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Is a glass half-full—or is it half-empty?

Quantitatively, both are simultaneously true.

Qualitatively, the contents of the glass are determined by a person's perspective.

As we reflect on the top trends in law enforcement in 2018—and attempt to forecast what might lie in store for police in the New Year—it would be easy to see the year as a glass half-empty.

Departments nationwide appear to be on the precipice of a personnel crisis. Many agencies are severely understaffed—with the workforce retiring or resigning from the profession in significant numbers while young people entering the workforce are staying away from police work in droves.

And who could blame them?

People considering a career in policing observe a workforce under the daily threat of being injured or killed. They see employees who are being fired or sued—or both—for simply doing their jobs within agency policy and established legal precedent. It's no wonder they opt for jobs as software engineers and business development executives.

We could also focus our attention on the continuing trend toward de-policing in America.

Proactive policing is increasingly at risk of becoming lost to history. Police have withdrawn from self-initiating contact with subjects—whether on foot or behind the wheel—at agencies of all size in places like California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and others.

It's undeniable that those trends dominated the dialog on policing in the United States in the past year—and I'd bet a waist-high stack of green money that both will continue to make headlines in 2019.

However, I choose the half-full option and end 2018 focusing on some of the positive news that warmed my heart this year.

There were hundreds of stories in the past twelve months of officers doing things that go way—way, way, way—beyond the scope of their appointed duties.

Here are some of my favorites.

"Routine" Acts of Kindness

Just this week, an officer in New York responding to a traffic collision discovered that the occupants of the involved vehicle had been en route to their impending wedding. Nobody was injured in the incident, but the car was badly disabled, leaving the couple and their two children without transportation to the nuptials. Officer Cody Matthews drove the family to the big event in his patrol vehicle. Matthews reportedly also acted as an officiant in the ceremony, and signed the couple's wedding certificate.

In November, an officer in Utah took a report from 76-year-old Tisina Wolfgramm Gerber that the Thanksgiving dinner she had purchased for her children and grandchildren had been stolen from her parked car. Officer Chad Leetham took the report, and soon thereafter presented himself at Gerber's door with a turkey and all the trimmings for a festive holiday feast.

Just weeks earlier, two deputies in Nebraska were seen on dash-cam video installing child safety seats in a woman's car at a traffic stop. Deputy Jason Jones had pulled over a vehicle for speeding when he noticed that the two children in the back seat were not in proper safety seats. He radioed for help, and soon thereafter, Deputy Jessica Manning arrived with the two new safety seats.

Just days before that, two California officers saw an elderly man struggling to clear some overgrown shrubs and tree limbs from his property. Officers Meyerdick and Freitas were clearing a call for service when they noticed that the man was in need of a hand and without hesitation jumped right in and assisted the community member finish the job.

In September, an officer in New Mexico responded to a call of a man panhandling at an intersection. Sergeant Jim Edison arrived at the scene to find the man in a wheelchair saying that he was hungry. Edison gave the man his packed lunch. Edison then observed that the man's wheelchair was badly damaged. He then enlisted the help of a ministry that specializes in helping those with special needs to provide the man with a new wheelchair.

In July, an officer in Florida was seen helping shave the beard of a homeless man so he could apply for a job at a local fast food restaurant. Officer Tony Carlson had been present in the restaurant when an employee told the man that he wouldn't be hired unless he shaved his beard. Carlson retrieved some clippers and performed the sidewalk barber-shop shave job.

Just weeks before that, officers in Maine organized a birthday party for an eight-year-old girl a birthday party after learning that none of the girl's friends were able to attend her party. The department had received a message on Facebook from the mother of the girl asking if officers could sign a birthday card. Every officer on the department signed the card, but they went further by hand-delivering it along with balloons and a birthday cake.

Officers in Minnesota responded to a call that a couple of middle-school-age kids had stolen a young boy's lemonade stand profits. Officers arrived to the scene with two squads, then with a third, each officer "buying" some lemonade. The officers spent about $50 dollars at the boy's lemonade stand that day.

Early in the year, an officer in Virginia donated a kidney to a 13-year-old boy whose life was imperiled had he not received the transplanted organ. Officer Josie Hall was the only one of 40 people tested who was a match for little Ian Dennis, who had been diagnosed with Stage Five kidney failure. Officer Hall said at the time, "Unless the doctor told me 'no,' I was doing it. There wasn't going to be anything stopping me."

As the year began, officers in Florida lined up their patrol cars and flashed their light bars in an effort to brighten the spirits of patients at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. The children returned the greeting by flashing their room lights. The officers then went in the hospital to meet the kids.

Looking Ahead to 2019

None of the above acts of police officer kindness fell under the category of "just doing the job"—each was well above and beyond the call of duty.

There were countless other similar interactions in 2018 that never made headlines—officers make an immeasurable positive impact on the lives of an incalculable number of people across the country every single day.

The glass is full-to-overflowing with opportunities for similar acts of kindness by our law enforcement heroes in 2019. I raise a toast to many more good deeds and great things in the New Year.

Be well and stay safe.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Web Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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