I was recently asked by a reporter to comment on the increasing number of people leaving the law enforcement profession, and a significant drop in applications. Though most of the reasons I provided never made it into the article, it wasn’t difficult for me to list many reasons for the above phenomenon.
But for those who stay or apply, one positive reason always wins out over what seem to be mounting reasons not to pursue a law enforcement career: It’s the desire to help and make a difference.
In all of the conversations about law enforcement, what you don’t often hear is any acknowledgement or appreciation of what officers do on a daily basis. People are full of ideas about what to change or improve. But little effort seems to go into understanding what officers face when they are called for help multiple times a day.
This year I was involved in a very minor way in two calls about active shooters. During each of them, I heard and saw officers literally run toward situations they knew were extremely dangerous. We knew people had already been shot, and it was ongoing. We had little or no suspect information due to the chaos.
I talked to officers afterward who spoke about hearing a loud bang as they were clearing areas and helping wounded people. Preliminary information included the possibility of improvised explosive devices in one of the calls. The officers told me they didn’t know if they were being shot at or if an explosion had just occurred as they were helping people, but they pressed on. On the other call, we learned later that multiple weapons were in that bar — and not just in the hands of the shooter. Yet officers were doing everything they could to help those who were shot.
Every one of those officers have people they want to return home to, but they put that aside to help.
While calls about active shooters don’t occur every day, we do get calls involving weapons every day, often multiple times a shift. Each time officers rush to help anyone injured. They try to prevent anyone else from being injured. They look to apprehend those involved. They don’t know what they will encounter when they get there, but they don’t hesitate.
The most dangerous calls we face are the ones with the most unknowns. When we know or have a good idea of what’s going on, we can plan. But when we get calls, which happens a lot, from people just asking for police, we don’t know what we are heading into. These can range from situations involving chaotic weapons, to someone mad they got the wrong order at McDonald’s.
Yet officers go every time and willingly risk their safety if necessary.
Officers are helping people every day at accidents and with injuries. Officers help people who have been victimized in every way you can imagine. Officers risk not only their personal safety, but also their mental health in being consistently exposed to trauma.
We see media coverage to some extent of many of the calls I list above. But rarely if ever are the risks to officers acknowledged. A brief paragraph about shots fired and casings found doesn’t reflect that officers headed there ready to encounter armed people and to face life-and-death situations and decisions. Or maybe they spent hours walking around in the cold looking for casings and making sure no person or property was hit.
You don’t often hear appreciation for what officers do and face, but you should. I’d ask all of those engaged in conversations about law enforcement to try and keep in mind all of what officers do on a daily basis.