Honoring the brotherhood of specialized police agencies
It is important to understand that anyone who pins on the badge, straps on a gun, and enforces the law with statutory authority is a law enforcement officer
The LEO who was murdered after the Boston Marathon bombing — Officer Sean Collier — and a second officer who was injured in direct engagement with the terrorists — Officer Richard Donohue Jr. — both came from non-traditional or specialized law enforcement agencies.
Individuals working for specialized agencies need to understand that they can be harmed just like any other officer, and traditional officers need to start understanding that a police officer is a police officer, no matter what agency they work for.
Having worked in specialized law enforcement, I can tell you firsthand that I was viewed as a lesser officer — a “park police officer” doing picnic basket searches with Yogi and Boo Boo.
Some officers feel that officers/agents working for specialized (nontraditional) agencies are working for a lesser agency. This discussion takes many forms — troopers will say “the troopers are the best” while the city police and/or the sheriff’s department will claim the same. Most of the time these discussions occur in jest — just good-natured ribbing — but sometimes, some officers/deputies view LEOs working at non-traditional agencies as lesser officers.
What are some examples of non-traditional law enforcement agencies? Well, how about the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser Association, the Levee District Police in Louisiana, the ASPCA Law Enforcement Division, or the New York Sanitation Police Department?
What about nontraditional law enforcement agencies such as (but not limited to) transit police, park police, museum police, park rangers, Veteran Affairs Police, DOD Police, Federal Reserve Police, airport police, harbor police, hospital police, railroad police, college and university police, and K-12 school district police?
The title might be different but when looking at the job duties, they are all duly sworn, and licensed to enforce the law.
Redefining Law Enforcement
Officers who like more consistently positive interaction with citizens tend to gravitate towards a specialized agency, as they tend to have more positive interactions with the public.
Specialized law enforcement agencies also tend to draw individuals who are looking for an entry level career, and/or officers that are truly engaged in service-order law enforcement.
James Q. Wilson — who has written extensively on public safety and public administration — has noted that there are officers who are particularly grounded in a service-style of law enforcement.
Officers working for nontraditional agencies have the ability to focus their time on community building, and customer service based law enforcement. Yes, they also get to arrest people, conduct investigations, but the mission of their organization is different than traditional law enforcement agencies.
Let’s spend a moment and reflect on Robert Peel’s original nine principles:
1.) The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
As a profession, we need to keep in mind that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of shield, star, or patch. Whether an officer is working for a traditional agency or nontraditional agency, officers are hired to serve and protect — to defend against enemies foreign and domestic.
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