I was born a white female in America. Because of the color of my skin, I am afforded privileges that others are not. I didn’t always believe this to be true, but it is. White privilege is a thing.
I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America, but I do know what it’s like to love a law enforcement officer. The more I think about this past week, and other weeks in our country, the more I believe that black people and law enforcement officers have much more in common than they think.
Both have added dangers in their lives because of one thing about them – what they look like, whether it’s skin color or a uniform. Both have added scrutiny for their actions. Both are blamed when bad things happen. Both must hold themselves to almost impossible standards to simply be taken seriously and respected. And, both are tired and fearful of their fellow brothers and sisters being killed.
Now before you write me hate mail, I know black people and law enforcement officers are not the same. Law enforcement officers get to take off their uniform and badge at the end of their shift; black people cannot take off their skin. Law enforcement officers choose their profession; black people do not choose to be born black. The prejudice is never-ending and I know that as a white female, I will never truly understand what non-white Americans have to face everyday. For that, I’m sorry.
But I have to go back to knowing what it’s like to love a law enforcement officer for a minute. Because this, this is something you cannot truly understand unless your love, your life, your future is tied up in someone who’s profession is regarded as one of the most dangerous in America today.
My officer chose this profession, after having been in it previously, because he felt a calling to return to the force. Yes, he chose this. I know that and he knows that. But for most officers, doing this work is far more than a job and a paycheck. They do it because they are drawn to helping, to protecting, to serving. This work is my officer’s calling. He is both a warrior and a helper wrapped up in blue.
You cannot know the sacrifice law enforcement officers and their families make for this kind of work, unless you’re in it. The process it takes to even be considered, and then the training, and the standards they must meet. It’s stressful, it’s time consuming and tedious. It’s hard on everyone involved.
My officer missed 18 weeks of his first child growing in my belly. The entire second trimester of my pregnancy. He missed the first kicks, the cravings, and numerous doctor’s appointments, because he had to commit 100% to his training. And he did.
My officer has spent hours reading about laws and codes to make sure he knows what he’s doing. Because he takes this work seriously. He knows it’s a huge responsibility and that he’s lucky to even be in blue. He gives a shit.
Last night, on his day off, my officer spent over an hour cleaning and pressing his uniform and shining his boots for his shift today. Because he knows that in doing this work, when you’re in the public eye, your appearance matters. Because he gives a shit.
My officer reads about issues affecting law enforcement today and takes his commands and criticisms from his superiors to heart. Because he wants to be effective and prepared. Because he gives a shit.
My officer spends time on his days off thinking about calls from the shift before, and he processes through how he responded. Because he knows that how the public views him is not only crucial for successful police work, but also how the community he serves treats him and his fellow officers.
All of it is sacrifice. It’s more than a job.
When I hear about law enforcement officers being villainized over a call and response gone public, it makes me angry. What is shown and heard in the media is never the full story, for either party involved. But people take it as fact and run with it. They divide onto separate sides and come up with slogans and hashtags to unite more people. They sit behind their screens and post memes that perpetuate hate.
When I see the level of disrespect toward our law enforcement officers that is becoming commonplace, it makes me angry and scared. No one wants to be judged simply because someone from their “group” did something bad. This is prejudice at its worst. There are officers who have abused their power and taken bad shots and killed people who didn’t deserve it. True. But this does not represent the profession as a whole. And it doesn’t represent the people underneath the uniforms.
Worst of all, when I see people actually encouraging hate and disrespect toward law enforcement officers, it leaves me confused. Because these are the same people who will preach about needing change and holding officers accountable for “senseless killings.” But you must understand, when you encourage the questioning of or resistance to law enforcement officers trying to do their jobs, you increase the likelihood of them having to use more force, which is the very thing you’re trying to prevent.
When you “Monday Morning Quarterback” the decisions they must make in split seconds, you aren’t taking into consideration the hours of training and practice they’ve undergone to make such life altering decisions. Law enforcement officers have great power, that is true, but it comes with huge responsibility. Most officers will tell you that any day in which they have to discharge their service weapon on a call, is not a good day. They don’t want to do it. It’s a precursor to investigations, being away from their work, and heavy burdens of guilt over injuring or killing another human being. They don’t want to do it. They have to.
You cannot hate law enforcement officers one day and then expect them to come protect you the next. Actually, I take that back. You can. Because when you’re a law enforcement officer, you don’t get to decide who calls in and who you have to go help. You just do it. Because that’s the job you chose.
My officer is out there in uniform today with an added layer of vigilance. Before he left early this morning, we extended our normal goodbye, with extra ‘I love you’s’ and kisses and rubs for my growing belly. It was an unspoken need that we both felt, just in case.
We don’t need more blame or more violence. It’s clearly not helping either side. We all have more in common than we think. Strip away our uniform, our skin color, our gender, and we’re all just people. Let me say that again. We’re all just people. And we all matter.