Not since 9/11 has our police profession been so laden with stress and uncertainty. Officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were killed in incidents that could easily have occurred here in Montgomery County, Maryland. Understandably, we are all paying more attention – to everything. That level of hyper-vigilance is stressful and tiring, but it is exactly what we should be doing. Sean Connery’s character Paul Malone said it best when he told Elliot Ness at the end of the day: “You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.” And that is where the lesson ends.
Today we live and work in as dangerous an environment for policing as has ever existed. More and more individuals are willing to act in anger against police officers. As police officers, the possibility of being ambushed while running a routine call is not foreign to us. We know all too well that any call could be a set up. We train for it. Still, a very vocal segment of the public doesn’t understand that fact. Their minds are closed to the history of the hundreds of police officers who, while serving the community, have suffered a violent death in premeditated attacks in the United States.
These are difficult times for us, and more so for our families. Our families watch us leave for work as the television broadcasts images of officers perishing at the hands of angry gunmen. These days, when you are not at home, every siren sounds louder and clearer than ever before to those who wait for your return. Your commitment to duty is your family’s commitment to duty, and right now it weighs on them as much as it does on you.
Despite the anger in a disproportionately vocal segment of the population, know that you are loved, and not just by your families. You are loved by the vast majority of the people you serve. You are recognized as the wall between law and chaos. Evidenced by the heroic actions of your brothers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, you are the heroes in this community. Heroes who run towards danger to ensure everyone else gets home alive. The public knows you will continue to show up for work because it is what you do. Despite the disputes between police officers and the Montgomery County Government, despite the attacks on your wages and benefits in the editorial pages of local and national newspapers, you have shown up to work everyday of every year without exception.
The current spate of unjustified and cowardly violence against police will eventually subside and we will return to a more peaceful working environment. We may bury more sister and brother officers before it is over. Until then remember that you have been trained and equipped to handle these incidents. Trust your training, and follow Paul Malone’s first rule: go home alive. Do your job, but don’t expose yourself to unnecessary risks, or let fellow officers expose themselves. Look out for each other. Protect each other. Us contact and cover at all times. There is no such thing as a routine call right now. Keep abreast of what is going on nationwide so that you have the information you need to assess danger.
Make extra time for your families. They stress over you. Hug your kids, your spouse and your parents more often. Take time off to do things at home. Use your leave, it is part of your compensation and you have a right to it. Eat well, sleep and get your exercise in so you are prepared to respond when the need arises.
Remember you have resources. The FOP is here to help you and your family in any way that we can. If you, or your family, needs assistance or needs to speak to someone about what is going on, you have benefits through the employee assistance program (EAP) 1-855-350-1750 or www.GuidanceResources.com, and through your health insurance. Even taking the time to talk with one another about what is going on will help. We are all experiencing the same thing though we may feel it in our own unique way. We remain a family, and need to behave like a family, now more than ever. Be the heroes that you are, but be safe doing it.