us, a painting comes to mind. It was created by Normal Rockwell and depicts a cop and a young child sitting on adjacent stools in a diner. The child is a runaway and looking up in awe at the officer.
I believe law enforcement is best served if we encourage the citizens. Provide counsel. Be a positive force for them. These citizens value the wisdom we have gained through our experiences as cops.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER: Most Americans appreciate, value – maybe even love – the cops who protect them.
We are loved. It is vital that we remember that – especially on a tough day.
THE IRON FIST
Even though most people are happy when cops arrive, we must stay keenly aware of the circumstances in each encounter.
As we were taught in the academy, “Be thinking about how you will kill every person you meet.”
The difference today is that many people are angry. They may be angry at the cops. Alternately, they may be angry at the government and they see you as its representative.
Be prepared for an attack from people under circumstances which previously would have been totally safe. It seems that the tenor of today’s society has caused many folks to be unable to think clearly.
These days, violence has become part of the argument. Groups like ANTIFA are trying to harm anyone who opposes them. It is the cops’ job to maintain public order. The ANTIFA assholes are throwing urine, using tear gas and have brought a variety of other weapons to public gatherings. The goal of these groups is to end the American way of life and deny us our freedoms.
At the first hint of trouble, let those around you be certain to know that you have an iron fist and you are ready, willing and able to use it. Be as serious as a heart attack when you let this fact be known.
A FORK IN THE ROAD
Inevitably, there will be citizen encounters that will become physical encounters.
Be firm. Be determined. Make certain that your quest for victory in these circumstances will not be quenched until the asshole is either in cuffs or is dead.
Your top priority is going home at the end of your shift. Don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.
Of course, there are often many options in these situations. Use your instincts, training and experience to determine if the citizen can be calmed down and return to being rational.
For much of the time when I was on the street, I was a competitive bodybuilder and I looked the part. When I was in uniform, I wanted to look big enough (i.e. muscular) that bad guys would be very hesitant to get into a fight with me. Almost always, it worked.
SHORT WAR STORY: A fellow officer asked me to handle the booking of a twenty-something thug he had arrested. That way, he could do the paper and get back on the street. Another cop warned me that our miscreant was prone to fighting with cops. Said thug had many previous visits in our booking room. He was sitting quietly in the holding cell.
Before unlocking the cell, I explained to him that we were going to go through the booking process. That process could either be cordial and polite, or it could be ugly. The choice was his. I then warned him, “If you want to behave like an asshole, be advised: I will outdo you. I’ve been to school and been trained in being an asshole.”
The booking process was as pleasant as a tea party.
The point is this: be a cop who is compassionate as humanly possible. But make it exceedingly clear that enforcement action is certain if the subject steps out of line.
I reflect back on the times I made a difference in the lives of others.
I remember greeting a family and their young children in a restaurant after I finished my meal. I gave the two young kids each a junior officer badge. I was there hero.
I recall when I was working at the Ambassador Bridge when a young mother raced up to me carrying her infant child who had stopped breathing. My training kicked in; all came out fine.
I remember counselling a young adult miscreant who had more arrests on his record than I have fingers and toes. I told him he was going nowhere and that he should start making better decisions in his life. We had the kind of talk a father would have with his son – if he had a father. I learned months later he got his G.E.D., enrolled in college and become active in a church.
I believe that God calls us cops to do our best to set people on the right track in life. When possible, share in the celebration of their successes. If a course correction is needed, do it the way God would do it if He were here. Unfortunately, there are a few who must be punished and separated from the rest of this until they (hopefully) have learned the error of their ways.
Recognize that God is always at your side. You are doing His work. Remember to pray. Finally, know that from time-to-time, God brings people into our lives to deliver His message to us (the Big Guy doesn’t yet have email). In other times, WE are the messenger to others.
Especially on tough days, remember to pray. It can be a real help in maintaining your sanity.
I judge that the Irish have figured it out. When dealing with others, start with the Velvet Glove and make sure others know you have an Iron Fist and you are prepared to use it.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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