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Proud to Serve

Written by Jeff Dorfsman

My former professor, a retired Ohio State Trooper, gave a notable speech to a graduating class of future police officers. He explained why law enforcement is the most important job in the United States. He talked about the critical services police provide, how they protect our way of life, and the importance of an unconditional commitment to continued law enforcement training. 

He warned the young graduates about the risk of physical injury and death due to complacency.  He also mentioned a second risk, not physical, but mental too, “You will see so much of the seamy side of life that your spirit can get injured. If you feel cynicism creeping in, don’t you forget that you have the most important job in the United States.”   

Dealing with the darker side of life and experiencing the raw emotions, certain calls for service can make police work far from pleasant. The law enforcement culture tends to spin these unfavorable moments into either humor or cynicism. We also voice our frustration to each other and vent about how backward the criminal justice system can be or how poor our administrators’ decisions may seem.

This cynicism is either coming from an overworked patrol officer writing reports and running call-to-call or from a detective who is disgruntled by a justice system that seems to offer every offender a deal. It could be a union grievance bringing down department moral or an unappreciative citizen who called your supervisor just to make your life a little more difficult. The fact is law enforcement officers do not have an easy job and credit for good work is often nonexistent.

You need to remember for every tedious complaint you take, for every painstaking investigation you submit for charges that fall through the cracks and for every hour of training you put forth, lives the possibility that you have protected the life of a citizen, yourself or your partner. It has also made the communities you serve safer and more secure.

Perhaps you arrested a drunk driver, intervened in a domestic assault, interdicted a narcotics transport, or placed a person in crisis on a welfare hold. What we cannot measure is the differences we make in people’s lives and the crime we prevent in the daily work we complete.

You may never get rich being a police officer and as you know, you get paid not for what you do but for what you might have to do. I don’t believe many of us got into this profession for the money. I know this to be true because I have seen rookies and veterans alike perform amazing acts of bravery and heroism that is worth more than any dollar amount.  

To you, your badge may just signify a job. To the people you serve, who call you in their hour of need you represent a symbol of hope. You represent solidarity in society and a frontline of government that people believe in based on the many selfless acts of courage and service your partners have provided in the past and for the service you may have to provide tomorrow. 

Have you ever been hugged by a citizen or saw tears running down his/her face when he/she thanked you? Have you ever spent weeks or months on a case to finally to tell a victim the offender has been identified and arrested? Do you remember the satisfaction that came with these moments? Maybe you located a missing child, intervened in a hostage scenario, or used CPR to save a life.

My fellow officers, that is your paycheck, that is the juice that makes this job a passion and that is what makes us proud to serve. Protect your spirit, find your passion within this career and realize your service is greater than the many frustrations that accompany this profession.

 

Jeff Dorfsman is an Investigator with the Plymouth, Minn. Police and may be reached at jdorfsman@plymouthmn.gov.


Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2014

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