Saturday, August 25, 2007

On Being the Police

Being a cop means you are part of a larger group of cops, a gang, if you will. I worked for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for 32 years before retiring as a lieutenant. During that time, I either rode with or trained with cops from all over the country. I rode with Miami’s narcotics officers on several occasions back in the late ‘80s. I trained with officers from New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and other cities too. I even elk hunted in Colorado with a bunch from Los Angeles once upon a time. Then we have had officers visit from other countries in the past, and other than the accents, they might just as well have been from the USA. The bottom line is this. Cops are the same, no matter where they come from. Sure some agencies have better training, better equipment and better pay. But, the bottom line is – they are pretty much the same people. I think the common thread is we become cops to try to make things better.

I was reminded of this again today while in Nashville, TN to attend an Allison Krause concert. Prior to the concert my wife wanted to go to the Opryland Hotel. I happened to know there was a Bass Pro just up the road, so I dropped her at the hotel and I went to see the “Wally-World” of sportman’s merchandise. Sure we have one in Memphis, but this one is bigger and has more stuff. After we had done our browsing, we headed back to where we are staying (in Brentwood) and I decided to pull off the road to look at Google Maps on my Treo 650. I was trying to find the best route when I heard a tap on the window. I looked up to see a fellow gang member (one of Nashville’s finest). He asked if everything was ok (I guess he noticed the FOP car tags) and I told him we were just getting the best route. I introduced myself and thanked him for stopping to check on our welfare.

I have done similar for other “gang members” from other jurisdictions too.
Last year while on my way to a Colorado Elk hunt with a buddy, we stopped in Hayes, KS to get gas and something to eat. I had filled the truck up and was noticing some kids in a car, acting suspicious. There were three in the car and two more who had gotten out of the car and gone inside. A police car came up behind the car just after they pulled in. The officer got out and approached them. I think he gave them a ticket for running a red light a few blocks back. He was about to leave when I waved him down and told him how the two who had gotten out of the car, came out of the store while he was there, and decided to walk away. Hmmm, can you say “holding drugs” maybe? Well, I gave him the descriptions and their direction of travel and he went to look for them.

I guess the bottom line is, once we become cops, we actually join a larger group of cops. We have a shared value set and a shared set of experiences, and we tend to watch each other’s backs. And I think that’s a good thing!


ClayWatson said...

Good explanation, John, for those who wonder why if an officer needs assistance call goes out, every available LEO (law enforcement officer) in the vicinity is on the way. Even in another state, as when you got the after Katrina such as the one from St Charles Parish, and you organized all the relief aid for your sisters and brothers on the Mississippi gulf coast and elsewhere.

John Harvey said...

Duh, I didn't even think about that part of helping each other out! Yeah, when you've been out there calling for backup, it's great feeling to hear the approaching sirens and see the blue lights on the scene. Those men and women along the coast were in a bad situation and we were glad to be able to help.