Who needs you to be a hero (and who doesn't)?

The photo of my family taped to the back of my badge is a constant reminder that I need to perform my duties the right way, the safe way, every day


By Dave Windels

I was watching the movie “Gangster Squad” with my wife, Amanda, when a line captured my attention. Actor Josh Brolin, who plays an LAPD detective sergeant, confided in his on-screen wife that he was going to go after gangster Mickey Cohen and his cronies. She protested, “I don’t need a hero. I need a husband.” 

My wife, seated on the recliner to my right, immediately said, “Yeah.” 

Your children, like mine, may consider every police officer a hero. But having you as their police hero isn’t what they need. (Photo/Pixabay)
Your children, like mine, may consider every police officer a hero. But having you as their police hero isn’t what they need. (Photo/Pixabay)

I quickly looked in her direction, but her eyes had not left the television. My eyes wandered back to the screen. My mind, however, did not. 

A Wife Needs Her Husband

I have been a police officer for 19 years, currently serving the Elk River Police Department in Minnesota. My wife and I have been married for several years. We have two boys.

As we watched that scene, I realized I had never really inquired what my wife – or others in my life – thought of my profession. However, based on Amanda’s quick approval of the actress’ plea to her on-screen husband, it was apparent to me I needed to determine my role as a police officer to her. 

That determination did not take long. My wife does not need a hero; she needs a husband

She needs me to be half of the parental organization in our house, to take her out for dinner and to smooch her goodnight. Your significant other needs the same from you, and then some. 

Your children, like mine, may consider every police officer a hero. But having you as their police hero isn’t what they need. They need a mom or dad. They need someone to tell them bedtime stories, to take them fishing, to hold their hand, to help them with homework and to take them to sporting events.

My parents, just like yours, definitely don’t need a hero. They need their child. They need us to give them more grandbabies, to make hunting memories with, to have holidays at our houses (for a change), and most important, to outlive them. No one should ever have to attend their child’s funeral. 

what Our Friends and Partners Need

Our friends don’t need heroes. They need their buddies. They need us to tell them cool stories about pursuits, to fill a chair at the poker table, to play the outfield during summer league, and to repeatedly tell them that name dropping will not ensure getting out of a ticket with just a warning. 

Who do our partners need? They need their partners. 

We owe it to each other to be as tactical, safe, proficient, efficient and squared away as possible. A lot of you have your own added responsibilities and commitments to your department. I have been my department’s SWAT team leader, and I am a firearms instructor and a defensive tactics instructor, which includes TASER, less lethal and chemical munitions. 

Use every piece of tactical information you possess to better yourself and your partners. Share strategies and plans, attend debriefs, practice with your firearms, wear your seat belts, pay attention during training courses, exercise and eat healthy, and know the “Ten Deadly Errors of Law Enforcement” like you know traffic statutes. Veterans and instructors must teach rookies and less experienced officers what they know and what works. It’s our responsibility and our obligation. 

When to Be a Hero

So, who needs a hero? A family trapped inside of a car on its roof, children inside of a burning house, bystanders fleeing from a crazed gunman, or someone suffering cardiac arrest, that’s who. To carry out that title, you’ll need to be at the top of your game in all aspects.

I have a photo of my family taped to the back of my badge. It’s a constant reminder that I need to perform my duties the right way, the safe way, every day, if I want to go home to them at the end of my shift. 

A small percentage of calls for service we handle require true heroes, but you need to be prepared to assume the role when the situation arises. Allow exceptional training and experience to guide you through and mentor others who haven't yet acquired essential skills to exceptionally lead them through as well. 

We are warriors. We must train like one to survive like one. Keep your head on a swivel and always be safe. 


About the author
Dave Windels has been a police officer for 19 years, currently a patrol sergeant for the Elk River Police Department in Minnesota. Windels is a former SWAT team leader and current firearms and use of force instructor. With his wife Amanda, Windels is is raising two boys.

This article, originally published 08/01/2013, has been updated.

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