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The Code of the Dark Knight
Deep down you realize that this officer possesses something inside of himself, inside his character that you want around you when the world is not proving to a happy place. This is the officer you want to have beside you when the two-time parolee has decided today isn’t the day he wants to try for the three-peat. This is the officer—this is the person—who will bring you and your other troops home safely when the rounds start flying and the one who will do what needs to be done no matter how bad things get.
This officer is fully prepared to take whatever action is needed to bring his charges out alive, to right the wrongs and to make the world a truly better place, all without need of praise or any shiny award. This one does it just because it needs to be done. This is the Dark Knight.
In the past, this column has explored the difference between the types of officers in our profession. We have discussed the self-imposed caste system that is true to all law enforcement agencies. There are two main classes of officers. First there are the drones. These are the worker bees, the officers who get the day-to-day job done. They take reports, they work accidents and they respond to other true emergencies, but that is where it ends. At the end of the day, these people are simply very dedicated civilians who are doing an often thankless job—but deep down, they are civilians in their thought processes.
Then there is the second main class of officers—the Knights. These are the guys who live and breath it. They are constantly in the thick of the action; crime almost seems to find them.
However, even within this class there are divisions. Some, mostly the young ones, are brash and seek personal glory and award. They seek to be the best because they want to be the bright lights of the department. They should be rewarded justly because they are making a difference. These are the Shiny Knights. They are Knights to be sure. They are true to the cause, but they are Knights of a different order than the quiet calm of the Dark Knight.
Without a doubt, all Knights are problematic for supervisors and administrators because they tend not to work and play well with others. But although it may seem so at times due to the incessant whining and childish behavior among the group, this isn’t a kindergarten class we are running.
The original knights of long ago were less than stellar individuals. It took a change in thought process, in fact, it took an entire change in the psyche of society to make the knights of feudal times into what we know of them today.
Like everything else, the pendulum of society swings from right to left, back and forth over time. As with the knights of so long ago, we again today have a problem with some of our protectors. We have an issue with some of those we entrust to wield power over others. This isn’t something new. In fact, it is no different now than it has ever been.
We, as a culture, are now much better at detecting those in our ranks who should have never been there to begin with, so it is only natural that there would appear to be more problems now. In the name of culling those individuals though, we may also be breeding our own new problems that may be just as sinister in their own right.
The issue we now face is that the true knight—who lives the code, who is truly the best and is not a pretender—is now being ostracized. Political correctness is truly at work in some corners.
In some cases, we worry more about not offending a special interest group than we do about protecting those who need and deserve our protection. In some corners, we are moving away from the protect portion of “Protect and Serve.” We may have pandered so much to those who would make “kindler, gentler” the order of the day that we are breeding a class of officers that is more counselor than cop.
Without a doubt, there are those among us who are posers. They may speak the right words, but they are the phony tough. They seek glory and want the awards and pats on the back all for doing nothing. In reality, many of these are lazy people; they want to be handed something even though they don’t want to work for it.
For some, this may have bred success, and they may even have made it high into the ranks. However, it is though they still want to take the simple way and exist on the laurels of others. But when push comes to shove, these people are weak and are not worthy. These people are contributing to the very breakdown of our culture.
Now is not the time for our culture, our leaders and those who represent the future of our profession to be distancing ourselves from those who are truly what we should all strive to become. Now is the time to set the standard. Now is the time for us to re-invest ourselves into “The Code,” the one the Dark Knights have always lived by.
The “serve” part of the job is often misunderstood. It isn’t about pandering to special interest groups, to implementing feel-good-gosh-golly programs that do nothing but simply expend resources in the name of political correctness. It is about being there to work the accidents, to take the reports and to provide a visible presence to keep the wolves at bay.
Service is about providing our communities with the day-to-day resources they need. It is about making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible and that problems are dealt with in a quick and efficient manner so the public may move along with their lives with minimum disruption. Order maintenance.
The “protect” part is where the code becomes crucial. It is here that there is a fine line between business and personal, and between the efficient and legal use of force and simple thuggery. It is in this place where we must place our Knights. For it is here that we must draw, sometimes in blood, our thin, blue, hard line.
Here on the line, just as they have been for years, you will find the rarest of our breed, the officers who exist and thrive for extended periods of time in the this high-pressure environment. Here you will find the Dark Knight.
There is nothing “shiny” about this officer. No glitter, no pizzazz, no bright lights or red carpet being sought. Our Dark Knight might not be the stoic character that the name would imply. In fact, he may be a jovial, polite and affable officer.
But look closely and you will see an officer who is solid both in mind and body and who does not seek glory or awards. He is proficient with the law, tactics, tools and with his weapons. These officers exist in a seemingly perpetual state of calm readiness. An aura surrounds them like no other. They know what to do, they know how to do it, and they know, most important, when. They have all been there many times.
The chivalric code embodied by our Dark Knights is something that we as a culture should once again begin to inculcate in our recruits. It should once again become part of the corporate culture. From the top to the bottom, we should strive to exhibit the things that this code has come to embody.
Protection of the weak. Honesty and dedication to duty. Intelligence, integrity and above all, honor. The Code.
Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He and his partner, Sergeant Mick Williams, provide contract instruction on a wide range of subjects, including tactical and patrol-based skills. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Published in Law and Order, Sep 2008
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