FIT@50 / week 62
This week honors Emergency Dispatchers – the life lines who answer frantic 9-1-1 calls, dispatches officers to the scene and records the funny or painful details of each call for service. Often unsung, Emergency Communications Operators are the true heroes – Hug a Police Dispatcher – Do it today
It’s My Anniversary:
This has been a banner year for me. Within weeks of celebrating my 50th birthday, I’m now blessed with my 25th Anniversary.
This is the date I answered the call, and the lifelong desire to serve became reality. It’s the day I became part of another, much bigger family that didn’t always share with my first one. It was the year I first gained new brothers and sisters, and became part of something mystical called the Blue.
My Anniversary also means more than seniority or experience. The significance of loss through line of duty deaths emblazons the significance of being blessed with surviving yet another year on the Job. The experiences (amazing and horrific) over 25 years are almost unimaginable, but the sacrifices are noble when offered with a sincere heart.
Would I do it again? Yes—it’s an honor to serve you.
Last month I visited the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC. I stood over the granite wall with the carvings of more than 20,000 names of officers killed for no other reason than reporting for duty.
I knelt at panel 38-E:25 and ran my fingers over his name – Octavio Rafael Gonzales. The feigned smile exchanged the grief I’ve carried over the years for a public show of respect. On the very next panel, number 36-E: 27 – Timothy Bergeron elicited the same response.
All three of us attended the Academy together many years prior, and yet there I stood. The significance of the memorial is not lost on me, or the millions of Americans visiting the memorial.
While I recalled the sadness of each friend’s ceremony, I also understand why the ceremony that followed was greater in preparation, tradition and attendance than the majority of all funerals most any civilian will attend. It has to be for the good of the profession.
Law enforcement requires a unique fitting in period, or more formally called “occupational socialization.” To enter into and continue in this fraternity, it is vital that the individual officer drop previous characteristics making them unique for the sake of operating within the homogeneous community of policing. Within the standard operating organization of policies and procedures; long-haired, freaky people need not apply.
The job is referred to as having a “mystique veiled by a sacred canopy.” The symbolism, pageantry and tradition make our calling noble. It is vital to maintaining the highest levels of loyalty that we see this low-wage earning, long-hour working and risk-taking job as a “calling.” These badges of honor endear us to the service of policing.
Why is a police officer’s line of duty death and funeral so impacting of an agency, a community, and a nation? Are there websites, ceremonies and engraved walls dedicated for fallen teachers, bus drivers or public works employees?
These acts of respect are symbolic insurances to officers, that if I also lay my life down in the service to others, that I will too be memorialized by pageantry and procession. Ceremonial symbolism comforts us to know that if our life is lost in the line of duty, we will be honored not for the way we died, but for how we lived. It is our reassurance policy that in our passing, our families will be cared for and we will be missed.
While the death of an officer is tragic, the tradition of ceremony allows officers to gather within a circle of fraternal isolation. Although the outside world may be watching, they are ritualistically excluded beyond the immediate family of the officer lost.
The collection of individual officers adorned in their most formal dress blues are allowed to not only share each other’s grief, but to mourn what may become our own departure. Whether you knew these officers or not, you see yourself in that casket escorted by the hundreds of police motorcycles and cruisers. You see your wife, kids, family and friends weeping over the casket as it’s closed and the folded American flag is handed to your child as she stands at attention trying to be brave.
Police funerals still touch the psyche of an American public. It reminds them of the frailty between good and evil. The institution of policing is held in societal esteem where good guys are not supposed to lose, much less die. The police funeral also remains a part of the acclimation process into American culture. Somber processions creep past businesses and schools as citizens and students stand at staunch attention in either instructed salutes or flag waving.
Yes, oddly enough police funerals are good for the profession. It reminds cops just how thin that thin blue line really is. It is a vivid reminder that instant, sudden or violent departure preparation remains a part of your calling. While it is a prelude to your own death, it delivers on the promise of brotherhood. After all, establishing close personal relationships among peers is one of the most desired accomplishments among officers.
To be wanted. To be accepted. To be respected. To be missed.
My mom passed away over 15 years ago, and I have never returned to the cemetery where her body is buried. I know the spirit who made her the wonderful person she was is not trapped in the mausoleum. Conversely, I return to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in Washington D.C. every chance I get to rest my hands over the granite walls and engraved names of my brothers who are heroes not because they died, but because of the way they lived.
