Torn on the 4th of July: A cop reveler's guilt

We cops often see holidays as just another day at work — an extra-busy, pain-in-the-rear day at work


My good-hearted but naïve neighbor visited me the other day while I was out in the yard landscaping.  He wanted to invite us over for beer and burgers on Independence Day.  After all, everyone gets the day off of work (according to him), so we should celebrate!

As appreciative as I was for the invite, I kind of chuckled under my breath, seeing as how this would be the first Fourth of July I’ve had off in about two decades.

We cops often see holidays as just another day at work — an extra-busy, pain-in-the-rear day at work. We are happy to make double time (since we have to work anyway), but one thing we never take for granted is actually getting the holiday off.

While most people are firing up their grills and icing down their cold drinks, about a million of us badge wearers are loading our shotguns, doing our patrol car walk-around, hitting our beats, and responding to all the drunk disturbances that come with the occasion. Then we get one firework call after another, all night long.

That’s just the beginning. Depending on what type of jurisdiction you work for, the July 4th holiday brings with it specific problems for law enforcement to deal with. If you’re a municipal officer, you are going to have to deal with violations such as discharging fireworks in the city limits, possession of fireworks, probably some special events logistical nightmares — like when the city council decides to put on a free fireworks show and cram all the citizens of your city into one public park.

Don’t forget the increase in DUIs and intoxicated persons, accidental fires and explosions, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a great holiday, don’t you?

And don’t have such a bad attitude there buddy, you will only have to stay for two hours after your shift is over to log in all the confiscated fireworks into evidence before you can go home.

Let’s not forget our brother and sister deputies, the cops that get to deal with all the firework stands and hayfields being used as launching sites because, “There are no ordinances out in the county” (yeah, I’ve heard that one about umpteen hundred times). Maybe the most fun is the sight of cars parked at various fireworks stands turning all the county roads and rural highways into parking lots.  

Good times.

But these are just the types of things neither I nor you can ever explain to your civilian neighbor, so that’s why I get to vent on this forum, because all of us get it.

So for the first time in memory, I will indeed not be working this Fourth of July, but I will be thinking of all my brothers and sisters who are out on the streets dealing with all the crazies, just like I did for so many years. To tell the truth, a sense of pride rises up in me when I think about little sacrifices we have all made in the course of doing this job – like working on Independence Day –  because if we didn’t do it, then this country wouldn’t celebrate the freedom that we all enjoy.

“Hey neighbor, make mine medium rare, and toss me a can from the ice chest, because I ain’t getting’ out of this lawn chair!”  

Stay safe, and let freedom ring.

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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