National Police Week
By David Browne, J.D., Program Chair of Security Studies
National Police Week begins Sunday, May 12 and lasts until Saturday, May 18. It is a collaborative event that brings together law enforcement officers and related organizations. If you are in Washington, D.C. this week or at any time, I urge you to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. My first visit was one I will never forget.
My Friend the Cop
Police officers are a different breed. The job they do forces them to separate themselves from the rest of society. Police officers are witnesses to things that happen in an instant and change lives forever. If you know a police officer, watch cop shows or are part of that unique institution called a ‘police family’ you may have heard these questions asked: "Have you ever been in a shootout?" “Have you ever had to shoot anyone?” Or my favorite, "What's the worst thing that ever happened to you?” When I hear that last one, I am tempted to ask, “Aside from right now?” But I smile and give a canned answer. The real answers to those questions are too sad and frightening to speak of at barbeques and parties.
“Carved on These Walls…”
I was assigned to FBI, HQ in Washington, D.C. some years ago. It was during Police Week when I happened to be out for a late-night walk. I came upon the memorial by chance and walked into its gates. I found myself in a quiet, dimly lit space with a circular wall around it. I could barely see the names inscribed on it.
There were still a few people there. A large, gray-haired man in a biker jacket was kneeling, with one hand against the wall and crying softly. Three State Troopers stood in another section of the memorial talking; I could hear the older two telling the distraught younger trooper that there was nothing more he could have done. A woman walked by me quickly, her arm around two young boys.
They Call it End of Watch
There are cards, teddy bears, flowers and drawings from children. If you read the cards they are about birthdays, graduations and how children “have your eyes, ““your smile," or “said something that reminded me of you.” They are placed near the wall along with graduation and wedding pictures, candles and sometimes a can of beer. If you know someone there, you will look for his or her name. It may be the father of a friend who was killed when your friend was only 2 years old, leaving a mother alone and jobless in a big city in the 1960s. It may be someone who was married just two years: She was expecting their first child and was supposed to be home resting, but that was not her style. She had a “few loose ends to tie up on a cold case,” she had said, promising to keep her feet up and stay in the office. She was startled by a loud noise at the front desk of the station and went to investigate. Maybe it was someone who had done the same thing a thousand times before, but on this clear, bright summer day, it ended differently. They call this ‘End of watch.’
“In Valor There is Hope”
If you have carried a badge, your thoughts may begin to wander back right now to some of your experiences. If you are part of a police family, you may remember a Christmas Day, birthday or big game you missed. You might hear a distant siren and whisper a silent prayer. If you are still reading and asked “your friend the cop” those questions, I ask you to visit the memorial or the website at www.nleomf.org. All of your questions will be answered there, so that the next time you meet a law enforcement officer you simply say, "Thank you.”
David Browne, J.D., spent over 14 years as a Special Agent in the FBI and was most recently a Crime Analyst at the University of Chicago for six years. He earned a J.D. law degree from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Michigan. He is currently program chair of Security Studies at Colorado Technical University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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Image credit: Flickr/erin m