It is through the mourning of death that cops celebrate the charity of life in a profession often plagued by violence and loss. Maybe we attend to mourn the officer. Maybe we attend to mourn for ourselves, or maybe we attend to mourn for a lost society. Whichever the reason for attending, ceremonial police funerals are good for the profession.
Please support the NLEOMF by purchasing your copy of 10-CODE: Written by Cops Honoring the Ultimate Sacrifice
All money from every book benefits the police memorial
Why are police funerals good for the profession?
“We are a shining example to the nation that you can combine compassion and policing to achieve great things.” Those are the words heard by Thibodaux Police Department personnel as Thibodaux Chief of Police Scott Silverii spoke at Blue Summit, the agency’s annual departmental meeting. The entire department gathers once a year to share a meal, receive awards, and hear from Mayor Eschete and Chief Silverii, who recap the previous year and share a vision for the next.
“I love this department. I love being the Chief of Police in Thibodaux. I understand the significance of the past Chief’s before me, and the significance of those that will come after me,” said Chief Silverii as he spoke about the importance of legacy at the Thibodaux Police Department.
The department’s award recipients were received with standing ovations and loud cheers from their peers, who were clearly excited for the winners. Congratulations to the following award recipients:
- Golden Team Award – Lt. Kevin Brooks, Sgt. Pablo Garcia, Officer Adrian Buchanan, Officer Jonathan Fryer, and Communications Officer Tremaine Rhodes.
- Blue Valor – Officer Allie Faucheux
- Chief’s Employee of the Year – Animal Control Officer Kamie Burgos
- Chief’s Officer of the Year – Officer Paul Thibodaux
Chief Silverii and the Thibodaux Police Department would like to thank all of our sponsors that helped make Blue Summit such a wonderful event. A big thanks to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #52, House of Prayer in Thibodaux, TPD Jr. Police, the Sons of Chief Earl Melancon Sr. (Ret.), Mayor Tommy Eschete, MandyLens Photography, Room Solutions, Malik Hossel of Wendy’s fast food restaurants in Thibodaux, Dr. David Elias, Spahrs Seafood, Walmart, L&N, Gary’s, Rob’s Donuts, along with Clayton Dempster and Julius Clement.
What’s the best time to plant a tree?
– 30 years ago.
What’s the next best time to plant a tree?
In general, law enforcement has made for horrible horticulturalists. We’ve not tilled the soil of community engagement as a practice. Now we wonder why no one understands us.
When an incident like Ferguson erupts, the pundits hurry to fend off allegations from a civilian population incessantly asking for answers. I’ve had so many tell how they’ve unfriended people on social media streams because of the content post-grand jury decision.
When a public service organization adopts a “No Comment” paradigm over the course of a few centuries, is it any wonder why questions and misinformation arises during societal flash points. While operational confidentiality is vital to an agency’s mission, the majority of daily operations and information processed by law enforcement fail to meet the level of classified materials.
Social media allows public agencies an opportunity to manage their own message. If an agency fails or refuses to engage in the often free mediums available for informing people, then they should expect to face the accusations of pent up frustrations.
This is a great opportunity for Chiefs and Sheriff’s to re-examine their public relations practices. It has to be more substantial than a few handshakes with kids at the high school ball game. An ongoing, open dialogue with the community we swore to serve builds bridges and breaks down walls.
A few suggestions:
- Balance the “official” tone of agency social media accounts. If you want the public to relate to the humanity of your officers, then present them as such.
- Not every public event has to be public. People distinguish “photo ops” from sincere neighborhood engagements.
- Proactively pursue the media for establishing mutual credibility. Yes, mutual.
- Ensure the designated “Voice and Face” of your agency is representative not only of the community, but of the vision and ideals for serving the public.
- When wrong, say “I’m sorry.”
- When right, give credit to the persons responsible. Whether it’s the rookie cop or the shop owner who dialed it in, give legitimate thanks.
- Don’t wait until a crisis to introduce yourself to the public you vowed to protect.
- Don’t take it person. Negative public comments are born out of the frustrations of not being heard. Re-evaluate practices to ensure you’ve not shut your community out.
- When times get tough, don’t be a prick.
- In all situations, be yourself – a single human being placed in extraordinary circumstances trying to handle unimaginable calamities. People understand if you trip, and if you do, refer back to #9.
Ferguson & Public Engagement | What are they good for?