Many little boys, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say, “a firefighter” or “a police officer.” These professions are admired for the honorable and hard work that they do. They get into tough situations, save lives and property, and do honest public service for pay that often is not commensurate with the challenges of their high-risk profession. They rise to a higher calling to care for others and protect public safety. They put up with a lot of crap from the public who think only about themselves, not for others’ safety, or don’t think anything bad, like a home fire, could ever happen to them.
As I was growing up and considering my options, I moved toward education with a focus on public safety. That’s what I do. That’s what I know. That is where I have been trained, and have assumed various leadership positions to pass on skills and knowledge to others to help them be better at what they do.
Why not be a cop? Well, for one, when in high school and college, I was still a very klutzy, non-athletic kid. To this day, I still trip over shadows and non-existent obstacles. Some of the guys I knew who entered respective police or fire academies were naturally athletic. That left me out. I honestly didn’t think I could pass the physical tests that new recruits had to go through. (I watched a cousin go through his physical tests for the police academy, and even though he was “Mr. Jock” in high school, he still had trouble with those tests.)
My high school friends who entered law enforcement had a respect and an interest in guns. I didn’t. I still don’t. They each had to demonstrate that, if in the appropriate and justified circumstances, they could shoot someone. I just don’t think I ever could point a weapon at another human being (or an animal, for that matter) and intentionally hurt them. Does that mean that if someone were coming after me with intent to do harm that I would roll over and let them? Of course not; I would defend myself as best I could. However, I never want to be in such a situation so I did not consider entering a profession that would require carrying and perhaps using a gun.
In my civic life, I work with a lot of law enforcement officers. Most of my work is in meetings, on topics like reducing the lure of gangs, preventing “tagging” (graffiti), and making our community a safe and secure place to live, raise families, and enjoy life. I don’t ride with motorcops daily, though I have had a number of times when I have been escorted on motorcycle rides by working motorcops looking after our safety.
I respect the law enforcement and firefighting profession tremendously, and do my part to ensure that law enforcement officers and firefighters earn the respect they deserve for the hard work that they do. From providing affordable housing, to advocating for pay and benefits, to helping to educate my neighbors and elected officials about hazards and how to be safe.
Some people have asked me, “you seem to like uniforms, so why wouldn’t you be a cop?” My response has been what I explained above. Plus, having spoken with a lot of law enforcement officers over the years, their “real jobs” are nothing like what television shows make them out to be. A lot of their time is boring… waiting… and hoping actually that they don’t get a call. To them, each call may mean trouble, and they would prefer that trouble not happen in the first place.
So that’s why I have spent most of my career in prevention and education. Let’s make that trouble “not happen.”
In summary, I have deep respect for firefighters and law enforcement officers, and play my part to help prevent trouble as well as support what they do. We work together in our community. I appreciate that. But did I ever want to be a cop? … well, probably when I was a youngster, I might have said that I did. When I grew up, I found my calling was elsewhere.
Life is short: support public servants!