This is a reprint from something I first wrote in 2016. I changed a few things, but it probably didn’t make it any better.
I don’t pontificate much about police officers. I avoid sharing my opinions on the slew of stories that come across the the big screen television or that are inked onto the newsprint that I still like to read.
I usually purchase an actual newspaper from the rack at the gas and go; typically only on my days off. I save loose change in my console for this reason. Newspapers go well with McDonald’s coffee, it’s only a buck and it feels good in my hand when I am reading a newspaper.
Don’t judge me, I like cheap coffee and I think Micky Dee’s is pretty darn good.
While I avoid leaving too many opinions on our page, they sometimes slip out.
If you have been one of the lucky ones who have asked me about certain events, you will recall that I spoke vaguely and in choppy sentences. A thoughtful exchange about the state of police work in the United States would be a long conversation with room for pauses and stepping outside for a breath of fresh air, maybe even a cigarette if I smoked. I don’t.
I have strong opinions and once you open the door, I am like the uncle that shows up just before breakfast and stays until way past dinner. We don’t want that. Trust me. Just ask my close friends. I don’t even need a full set of fingers to count them anymore. That’s mostly my fault.
Police officers start out on the job with a belief that they will make a difference. A strong sense of duty. Hoping to help and make a positive change in their community. Good things. I call these the formative years.
The pride never goes away but someone comes along and hides the rose colored glasses under the cruiser seat by year number five. Then you might start to squint a little more. It works the same as the glasses but it can give you a headache. Tylenol is cheap.
There are feelings of futility that will inevitably come. You are not always helping. It might not feel like you are making things better. That doesn’t stop you from trying. The glimmers of hope appear more infrequently but they still happen. Sometimes you will have a long run of glimmer-free weeks. They return; usually just in time.
You learn to look a little harder for the good things. You will find them in different places as your career progresses.
The camaraderie in this job is second to none. Police officers can be arguing like a pack of barefooted brothers and sisters in a muddy backyard but when the call for service comes in, the divide disappears and the job gets done. We can argue among ourselves later. Rest assured that we will.
Any one of us with any time in police service have lost friends to line of duty deaths, debilitating diseases, alcoholism, addiction and suicide. Quantifying whether some of those were caused by or brought on the job would be difficult. I don’t need a graph or spreadsheet to come up with my answer.
Cops are there to make a positive difference. Not everyone involved will agree with us. We understand. We are still required to recruit from the human race. The same place where your mechanic was found, or your minister, or the man who delivered your oil. You should expect our best BUT perfection will not arrive in a black and white Ford cruiser.
The foundational reasons why cops will continue to do strong work cannot be changed. They have a strong sense of duty and they will continue to work for positive change in the communities they serve. Expect no less from us and tell us when we do it wrong. Drop us a note when we get it right.
Tonight I salute all my colleagues working the night watch, tomorrow’s day shift, and those on their days off. I salute those who came before us and those who will do this long after we are gone.
I pray for safety for each and every one of you this week and all the weeks to follow. If someone finds that offensive, I get it. But I don’t really care. There have been times in my career where I fully believed it helped. It certainly beat crossing my fingers.
Have a wonderful National Law Enforcement Week 2018.
(some opinions stated in this missive are purely mine and do not represent those of the Bangor Police Department or the City of Bangor. If someone else wants to write this stuff, swing by and I will give you the keys).
Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another.
We will be here.
BPD Duck of Justice is published in BDN Maine Weekly on Thursdays. This installment is for May 24.