5 historical quotes cops can use on patrol

Consider the following quotes, and how they may help guide you in your career — and in life


We can learn a lot when we study the great minds in our history. Much of that learning is accomplished in studying the words of these powerful intellects and applying them to our times and our lives. 

While leaders and thinkers for centuries have placed carefully manicured statements in historically significant speeches or manuscripts, sometimes a pearl of wisdom is the result of an unplanned and offhanded remark. 

Consider the following quotes, and how they may help guide you in your career — and in life. Give some thought to my interpretation of these passages, and how these great “one-liners” can boost your morale on patrol, or keep you out of a troublesome situation. Then, think about your own favorite quotes, and add them in the comments section below. Stay safe out there my friends. 

1. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
It may at first seem counterintuitive to drop a touchy-feely Maya Angelou quote in an article for a law enforcement audience, but think about the impact cops have on the lives of so many people who have been victimized. In response to everything from a DV call to a robbery in progress, cops have the opportunity to return some sense of dignity to the victim. And remember the countless secondary victims cops encounter. Whenever feasible, try to take an extra moment to reassure the child of someone you’ve arrested, or the neighbor of the home that got burglarized. 

Cops also have the chance to make even the arrestee feel better. Remember the notion of unconditional respect — it is one of the foundations of Verbal Judo, and it has tremendous power. Not only does it provide a tactical advantage on the streets, but it can be an inoculation against a complaint in this world of cellphone videos. Your career may be longer and smoother if you can leave the people in your wake with a positive feeling. It’s certainly not always possible, but it’s well worth trying. 

2. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill
Police leaders routinely hold court at community meetings. During those sessions, they sit and listen and answer questions from concerned citizens. They hold “coffee with a cop” get-togethers. They stand at podiums full of microphones and answer questions from an often hostile press corps. Those are all good things. Given the current tension between police and some citizens, perhaps they should be doing more of them. 

Even beat cops have the opportunity to grant audience to citizens with whom they make contact. This can go a long way to improving police-community relations. After all, as Tip O’Neil once said, “all politics is local,” and the street cop is working the campaign at the grassroots level. You never know what you might accomplish simply by listening to an everyday citizen on the street. 

3. “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” — Henry Ford
This is a big one these days, with cops being accosted, attacked, ambushed, and assassinated. It seems that every time an incident happens, protesters parachute into town — supported by groups like Black Lives Matter — to decry the police. These are trying times indeed — the worst since the ‘60s and ‘70s when groups like the Black Panther Party and the Weather Underground were targeting cops with everything from chants to bullets. 

Those dark days led to the ‘80s and ‘90s, when for the most part, the tide turned, and citizens showed a greater level of support and respect for police officers. There’s no telling how long the current climate will last — we may be simply stuck in a new normal — but we do know that police officers have the fortitude and resilience to handle any storm. 

4. “Embrace the suck.” — Unknown (but most often associated with the U.S. Army)
See above. If you have lousy assignment, a lousy shift, a lousy boss, a lousy department, or are simply feeling lousy one day, it’s a far more successful strategy to press forward and take on that “suck” than to have yourself an unproductive pity party. 

Find your motivation — it could be simply having pride in your profession — and get to work. This does not mean you should not seek to affect change in the “suck” along the way — you absolutely should do that. But it does mean that you control how you respond to your circumstance. Stay positive and press on.

5. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
This one is — hands down — my favorite. It’s undeniable that if there were not the heroic actions of the guardians of peace, the evil who live among us would run amok and wreak havoc on the innocents. Cops stand between violent predators and the people upon whom they prey. Cops ensure that society doesn’t devolve into chaos — they make sure America doesn’t become a cross between “Mad Max” and “The Purge.” Cops solve problems. Cops are the heroes who run toward the gunfire when most people flee in panic.

Being a cop is often a thankless job, but it may be the noblest profession on Earth. Speaking of thanks, remember that the vast majority of Americans respect and admire the police. They are a silent majority. They are more likely to thank the pilot at the pointy end of the plane than the police officer taking a report at the home of a burglary victim, but they value you more than you know. You are doing your job for them, not the evildoers who you arrest and put in jail. 

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