Dear young officer,
First, let me begin by welcoming you to law enforcement. This career field has a long-standing belief that we truly serve the interest of our communities and the badge we wear reflects the oath we took. Our communities expect fairness, respect, and officers that will conduct themselves in an intelligent and productive manner. It is indeed them that you work for. We chose that when we became officers, and you chose it when you accepted that commission.
Don’t make things personal. You can’t overstep the powers entrusted to you. Conduct yourself in a manner that reflects your superiors, that shows intelligence, professionalism, and an eagerness to serve your community. Don’t be coarse, abrasive or harsh, but use language reflective of the badge you wear and the oath you spoke. Don’t allow personal feelings to compromise your integrity, and refrain from acting out of malice or ill will. Always conduct yourself as though the world is watching.
You will need to understand that law enforcement is the same nationwide, its uniform, but the way we conduct our enforcement and ourselves as professionals varies. Our philosophy is doing the right thing, having strong morals, and above all, having integrity.
You are an extension of your brother in blue as well as your Chief. In turn, you will be viewed as a reflection of them both. Keep this in mind as you serve.
During your tenure, you will work in many different aspects of law enforcement. You will see and field an array of calls and crimes. Many of the things you will need to know can’t be taught in a small amount of time but will be learned as you progress in your career. A majority of your work in your community is the deterrence of crime. You will need to learn your community and the people in it. You will have to familiarize yourself with its streets and residences. You will have to work hard to be able to serve a community that respects you, because you will have to work harder to give them a community they can respect.
This is a dangerous job. We all know it. You’ve seen it or read about it. And now, you’ll live it. You will get hurt. You may have to fight for your life. You may take a life. You will have to make sure that not only you but your brothers make it home after every single shift. Listen to your radio and keep up with your fellow officers. Don’t make a habit of disregarding your back-up, especially when it comes to your mental health.
Now that the basics are out of the way, let us get down to the meat of it all.
There is nothing of this world that will prepare you for the ride you are about to go on. You are going to see the ugliest of people and more horrid things than I could ever describe. You will become callous. At some point you may become void of all feeling. You are at risk of reaching darkness you never felt possible. Your heart will hurt in ways you’ve never known. You will witness murders, suicides, abuse, filth, and an unimaginable evil.
There is a huge possibility you will cut yourself off from everyone in your life. You are at risk of divorce, alcoholism, and suicide. You might also reach out for help and not get it. This world is cruel, and if you didn’t already know that, you will soon. Most people are sheltered, you will not be. You will have to hold your tongue when others don’t. You will have to sacrifice more than what you were ready to. You will have to act strong at your weakest moments. You will have to show relentless bravery when you are scared to death. You will think you are invincible to fear, all while it surrounds you unknowingly. It will be easier for you to walk up to a vehicle, all alone, in the middle of nowhere with any given list of unknowns, than it will be to talk to your spouse/others about your day.
You will find giving advice is easy, but living it yourself is harder.
You will start being more comfortable in your uniform than you are in your own home. When this happens…Stop. Do not let work become your safe haven. You have a home for a reason, and that uniform has a department for a reason. If you are always acting with integrity, honor, and discipline, then you will not have to change the person you are at either place… You will only change what you’re wearing.
You will work long hours. You will be tired, hungry, and some days you will feel like quitting.
You will see brothers fall. Some days you will cry in silence. Sometimes you will feel alone. Often you will feel unloved.
But you are not alone, and you are loved. People care for you. People want your help. People will support you. People will cry when you are hurt. They will stand up with you and say “no more.”
You will see that you can make a difference in the face of adversity.
You will find it is ok to say you need help.
The acts you can take legally may be limited, but your ability to act in love never is. You can serve in love and effectively police.
Keep your statutes ready on your mind, but keep Gods statutes written on your heart.
There can be justice through peace. You can make a difference every day, and you are the one who chooses what kind of difference that is.
Be a guardian of the people, a warrior on the path to changing hearts.
Everyone is watching you. Everyone will talk about you. People will look up to you or down at you. Take every opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. Give no reason for anyone to fault you.
Know when you are wrong. Don’t be afraid to admit it. Take every chance to change it.
Your acts will define you. Let your acts be a reflection of love, your badge a symbol of faith, and your uniform an image of service.
You are a public servant, you are a police officer, but most importantly you are a child of God called upon to offer up grace in the face of failure, peace in a time of chaos, and a love that will triumph over all evil.
His Book “Salt and Light: Being the Hands and Feet of Christ” is available this Septemeber.