Amid this current pandemic of COVID-19—also known as coronavirus—police across the country are being pressed to their limit. Morale is tanking and the stresses of the job are ever-increasing.
In recent weeks in this space I've posted some practical tactics to keep safe while on patrol such as wearing a mask—rated to N95 or higher—and keeping a good supply of disposable gloves at your immediate disposal. Wash your hands and disinfect your patrol vehicle.
This week in this space, I want to do something a little different. I want to provide you with some inspirational quotes to help you muddle through these troubling and trying times. I'll also add my interpretation of the quotes as they related to law enforcement.
"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid." —President Ronald Reagan
Indisputably the greatest president of my lifetime, Ronald Reagan was imminently quotable, but this one is probably my favorites. Bravery in the face of evil is what American cops exhibit every single day. I'll modify this great quote somewhat by saying that bravery is not the absence of fear, but resilience despite that fear.
"The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence." —Robert Peel
In 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police Force and became known as the "Father of Modern Policing." He produced a list of guiding principles that remain as valid today as when they were written two centuries ago.
"Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm." —Publilius Syrus
The seas these days are anything but calm—in some places the waters are downright angry—but those police leaders who hold the helm must keep the ship righted, its crew safe and well cared for, and working together to move the vessel steadily on in the desired direction. The seas will calm once again, but for now the sailing is going to be difficult.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou
Police officers have the unique opportunity—and ability—to return some sense of dignity to victims of crime, and even can restore a person who is accused of the crime by treating them with respect. You don't have to respect the person's actions—in fact you probably find those actions reprehensible—but remember the power of unconditional respect, taught in the book of that same name.
"Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall be called the children of God." —Matthew 5:9
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I'm pretty sure that most officers—whether or not they are particularly religious—believe this to be true. Officers put themselves in harm's way every day in the pursuit of justice and the protection of the innocent from those who would hurt or even kill them. For this they are rarely shown gratitude—in fact they are frequently ridiculed for their virtuous acts. But God knows that what you do for your communities is laudable and necessary work. You will be rewarded in Heaven.
"When you think about quitting, remember why you started." —Unknown
It's tough to be a cop. It's always been tough, but these days it's even more difficult. It's easy get down and think about a different career—something in business or education or a variety of other vocations. For some, pulling the pin is the right thing to do, but for most officers, staying on the job is the only possible path.
"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." —George Orwell
Every cop in America knows this quote. The emblem of the thin blue line shows just how seriously police officers take this heavy responsibility in service of their community. Whether you're working nights, days, or mids, you are the rough men and women who allow the community to rest well in their beds.
"Hire character. Train skill." —Peter Schutz
The former CEO of Porsche gave this advice as his company was developing high-end sports cars such as the venerable classic Porsche 911.
With agencies across the country facing a staffing crisis, there has been talk in some circles about lowering hiring standards. For myriad reasons, this is a sub-optimal short-term solution to what really is a long-term problem. Police departments should continue to hire individuals of the highest possible character, so that young people look at the police in their cities and towns and say, "I want to be like that."
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to make the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." —Michael Jordan
In law enforcement so many things can—and regularly do—go wrong, and yet police officers press on in their mission to serve and protect. Cases get tossed, criminals walk free, victims are re-victimized, and yet every day, police set out on the streets in a constant effort to keep their communities safe. Rarely are they thanked for their efforts. They seek not thanks nor praise, but the feeling of achievement from a job.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." —Winston Churchill
Police leaders routinely must stand at a podium and give briefings on a host of issues from police shootings to missing children. They get pretty good at standing up and talking, but it's equally important to sit down and listen. Police leaders routinely attend community meetings where they sit and listen and answer questions from concerned citizens.
"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." —Henry Ford
These are trying times indeed—the Coronavirus outbreak has had significant impact on agency staffing and officer health. Officers have been sent home to quarantine while the remaining members of the department are stretched very thin. The streets are largely desolate, but criminals are becoming emboldened to commit property crimes, racing into and out of grocery markets and retail stores and helping themselves to whatever they please, knowing that there will be no consequences for their crimes.
Officers across the country are dealing with a massive uptick in property crimes, domestic violence calls, and in some cases enforcement of "stay-at-home" orders. You're doing all this even as staffing shortages worsen with infected officers at home in quarantine. But we as a nation will eventually get through this, and we'll take flight once more.
These are difficult days. I hope these quotes help you keep your head up—and on a swivel—while working the streets. Add one—or more—of your favorite quotes in the comments below.
Be well and be safe out there.
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).View Bio