There is a reason we pin the badge over our hearts. It was our heart that we followed into the law enforcement profession.
It is our heart that tells us that there is good in this world and that good will ultimately triumph over evil. It is our heart which pushes us to pursue and root out that evil from our communities so that the good people can live in peace knowing that we are watching over them.
This profession we have chosen has never been easy. The hours are long. The work can be distressing and tragic. Try as you might some people just can’t be saved. Putting on the uniform and the badge takes a toll on our families, our bodies and our hearts.
We have chosen a profession knowing that we will see our brothers and sisters die. We will do everything we can to prevent it, but we know it will still happen. There will be casualties in the war between good and evil. And that is a war we will continue to fight.
But we fight this fight in a different world, where we aren’t necessarily seen as the ones wearing the white hats. Our authority has been questioned. Our actions have been publicly scrutinized and derided despite the facts. Our hearts – and our intentions – have been doubted.
And our brothers and sisters have been assassinated simply because of the badge they pinned over their hearts. Shot 15 times while pumping gas. Shot in the back, stripped of his gun and left to die. Executed while trying to help a motorist whose pickup was stuck in a ditch. Law enforcement officers have become the hunted, targeted for crimes of opportunity because of the uniform they proudly wear and what they represent. This is unacceptable.
We mourn the devastating losses of our brothers and sisters in green, blue and tan. We mourn the losses of fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, daughters and sons. Our hearts ache for the children who no longer have a father or mother to tuck them in at night or help them with their homework.
These callous murders bring back the painful memories of the deaths of Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Riches who was executed in the parking lot of a Lake Forest 7-11 and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Shayne York who was shot in the head while waiting for his fiancé in a Buena Park hair salon. Both deputies were executed because they were peace officers.
While we cannot fill the hole their loss of life left in their families, their departments and their communities, we must never allow ourselves to forget the impact they made each and every day.
Law and order is necessary to maintain society. There are rules and consequences which must be enforced.
This profession is not perfect. Mistakes are made and wrongdoing is committed. But the sins of a few should not be allowed to tarnish the hundreds of thousands of law enforcement professionals who go to work in cities and towns all across America each and every day willing to lay down their lives for those they serve. They are the very definition of a public servant.
We have all grown weary of the vitriolic rhetoric constantly hurled at our credibility, our commitment and our benefits. Our pensions and our paychecks have been the target for the last decade. And now the target is on our very backs.
The majority of Americans support the badge and the men and women who wear it. We still wear the white hats in their eyes. But a vocal minority is attempting to shift that support away from law enforcement and support the very element from which we are sworn to shield society. We must not allow our frustration and public misperceptions cloud our judgment. We must continue to do our job and do it honorably.
We must always remain vigilant. But that vigilance has never been more necessary.
While we continue to do our jobs as protectors of society, we must also remember to protect ourselves and our partners. We must maintain that vigilance on the job and while we carry out our daily lives. You may not be wearing your uniform, but you are still a law enforcement officer while you mow your lawn or watch your daughter play first base for her softball team. That badge is forever pinned over your heart and there are those who wish to do you harm because of it.
Be vigilant. Each one of us deserves to come home. Make sure that you do.