“The Brotherhood is not like it used to be,” laments one of your buddies over a beer.
“We used to get together after the shift for a beer. We played softball together. We partied together. When someone had a big project at home, we all pitched in and helped get it done. These young kids just don’t care anymore.”
I want you to think about those guys. As you read this, I encourage you to imagine who it is in your department that best fits this description. Stay with me here.
The scenario: the shift is really busy with calls backed up. You’re down a couple of reports. Then, one of the guys ties himself up on a Bullshit arrest that will take him out of service for a couple of hours, leaving everyone else to cover his area.
When a list goes up announcing an upcoming overtime detail, this guy’s name will always be at or near the top.
He is constantly complaining – about something. Never a positive word comes out of his mouth.
Another scenario: a group in your community plans a charity event – like collecting toys at Christmas to be given to kids whose families are facing tough times. The cops are invited to help. This guy only shows up if he’s getting paid. Otherwise, he’s nowhere to be found.
If one of the guys on your crew is off for some time healing from an injury or long-term illness, this guy won’t find ten minutes to stop by or even call the guy. He’s too busy taking care of his own wants and needs. Help someone on the crew lay some sod or rebuild a deck? Forget it!
As for Police Week in Washington D.C. – are you kidding? This guy wouldn’t think of burning the time, unless the department is footing the bill and giving him the time to do it.
We all know “This Guy” too well. And, we’re glad that he’s not our partner.
You find yourself wondering why he became a cop. If you ask him, he may or may not answer honestly. Here are a few of his reasons that he became a cop:
- There’s little chance of layoff.
- Retirement after 20-25 years.
- The benefits and retirement are generally better than the private sector, even though the pay may not be as good.
- Of course, there is some occasional excitement that fuels an adrenaline rush.
This guy has no sense of camaraderie or The Brotherhood. He just doesn’t ‘get it.’
You know this guy. You know his name, don’t you?
HEART OF A COP
I have a video from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. In it, there is a scene showing one of the Officers of the Month: Dennis Sullivan.
Dennis says, “I truly believe that if you don’t have the heart of a cop, you won’t be a good one.” Amen.
Being a cop is first and foremost who you are at heart. Yes, it may also be the job you do. But you can have the job without being a “cop.” Just remember the guy I described earlier. He’s got the man-made credentials, but without a change of heart, he will never be a cop.
Being a cop starts in the heart. It becomes a state of mind. It’s a lifestyle. It flavors your decisions. It is the basis of your attitude. It’s the warrior mindset. It’s a willingness to fight for what’s right, even if it costs your life.
A SENSE OF BROTHERHOOD
Likely, the best experience of the Brotherhood occurs each May in Washington D.C. The NLEOMF and the F.O.P. create an event that is an immersion in what it means to be part of this Brotherhood.
I have been blessed with being there almost every year for twenty years.
First timers all say the same thing at the conclusion of their first Police Week experience, “this was my first time, but I’ll never miss it again.” That message is universal.
Upon arrival, the presence of cops everywhere is in the air. Guys wearing police gear pepper the population. Many are carrying their badge on a chain around their necks. Cops permeate the region with flat-top haircuts and steely gazes.
You see guys at the hotel. They’re on the Metro ride into town. Arriving at The Wall stirs my soul with deep reflection: there are over 21,000 names etched there of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The most recent additions are freshly etched and on the bottom-most lines.
There are letters from the kids of fallen officers with pictures saying, “I miss you, Daddy.” There are notes from wives and family members attesting to their loved one’s call to duty and expressing the deepest pain of loss.
The “work families” often post messages, pictures, and other tributes to their fallen brother or sister, as well.
These names, these messages, and this experience is like no other. Words can only fractionally describe this most powerful moment.
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In previous years, we shared the very stirring Candle-Light Vigil. We stood at the Capitol and listened to the President as he gave thanks for those who have fallen as well as for those who remain on guard. We shared time over a beer (maybe two). Each year, I leave with many new “old friends” who will remain for the rest of my life.
The emotional exchange is overwhelming and the bonds created are permanent.
My attempt to share it with you is like my wife trying to help me understand the experience of giving birth to our children. I understand the words; I’ll never comprehend the experience.
THE GREATER GOOD
I recently taught an eight hour block to new recruits at the academy. “You are joining a family. There are some benefits: you’ve probably received your last traffic ticket. But, remember this: for every one thing you receive, you owe at least a hundred in return,” I explained.
I am indeed fortunate. I am part of a close-knit group of cops. My group of guys have ensured that the family of an officer who had fallen on hard times had a fitting Christmas when they otherwise would not. We adopted officers in Louisiana who had lost everything during last fall’s hurricanes.
We have been at the hospital when one was sick or injured. That’s what it means to be part of this Brotherhood.
Small things; big things; no matter. We are there. So does this responsibility now include the recruits as its newest members.
It is vital to our wellbeing that we nurture this sense of Brotherhood and pass it along. It must be kept alive and made to thrive.
Each year, Police Week reminds us that we are part of a very large family. We have a stake in the lives of each other. This Brotherhood is greater than even the largest agency. It spans the globe. This year, it will bring brothers from Canada, England, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia to Washington D.C.
WE humans fight harder and longer when we are emotionally tied to the outcome.
One example is a man fighting to protect his wife and children. He will fight to the death.
Our military leaders have long recognized the need for the emotional bond between fighters. The Marines have spent a lifetime engraining the messages:
WE NEED A FEW GOOD MEN
MARINES – THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE BRAVE
This is no accident. Marines are recognized as The Force on this planet. They are second to none. They are prepared to give all without hesitation for the sake of their country and their brothers.
That same emotional bond among cops causes us to excel beyond anything we ever thought possible.
Our brothers become heroes every day. We do our best when we have a strong emotional bond to those with whom we serve.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Get involved. The major events of Police Week are the Candle-Light Vigil which is held on the evening of May 13th every year. The second is the Memorial Service which is held at the Capitol on May 15th every year. This year, it’s a Sunday and a Tuesday. Mark your calendar.
Join the Fraternal Order of Police. Read at least one periodical (LawOfficer.com is an excellent choice). There are many from which to select. One will suit you. Do something TODAY! Something big or something small – it doesn’t matter. But, do something!
For those of you who plan to be in D.C. this year: bring a new person. Just one. Help them with the cost, if you can.
Remember the guy you had in mind at the first part of this article? He’s an excellent candidate. Every veteran Police Week attendee should strive to bring just one new person the next time.
Your life may well depend on your backup one day. Do you want that person to be driven by his emotional tie to you, or just there because the paycheck is steady? Think about the Marines. There’s your answer.
Need further? My email: Jim@CopBlue.com. I moderate an email discussion group that’s restricted to law enforcement: CopBlue Daily News. It’s a good way to stay aware of emerging threats, current events, and issues that affect you on the street. There’s no cost. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re qualified to join.
Get involved. Put your heart in your career. Being a good cop starts in the heart and goes out from there.
Come on … your Brothers are waiting to welcome you!
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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