To the communities in pain:
I am deeply troubled and horrified by the death of George Floyd. There is neither excuse nor justification for what was done to him. I am convinced that part of moving forward as a society is individually acknowledging we cannot all empathize with the struggles and oppression felt by others – though we may try and desire to.
As a Police Officer, my ego wants me to believe I am not part of the problem but I am realizing ego itself and selected ignorance is the very essence of the problem. I truly believe that the majority of officers are upstanding individuals who truly want to serve and protect their communities. In saying this, I recognize there is a larger systemic societal issue and I personally apologize for subtle and unintended prejudice I may have shown in the past.
Your dignity and freedom are more important than my pride.
As a human being, I set aside my ego and humbly kneel as a sign of respect for those who peacefully protest things I will never understand.
In the words of MLK –
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”Martin Luther King Jr.
To Police Officers around the world:
I understand the struggle. Being a Police Officer is a tough job. In a lot of ways I compare it to being a referee of a sporting event- despite your efforts to do your job to the best of your ability, there will always be people that are questioning your every decision and choose to criticize from the spectator booth. We may not be perpetrators of hate, intolerance and oppression but our communities are looking to us to be part of the solution.
There are so many challenges to being a Police Officer not the least of which is having to answer for the inexcusable actions of our fellow officers on occasion. I believe we are called to a high standard and now is our time to respond in meaningful and heartfelt ways.
On top of the challenges of shift work, the associated sleep disruptions and often downright deprivation of our minds and bodies, we must also process the accumulation of residual trauma from the years of trying to make sense what we see and are exposed to on a daily basis.
Inevitably our jobs take a major toll on our psyche in ways we feel at the time and in other more covert ways in the future. Unconsciously we can become more distant from friends, family and society as a whole as we can feel like the only people who truly understand us are others who wear the uniform. We succumb to suppressed emotions, isolation or often turn to substance abuse. Unfortunately, this becomes a cycle of unhealthy coping mechanisms, which can lead to patterns of depression and tragically far too often suicide. Police officers often feel misunderstood, unappreciated and physically, emotionally and mentally weary. It is a tough load to bear but as someone who has discovered the freedom and hope found in the courage of vulnerability, I truly believe it is the first step in processing and responsibly dealing with our own present and future health.
Once our own mental health becomes a priority and we begin to implement healthy habits and emotional processing tools, we can operate from a better mental and emotional space to serve and protect others. This also shields others from us projecting our insecurities, fears, traumas and judgments from a position of authority. Although the media can often elicit and perpetuate fear by propagating hate, judgment and intolerance, we must recognize and admit that as a law enforcement community there are wrongs that need to be addressed in meaningful and sincere ways.
As a Police community it’s time to collectively step across the peaceful protest lines in love, humility and sincerity with an empathetic posture. Continued silence and inaction only furthers the distrust and fear that exists towards us.
When we took the oath to serve and protect, we committed to upholding and amplifying the rights of others above our own. We committed to protecting the interests, safety and voices of others that are not as loud, represented nor as protected as our own.
Policing in the modern world cannot be about flexing authoritative muscle in order to gain compliance.
As Police Officers we must learn that vulnerability is courage. We must commit to prioritizing our own mental health, which will in turn allow us to experience true human connection through feeling and communicating healthy emotion with the community we serve. May we all keep open minds and open hearts toward those that may have different perspectives and priorities than us, and instead of giving judgment, offer a listening ear.