I am horrified, appalled, angered and sickened as I think of last Thursday night’s cowardly ambush of my brothers and sisters at the Dallas Police Department. These words and these feelings are only a small window into the plethora of emotions that I feel every time I read or watch reports regarding this tragedy.
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) in large and small cities, rural or metropolitan, city, county, state or federal, for the most part, all entered this field with one common goal, and that goal is to proudly serve our citizens and to give back somehow to our communities. All law enforcement officers know the risks associated with the job: shootings, stabbings, car crashes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, divorce and diabetes, just to name a few. In addition to the previously mentioned risks is the trauma that officers face while dealing with death, injuries, domestic situations, child abuse and lives destroyed by drugs or alcohol.
In spite of all of this LEOs continue to respond to call after call, to combat drugs, to prevent and or investigate robberies, to apprehend rapists, to break up fights and disturbances, to locate stolen property, to assist motorists, to check businesses, to look for prowlers in caller’s backyards, to help find the missing Alzheimer’s patient and make sure that they are safely returned to their family. I can go on and on, way beyond what the average person may think that a LEO is called upon to do.
How about: respond to the elderly widow’s home at 3 a.m. because of a strange noise. Upon the search an officer finds the smoke alarm battery needs changing. The officer goes to a nearby 24-hr store and buys a battery and then returns to install it in the widow’s smoke detector.
Kids riding bikes near the street are warned of the dangers of passing cars by the officer on the beat. Stray dogs threatening the neighborhood are snared by the police and then held for hours awaiting the owner’s return or for a place to secure the animal.
Unlocking cars for stranded shoppers, checking houses for citizens away on vacation, shaking doors of closed businesses to make sure the night manager secured the place upon leaving, or spending hours in an emergency room with a commitment patient suffering from mental illness are just a few tasks in the daily life of an officer.
Then, how about being spit on, having your patrol car urinated and defecated in, being assaulted, having the lives of your family threatened, and then being second guessed by politicians and officials who have never spent a day in the field.
But, we do our job, day after day, week after week, year after year for 30 years. That’s around 65,000 hours on the job for one LEO (not counting overtime and special assignments). We smile, we are polite, we carry on, because we are professionals. We approach each day as a person with a higher calling, a mission to take care of those who need our protection and the property that needs our guarding.
Is there the occasional bad egg who somehow gets into a uniform with a gun and a badge? Yes. But 99.9 percent of officers are on the job for the right reasons, and we are embarrassed and angered when someone wearing the badge acts in such a manner that casts all of us into a bad light.
So what do we do now? We remain vigilant. We watch our backs. We stay fit. We stay proficient. We stay alert. We play by the rules. We remain professionals. We pray. We pray for ourselves and we pray for our fellow LEOs, we pray for those that we serve, and we pray for real solutions to real problems.
Since the day I first pinned on a badge in 1987, I have always loved being a cop. I still love it today. I am proud of every officer at Zebulon PD and all who wear the badge with honor and dignity. I am thankful for the town manager, the mayor and the local town board who support ZPD.
I am comforted by the citizens who bring us cakes, pizzas and milkshakes or who grab our restaurant bill and for those who tell us that you appreciate us and that you are praying for us. You, Mr. and Mrs. Citizen, are the reason we will continue to do our job.
Tim Hayworth is the Chief of Police in Zebulon and the past president of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.