What Makes a Police Officer?
9-11 is a day that is burned in all of our memories. It is one of the darkest days in our history. A day when evil shook our nation to the core. I was driving downtown to an accident appeal board hearing listening to News radio when they broke in on a story. It was originally reported as a small aircraft had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
My mom had passed away suddenly just two weeks earlier and we were all still reeling from that. I called my Dad and told him about the plane crash and he turned the TV on to watch. I was still talking to him when he gasped and said, “another plane just flew into the other tower. It was at that point we knew we were under attack.
During the chaos in which nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives one group remained calm. First responders (fire fighters and police officers) went into the doomed buildings knowing they could be going to their own deaths, but they went anyway. Their bravery and actions saved hundreds but the toll was heavy. 343 firefighters and 72 police officers lost their lives. We honor those men and women.
You know police officers and firefighters share a very special bond. Only the kind of bond you can develop when you know you are willing to risk your lives for strangers. We as police officers often have people do ride-alongs. I want to ask my firefighter friends if police do ride-alongs, do fire fighters have sleep-overs? No, I have tremendous respect for fire fighters.
On that fateful night of July 7, 2016, we lost four Dallas Police officers and one DART police officer and numerous others wounded. Some unsung heroes of that night were Dallas Fire fighters who went into harm’s way to tend to and treat downed officers. I will be forever grateful for their contributions.
This is what makes a police officer.
How I became a Police Office
I grew up in Dallas in the 1960’s, actually just outside of Dallas in Seagoville, Texas. I accepted Jesus as my personal savior in 1969 when I was 13 in a small church on Elam Road in Dallas. Elam road Full gospel and Pastor Les Fitzgerald.
The Lord directed my path towards law enforcement at a young age. My dad was a homicide detective for the Dallas Police Department. He hired on in 1954 and became a detective in 1959. He was one of the lead detectives tasked with investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I watched him and the dedication he displayed.
He was nationally known as one of the best interrogators in this country. He once told me he worked every murder like the victim was a member of his own family. That stuck with me.
Why did I choose to become a police officer? I believe that much like preachers, being an officer is a calling. I believe I had that calling on my life. I certainly didn’t do it for the money. I wasn’t seeking fame. I wanted to make a difference. I hope that in 36 years I did make a difference. I spent all but two years of my career in patrol by choice. I was asked many times, “why don’t you follow your dad’s footsteps and become a detective.” I always told them, “I belong in patrol.”
Blessed are the Peacemakers
The Bible says in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Are there some bad officers out there? Absolutely, and I can tell you that most officers I know want the “bad apples” weeded out.
As an officer we are given a tremendous amount of power. The power to restrict a person’s freedom. The power to arrest and in extreme circumstances, the power to take a human life. These are not powers we take lightly. Deadly force is absolutely the final course of action for an officer.
In 36 Years I used deadly force one time. There were hundreds of instances where I would have been justified in using deadly force, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. When an officer uses deadly force he is under a massive amount of scrutiny. Officers make decisions in an instant that takes lawyers and judges and courts years to decide if the officer made the right choice.
Shortly before midnight on June 26, 1989, I was working the late night shift at Northeast patrol in Dallas. A call came out on Aledo in far East Dallas regarding a man with a gun threatening his ex-girlfriend. When the first officers arrived they notified me that there was a man outside with a gun who seemed extremely distraught.
Officers asked for a supervisor and I went. When I arrived I was able to determine the man had just got out of prison and went to his ex-girlfriend’s house in an effort to reconcile. I could see him in the dark pacing back and forth outside his ex-girlfriend’s house and he was very agitated. We talked to him for 45 minutes. We contacted SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactical) and they were assembling. SWAT specialized in barricaded persons. They had specially trained negotiators and I wanted them to talk to our suspect.
Around 12:40 AM on June 27, 1989, our situation had not gotten any less stressful. At this point our suspect walked away a bit then we heard him say “this is it.” He turned and started to approach us raising his pistol directly toward us. We fired striking him two times.
No officer starts his day saying, “I think I will kill someone today.” Most officer’s goal is to return home to their family at the end of the day. I can attest that no one wants to take another human life.
Officers are Ordained of God
I believe police officers are ordained of God. When Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem, he had half the men working while the other half had their Spears and swords guarding against the enemy. God calls on us to be ever vigilant. We stand guard for you while you build your walls.
John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Police officers lay down their lives for strangers. Psalm 82:3-4 says “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” This is the job of a police officer.
Who are We?
Who are we? We are your sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. We are white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American. We are all religions and ethnicities. We are young and old.
We feel pain and hurt and disappointments and anguish. We have doubts and fears. We stand on the edge of a precipice peering into the darkness. We are ready to face whatever evil comes out of the darkness. We are all that stands between you and that evil.
We come from big cities and small towns and we stand for you. We are spread thin. Sometimes that evil takes one of us. When one of us falls, we all die just a little. We watch while you sleep. We see things that haunt us for a lifetime. Things we experience and see cannot be unseen.
Why do we do it? Why do we stand for you? Why do we face the darkness? Why are we willing to die fighting evil? I have asked myself that many times and the answer is easy.
We stand because we care. We care about our country, our families, our community, our churches, our friends and neighbors. We care about you. Who are we? We are that “thin blue line,” and we are all that stands between you and the darkness. Pray for us. Stand with us. We are not your enemy.
God bless and keep you.
Ron Rose Dallas Police (retired)