On Becoming A Cop
My father was a cop. As far back as my memory goes, I was surrounded by honorable, dedicated, fine men of courage who also carried a badge.
I grew up ten miles outside of Washington, D. C. in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The location was problematic. Most of the kids I played with dropped out of high school, suffered drug addiction, some went to prison, and some died young. I don’t believe any of these young people had the same opportunity I had, to stand in the shadows of men of conviction, courage, empathy, and sacrifice – men who cared.
I visited several of my father’s friends as they recovered from various injuries over the years. My father was injured on the job several times. These were intentional attacks by violent men that caused their injuries. Despite their experiences, my father and the men he worked with didn’t grow hard. They weren’t prone to violence. They loved their families, their careers, and life in general. They were men I liked to be around. They seldom talked about the job. They seldom passed advice to me, but when it was given, I soaked it up.
Words don’t hurt.
Serve those most in need first.
Anger serves no purpose and will cause you trouble.
Treat everyone with dignity and respect, it is too easy not to.
Those words reflected the way these men conducted themselves. They never seemed disturbed, despite what they encountered. They were kind, friendly, and generous to others, upbeat and happy, and they always wore smiles.
The solidity established between my father and his friends on the job didn’t dissipate when they left policing, so my exposure to these good men continued. Even during my college years, after Dad had retired, I attended gatherings with them. These men made a difference in others’ lives, they helped, they saved, they protected, and they served. I wanted to be one of them. I also wanted to be one of the best.
As I considered my future following graduating from the University of Maryland at College Park, the lives of my father and his colleagues were ever present. I had to follow my own path. In 1973, I applied to the D.C. Police and was sworn in as one of only ten officers with a college degree in a force of nearly five thousand.
From the day I walked my first foot beat to the time I retired; I lived by one mantra. This mantra was cultivated by the men who guided me through my formative years, most of all my father. That mantra remains with me to this day: What would I do if my Mom, Dad, brother, other family members, or friend faced the tragedies I saw so many times? The answer remains the same too. I would not walk away. I would protect and serve them with dedication and sacrifice, just as I would my family. Sadly, most of the time, people experiencing the worst need have nowhere else to turn to but the police. When I was a member of the force, neither I nor the men and women under my charge would fail them.