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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

No, I don't hate Police Officers - Far from it

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Jesus (John 15:13)

Funeral Procession for SPPD Slain Officer Gerald Vick
Photo by David Brewster of the Star Tribune

Yesterday evening, I received an e-mail asking why I hate Police Officers so much. I suppose my rhretoric about the recent APD Evidence Room Scandalas people thinking I 'hate' the department. 'Hate' is a powerful word and I have taught my children to use it sparingly - or better yet, not at all. Nonetheless, I must be up-front, I am a 'hater.' I reserve such abhorrence for bigotry, intolerance, injustice and corruption. These are but a few things I really do hate. Be that as it may, I hold to the truism that one can, 'love the sinner but still hate the sin.' I believe the APD scandal is a bad thing but I believe covering it up is the greater evil because it smacks of corruption and well, as I have already said, I hate corruption.

I got to thinking about it so I performed a search and found a story about a police Officer, undercover Detective Gerald Vic who was killed in the line of duty in St. Paul Minnesota. I read the article about his funeral procession and then happened upon a blog written by woman, currently pursuing her Master's Degree in Education. She is also from Minnesota. She wondered why police and firefighters have 'parades' when they die in the line of duty. There is no way this woman was being flippant. She was merely musing about it. After great consideration, I wrote my response and I will post it on her blog as soon as I am done here.

Why do police and firefighters have a parade when they die?

Actually, it is not a parade, it is a funeral procession. The people in the procession are there because they want to be there - in order to honor one of their fallen brethren. Their presence is out of respect, solidarity and deep appreciation for Detective Vick's supreme sacrifice of offering his life up for a cause. Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Police and Firefighters have a unique job in that they go to work every day and never know if they are going to return home alive. They don't know if they will see their families ever again. These public servants are unique in that their jobs call for them to put their lives on the line in order to protect complete strangers - with their own lives if necessary.

The spectacle of thousands of flashing lights in a procession is a sight to behold. It is a touching event to witness officers coming from departments near and far to pay their last respects. Yet, not even such an impressive showing can mitigate the pain and profound sense of loss when a public servant dies. Having been in such a procession has given me a mixture of great pride and tremendous sadness. It gave me time to reflect. It made me realize all the good reasons why I decided to don a badge & uniform; to swear an oath of fealty as protector, to my fellow Human Beings. It gave me a sense of connectedness and helped me to reaffirm my commitment to be a good Police Officer. It helped me to see that there is good in the world and we don't get together enough to celebrate all the good we do. It gave me comfort in knowing people across the state and across the nation were equally as committed to helping their communities. It made me realize we are a family and it swelled my heart to know that I had the honor of sharing that public trust with them. It brought me to the sobering thought that I needed to be careful and reinforced my resolve to never abrogate my responsibility to the public.

While I am now done with my career in Law Enforcement, I will say this; my blood will always be blue - not the blue of royalty but, the blue of that uniform. Every man and woman that takes an oath to protect their fellow citizens does so at great personal risk. They come from all walks of life. These people comprised of Law Enforcement personnel, firefighters, Soldiers and even the lowly unsung heroes, the Probation and Parole Officers are drawn to public service out of a sense of duty and honor. Budgetary constraints notwithstanding, these people choose to be public servants and their reasons aren't motivated by monetary gain. These people choose their work or, should I say, their work chooses them. Public servants' wages are never commensurate with the attendant hazards related to the job; no amount of money can ever bring someone who has died back to life. Thus, these people show up to work every day with the understanding that their contribution makes a difference and the knowledge that this day could be their last one alive.

Quite often, they reach a comfort zone because their jobs become 'boringly' familiar. That's when they are most vulnerable. More seasoned police officers are killed after seven years of duty than their colleagues with less time under their belts. That ought to be a sobering thought but again, like anything, the more familiar a job becomes, the less conscious thought it takes to perform that job. Quite often in police work, that becomes a deadly mistake. Nevertheless, when they die in the line of duty, we are aware just where they stood regarding their commitment to protect and serve knowing full-well the very people that could, and did, bring their lives to an abrupt and violent end were people the fallen officers would have died to protect as well. Owing to their supreme sacrifice, I believe they do indeed deserve processions and more.

We must nevertheless, be cautious not to put police too high up on a pedestal because, they are after all just Human Beings. They can make mistakes. Because they are sworn to protect and serve us citizens, these men and women are especially aware of the ominous responsibility they bear to the public. It is imperative we always remember that as well. Law Enforcement personnel are a unique lot that understand exactly what they are charged with in keeping the peace. May it always be an honor to be a public servant and may it continue to bring about a sense of great personal responsibility for those who feel the call to service.

In closing, lest we forget why police officers exist at all; God Bless the teacher, the garbage man, the waitress, the public servant, the working man, the children, the impoverished, the victims of Domestic violence and the vast myriad of people that inhabit this great big beautiful Blue Ball we all live on. Last week, a man died protecting our collective right to exist. God bless Gerald Vick, a man I never knew but for whom I feel a tremendous solidarity and pride. He is a comrad whom I am filled with sorrow for because of the loved ones he left behind.

The Procession is now over and his life is passed but may his death continue to stand for something. May it serve to remind us all that some things are worth dying for. May it remind us that there are people in this world who are dedicated to betterment of Humankind. May it show us that there really is good in the world.


At Tue May 17, 10:15:00 PM MDT, Blogger Janette said...

No need to post it on my blog... I read it here.
My father was a fire fighter and recently retired. I understand what the signifigance of this procession is, but think that it is rather ironic that we seem to only honor the people in our society that protect us after something has gone wrong....i.e. death or Sept. 11. We don't seem to honor police officers and fire fighters in everyday life, like we do for soliders. IMO the people that work in out ciites and towns should get the honor they deserve... before they die.

At Tue May 17, 10:57:00 PM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...

Good point. I did mention however that everyone plays an integral role in contributing to our society's well-being. Personally, I think teachers are poorly compensated considering they have the ominous responsibility for America's future. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked regarding their consistent role in effecting substantial outcomes for entire generations.

In this Post 9/11 America, my biggest fear is that the US Constitution is at risk of being seriously weakened. Moreover, because of their role as protectors, police are at risk of becoming lax in their responsibilities precisely because they are so positively viewed. I don't think this is healthy. We need to be ever-vigilant by keeping an eye out for potential offenses committed by public servants. This most recent scandal in Albuquerque quite frankly scares the hell out of me because no one seems to be too shocked by it. Estimates that up to two-hundred-thousand dollars are missing in addition to valuables, drugs and other items of prosecutorial value are simply missing. APD has announced it has no intention of pursuing the matter further and the Mayor, up for re-election isn't jumping on it. It stinks to high heaven of corruption. I could go on and on about this but suffice it to say, I think plenty of cops and agencies are getting their rewards as it were, here on earth pretty good. They have extensive rights to overstep the Constitution under the auspices of National Security because of the Patriot Act.

That's just plain scary.

For law Enforcement officers especially, it is imperative that they maintain an objective perspective. It ensures protection of the Constitution because; no Constitution means no law.

Of course rewards in life far out weigh the value of a fancy funeral. In truth, funerals are for the living after all.

I must admit feeling really good when people simply smiled at me and thanked me for being there and doing my job. Sometimes that's all the reward necessary.

Most public servants aren't glory hounds and while a bigger paycheck would have been nice, I have to tell you, I wasn't in it for the money. There were plenty of times when the job was a reward in itself. On the other hand, there were other times when the work was mundane and anything but action-packed.


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