Law enforcement is a service profession. Service is simple. It is an attitude of seeing needs and meeting those needs.
A police officer’s job description always includes a phrase similar to, “and other duties as assigned.” This phrase exists because there is no way to estimate or predict the situations that officers will find themselves in, including opportunities to serve.
In my first police job in a smaller town, one of the duties was to turn the city Christmas lights on at 5:00 p.m. and off again at 1:00 a.m. I never heard a cop grumble about having to do that job, and I figured out why on the first snowy night I lit them, they sure looked pretty. That job added value to the community, so we took ownership of it.
Over the years, police officers from all over have found themselves shoveling sidewalks, changing light bulbs, buying hamburger and bread, reading to students, and meeting with neighborhood groups. These are things that some would say are not even real police work, but these are the essence of service. They are real police work.
These acts of service add value to the community. You as a police officer must constantly be asking yourself, how can I add value to my community today?
Law enforcement, true to its name, is also an enforcement profession. Even more than a job, law enforcement carries the duty that we police to put ourselves in harm’s way for our community. It also carries the duty to hold people accountable for their actions, regardless of personal relationships.
Service adds value to the community, enforcement adds legitimacy.
Most communities stand for something and it is fair to say that most citizens value safety. This value is not legitimate unless the police are willing to enforce the laws impartially and capably. We must be prepared to stand the gap between harmful and illegal behavior and our community, not for our own glory or pleasure, but for the sake of the community and support of its values.