In the past year, I have engaged in dozens of conversations with citizens that begin with these statements. “I don’t know how you do your job.” “Thank you so much, I would never want to do what you do.” “You guys have the hardest job.” “I don’t know how you do what you do, and I’m so sorry for how you all are treated.” “I want you to know I stand with you guys, because I know you have such an awful job.”
Any time a uniformed officer stands proudly in public, good-hearted citizens with truly sympathetic and appreciative hearts want to express their legitimate admiration and gratitude. But their righteous thankfulness is often tainted by sorrow, mourning, and even indignation at how officers across our nation have been so vilified, demonized, abused, and assaulted in recent years. I, like every officer who receives these gracious well-wishes, understand from where these sentiments arise.
It has most assuredly been a rough few years for law enforcement in our country. Tens of thousands of valorous officers doing what cops have always done, struggling mightily to make our communities more livable, have been tainted by the poor decisions of a very, very few. These errors by those elsewhere, who share our calling, have been magnified, emphasized, and cast unjustly onto the souls of every officer nationwide. Without cause, my brothers and sisters have been mercilessly labeled racists, murderers, and bigots, without legitimate justification. Wholesale judgment, disparagement, and condemnation of an entire profession because of the actions of an infinitesimal few have become the norm of our day.
However, I have come to truly love these conversations with police supporters, as I am able to remind our dear citizens how much we all have to be grateful for and highlight the incredible caliber of people who are called into our profession.
In early June 2020, cities across the United States were metaphorically and physically burning as riots, looting, assaults, arson, and lawless bedlam ruled. In any other profession, from sales to law to finance, these workplace conditions would cause the practitioners to call in sick, quit, or leave for extended, unplanned vacations. However, those who share the law enforcement profession are unique. What we saw instead, from sea to shining sea, were throngs of selfless, patriotic officers coming back day after exhausting day to do their part to quell the madness. In spite of their meager paychecks, the hours of screamed profanities and insults to their dignity, and at great risk of serious bodily injury from assaults, they kept rolling out of bed and returning to the front lines. When I explain to our beloved citizens the miracle of young men and women choosing to voluntarily report back to protect our communities and our way of life day after debilitating day, their eyes begin to gleam with gratitude to be served by such a noble few.
When we further examine the situation, it becomes even more incredible. While the Millennial Generation is often callously dismissed as selfish and disconnected, tens of thousands have entered the police ranks and are defying all those stereotypes through their altruistic service. By choosing to enter the humble path of public service, instead of pursuing the almighty paycheck in other professional realms, these valorous young people are the embodiment of patriotism, generosity, and self-effacing service. Then in the midst of cancerous riots and mass chaos, they make the conscious choice every day to rise up and go back in yet again, for the sake of their communities. In our current era of secular skepticism and practicality, this behavior is a modern-day miracle.
Imagine what a car salesperson would do if she received a late night phone call from someone who wanted to pass along that the following morning at the car lot a riotous mob of characters with ill intent were planning to stage, chant, destroy property, and scream murderous threats and racist characterizations during her entire 8-hour shift. Or what would an employee at the local mall food court do if he received a text message advising him that the next day dozens of yelling rioters would be storming the mall, smashing windows, lighting fires, and wreaking havoc all day long? Or what would an insurance agent do after opening an email from a reliable source concerned about reports of throngs of anarchists staging nearby and planning to storm into and commandeer his business park, surely leaving a path of destruction in their wake?
In any of these hypothetical situations, all of these employees would call in sick, take vacation, or quit. Not so for our courageous law enforcement officers nationwide. They voluntarily roll out of bed following fitful nights of sleep, again and again, and report back to the front lines.
Some supportive citizens express righteous indignation at how we are treated and tell me that while they are overwhelmingly grateful they are concerned with how long the police can hold the line in the face of such pernicious onslaught. My answer to these kind Americans is unwavering and constant: “We can carry a heavy burden.” The young men and women who answer the noble call into our challenging profession can bear nearly any load. They are resilient and do not surrender. They are not intimidated or overly anxious. They do not require constant appreciation, recognition, or coddling. They will, yet again, wake each day and enter back into the fray on behalf of their communities and their fellow brothers and sisters. I remind citizens that they can feel free to relax because we are strong and tenacious in pursuit of law and order. So to answer the question simply, I often say that our officers can hold the line indefinitely.
As an officer, I am proud to be a member of such ranks, and I remind myself daily of my high calling, and my responsibility to this proud law enforcement family. I am proud of our collective strength, resolve, and resiliency. And as a citizen, I am wholeheartedly grateful for the dedication, courage, and ferocity of the officers who protect my city. It brings great peace of mind to know that they can carry such heavy burdens. What is self-evident is that in the darkest days the light shines brightest, and our law enforcement officers across this nation are often that light. That will not change.
Lt. Kory Flowers is a 20-year veteran of law enforcement who serves with the Greensboro (NC) Police Department. Flowers trains law enforcement officers nationwide on various subversive criminal groups, leadership, and tactical communication. He has written a number of articles for POLICE, covering topics as varied as domestic radicals and law enforcement leadership.