On July 4th, a wake up call for American cops


July 4th is a day to cerebrate the birth of the United States of America, a nation still strong, still powerful, but also a nation in transition, possibly in peril, and certainly a nation on the cusp of changes that may prove to be divisive. As we watch the demonstrations and the violence on the streets of Tehran, and the negative role of the Iranian police in that chaotic dictatorship, American law enforcement officers must ask themselves: “are we ready, truly ready, to keep order on our own streets if our own citizens turn against the government, against us, against each other?”

Remember that this country was born out of protest, out of the fight against tyranny and oppression, out of a need and a love for true freedom, and we are the ones who must walk that fine line between protecting the rights of those we serve and keeping the peace for the benefit of all. Whether you work in federal, state or local law enforcement, no one can deny these are going to interesting times for all of us.

This may be an unwelcome bit of doom and gloom on a holiday associated with fireworks, backyard barbeques, and flag-waving parades, but as crimefighters, we have an obligation to be informed and a duty to be prepared. Consider using this 4th of July as your personal wake up call to re-commit yourself to being a sheepdog — an ever-watchful warrior always prepared for what we face now and in the future.

• Get (and stay) informed; know what threats may be out there beyond the usual list of dirtbags. “Intelligence-based policing” is here; know how to obtain and share information, learn about fusion centers and how you can use them to your community’s advantage. Keep up on the street gangs, the drug dealers, the burglars and the other criminals who plague your area. But also understand the terror groups — both foreign and domestic — and the violent individual zealots like Muslim extremist Abdulhakim Muhammad and white supremacist James von Brunn. All part of the evil we face not only as a nation but as the police officers sworn to protect it. Make sure you understand what is happening in the country and in your community politically, militarily, and economically.

• Inventory your equipment, your mindset, and your skills. If you’ve been thinking about putting together that go-bag, do it now. If you’ve been contemplating that patrol rifle, go ahead and buy it or get one issued, then train with it and make it one of your essential everyday tools. Start carrying that back up gun and get yourself a good tactical knife that you can use not just to jimmy doors and cut seatbelts, but one you can train with and use as a lifesaving weapon against a suspect. If you haven’t participated in any realistic training lately, set it up. If you’ve stopped working out, start getting back in shape. Get to the range, on the mat, into the classroom, and prepare. Know what your mission is and work toward it.

As American law enforcement, we have an obligation to the men and women who fought and sacrificed to form this great nation, to our children and grandchildren who will carry on, and to our citizens who have the right to live freely and safely to continue to truly “serve and protect” to the very best of our ability.

Enjoy the holiday, but remember its true significance, and the role that you have in maintaining the freedoms that we all enjoy.

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

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