Our profession has a lot of terms that are used to describe our line of work, some professional terms, some slang terms, some endearing terms and of course, some not so endearing terms. When we fill out an occupation form, it usually gives us the choice of law enforcement or police.
Some terms are used more to describe where an individual works: trooper, deputy, marshal, or special agent are terms which comes to mind. Numerous slang terms are out there, including cop, five-oh, one time, po-po, and of course, our favorite: pig.
I never really considered the difference in the terms we use professionally. I just checked the mark next to law enforcement or police officer. After all, that’s what we are: we are the people who enforce the laws.
Then, one day, I was with a great friend of mine, Flip. We were going to be filming a fishing show together, as a part of my second career. We were to meet up with a group of people the day before, to discuss the filming of the show, which was scheduled to take place over the course of two days.
So, I drove to Flip’s house the evening before, for dinner and introductions. Flip introduced me to everyone there as Peace Officer, John Tarr. It struck me a little weird, as I had never heard that term used to describe me, nor had I heard it used in anything but some old western films. I didn’t dwell on it and we went on to have a great dinner and discussed the next two days of work.
Sometime over the next two days, I can’t remember exactly when, Flip and I began discussing life and I asked him why he introduced me as a Peace Officer. Flip explained that he had always referred to law officers as Peace Officers because he judged that was their main function: maintaining peace in a world full of chaos.
It was his belief that the term was more fitting than any other term out there and that it also gave people an easier feeling toward officers.
I thought about that during my next few tours of duty at the department. I looked at the majority of our calls for service: disturbance calls at bars, homes, schools, businesses. Each of these calls was looking for someone to come in, calm the situation, and maintain peace while each party spoke about their side of the story.
We weren’t there to necessarily enforce a law, rather to prevent someone from breaking one during an emotional time. We were definitely there to maintain peace.
I wonder if these times in America when law enforcement officers are demonized, if maybe we shouldn’t bring this term back and make it the most prominent term to describe us and our role in the community. I know it may sound a little crazy or simple-minded to believe it would make a difference.
However, I fully believe it would cause some people to actually stop and think about what our primary responsibility is in difficult situations. The change could help lessen the “us versus them” mentality people associate with law enforcement or police officer terminology.
I will readily admit that I never changed my terminology while I was working the streets, but I would be curious for some real-world application testing from street officers. To be clear, I am not suggesting some college study or a study conducted by the psychology department. I am suggesting officers on the street try introducing themselves as Peace Officers, instead of officer, trooper, marshal, deputy, or agent.
If you are willing to try this and give us your honest results, I would love to hear it. If you have an opinion over this, I would love to hear that too. Maybe this is just come food for thought, maybe it’s a way to change public perception, or maybe it is just some bull that only makes sense to some of us from an older generation and times long ago. Still, I like the sound of Peace Officer!
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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