A time to reflect on being a police officer

Look within your hearts to see why you really came onto this job. We will get through this time and come out stronger as a profession


I was attending roll call at my agency the morning following the Dallas ambush attack. As many of the younger officers were debating the current state of policing and perception that people dislike the police, I spoke up.

My message was this: We as a profession are facing similar challenges that law enforcement has dealt with in the past. Yes, there are loud voices criticizing every little action and in today’s technological world of instant access it is overwhelming. But, we will get through this.

I asked my brothers on duty that morning to look into their hearts and think back to the real reason they came onto this job. There are many loud mouths out there but more importantly there are many, many good people who have our back and who really depend on us.

We must stand strong
Another sergeant who has been on as many years as I have, started to discuss among the group how the job has changed in the last 30 years and how the service calls have changed. Our society has changed and more burdens are being placed upon law enforcement in the U.S. and even within my own community. In days past, we could take time to conduct traffic enforcement duties or ride through the neighborhoods. 

I observed first hand in the early years of this century that we are being asked to do more with less. Our staffing levels have been reduced in the post 9/11 era, while many of our communities grow in population. Add in the new threats of terrorism and more administrative and community caretaker tasks that are placed upon us. 

Now it seems that even a suburban agency like mine has gone from proactive policing, crime prevention and community building to humping continuous nonstop calls for service.

This is the time that we must stand strong. I understand that this is difficult. We must go forward and continue to treat people with dignity and respect. We need to stay on our mission of taking care of everybody.

At times it will be tough but again I ask you: Reflect within your hearts why you really came onto this job. We will get through this time and come out stronger as a profession.

Counting our wins
I have been serving in law enforcement for 31 years. I’ve seen many good times and difficult times in this honorable profession. Many agencies — including Dallas — have experienced good officers leaving their agencies and the profession for many reasons. If your heart is honestly telling you to leave then listen to it. I would much rather see you happy and content than staying in law enforcement feeling angry and miserable. But consider what happened to me later that same morning.

I encountered a woman at our post office. She looked familiar and she asked me if I remembered her. A few years back, her family was having domestic issues between the parents — who each had different views of parenting — and a teenage son. There were many service calls. There was once an arrest and many meetings inside the police station community room with these parents who needed someone to listen to their frustrations and help provide some answers. This can be emotionally exhausting.

The woman asked me if she could show me something as she took her cellphone out of her purse. She pulled up a photograph and stated, “Here’s Michael.” In front of me was a photograph of a proud U.S. Army Airborne soldier in his dress uniform with his red beret. We continued to talk about how much her son had changed over the past few years and how he eventually moved away from his peers who were going into the wrong direction. Six of those peers have since died from drug overdoses.

What struck me the most was this woman, who got choked up, as she told me about the many times her son has thanked her, either over the telephone from his Army duty posts or face-to-face. Her family stuck together through perseverance and they eventually moved forward. 

She told me that she was grateful for the patience my brother and sister officers and dispatchers showed her whenever her family would call. She said that as frustrating as the various contacts were, everyone was a professional.

That’s a win for us.

Please reflect on your own wins and our wins as a profession.

We will move forward
Law enforcement has many successes so let’s stay focused on them as we move forward. 

Recommit yourself to our profession and to our country. Pledge to continue to serve and protect everyone fairly, respectfully and legally. We will move forward.

It’s time for our law enforcement family to once again persevere and show everyone that we are just like them. Under those shields upon our chests, we are committed human beings who pledge to defend our free republic, the United States of America.

About the author

Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire is a 30 year veteran police officer in a busy Metro-west suburb of Boston (Mass). He is a volunteer police peer on a regional CISM team. He is a passionate trainer and writer on public safety  health and wellness.  He is a member of ILEETA and has presented at ILEETA, conferences and in-service training.   

Contact Mark St. Hilaire

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