An Open Letter to HPD Academy Class No. 244

Barbara A. Schwartz

As you graduate and begin your field training in this most unprecedented of times, one thing I can promise you: through the windshield of the shop you will witness the greatest show on earth.

You have chosen the most noblest of professions: a career of sacrifice and service. For that I commend and respect you.

You are now crimefighters, peacekeepers, and sheepdogs who tend to their flock of innocents.

Brave souls who answer calls for service under intense scrutiny and criticism. Every aspect of your workday video recorded for others to assess and judge.

You will come to work every day in an environment where at any instant your life can be put on the line, where calm can morph into chaos without warning, where life and death decisions must be made in a fraction of a nanosecond.

There are no harsher working conditions.

While on the streets, you will act as a child and adult psychologist, marriage counselor, referee, sprinter and long distance runner, cattle rustler and rodeo cowboy, minister, truant officer, high speed race car driver, janitor, heavyweight prize fighter, crisis negotiator, medic, dog catcher, composer of thousands of reports, mystery-solver, lawyer, guardian, psychic, lie-detector, marksman, terrorism fighter, scientist, and sometimes all of the above all at the same time.

Don’t forget that you will be expected to leap tall buildings in a single bound while dodging flying bullets and being recorded on video.

And you must do all of the above without emotion or prejudice.

The Sacred Bond

You will come to know the bond between officers. That the officer working next to you is willing to die for you and you for him or her. No other job comes with that sacred bond.

You will share tragedies and comedies with other officers. You will collect stories to tell for a lifetime.

You have joined an elite HPD family that will forever have your back. Cherish that camaraderie because you will never find it anywhere else.

Always honor this sacred bond.

Choose What Kind of a Police Officer You Will Be

Be the cop who knows that each citizen encounter is an opportunity to touch another person’s life in a positive way. You can make a difference. You can change the lives of the people you serve and protect and influence them for the better.

Every day you put on the uniform and climb into an HPD shop, you have an opportunity to decide what kind of police officer you will be. Will you be the officer who stops a DWI thirty minutes before your scheduled OD time? Or will you turn the other cheek to get off on time, not caring who the drunk driver hurts, kills, or maims?

Will you be lazy and do what’s necessary to get by and pick up the paycheck and pension? Or will you give a damn? Will you go the extra mile each day and on every shift? Will you seek out evil and aggressively hunt crooks and get their asses off the street? Will you write sloppy reports or impeccable accounts that even the cleverest of defense attorneys cannot poke holes in and are worthy of a Pulitzer Prize?

Vow to go the extra mile to get evil and violent turds off the streets before they can shatter the life of an innocent victim or, even worse, a law enforcement family.

Look deep into your heart for the reason why you chose this profession. No matter what led you to the law enforcement path, reignite the calling that brought you to the badge everyday.

No Other Job Asks of an Employee What Law Enforcement Asks of its Officers

Recognize that your actions on any given day can become the next training video.

Never forget there are turds out there who are willing to kill to not go to jail.

You have entered into a profession of sacrifice and honor, of hate, ridicule, and criticism; and of courage and heroism.

Being a police officer means seeing the fear in the eyes of your loved ones as you kiss them goodbye to go to work. Being a police officer means knowing that you put that fear in their eyes because that loved one understands what you do for a living and fears you won’t come home.

Being a police officer means missing your kids’ ball games and recitals; going to court on your regular day off; working holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays; being on call; being on duty even when off-duty.

You will work extra jobs to pay the bills and put the kids, and sometimes yourself, through college.

Being a cop means getting complained on, yelled at, suspended, sued, or indicted even when you have done everything right, followed every General Order and Standard Operating Procedure, and did what you were told and/or hired to do.

Being a cop means seeing society at its worst: dead bodies, abused and neglected children, bloody or fatal accidents, and people hurting each other on purpose.

As a society, we bestow onto you the austere task of wearing a gun to work. The day will come where you have to use force to affect an arrest, to defend a life, or to stop an evil threat.

Being a cop means taking a life to save a life. And having to live with it for the rest of your life.

Train. Train Hard. So You Will Have the Upper Hand

Practice the skills that will keep you alive on the street. Maintain and check your gear. Don’t die because of an equipment malfunction.

Practice deploying your equipment daily. Don’t allow your physical and muscle memory skills to deteriorate.

Train to be the future leaders of this department. Train for the legacy you wish to leave behind.

Safeguard Your Emotional Well-Being

As you navigate a career in law enforcement, make a commitment to safeguard your emotional wellness. Talk to someone. Don’t hold it in.

The job requires that you stuff your emotions, not display what you feel, to survive on the streets.

Find a person you trust and talk to them. Spare them the gory details, but pour out your heart and soul. Don’t let the dark side of working the streets rot your spirit and tarnish your soul. Purge to someone. Don’t keep it inside.

Don’t be afraid to cry. For tears cleanse the soul of sadness and you will see your fair share.

Policing is not a job, it is a way of life, a calling. But don’t be defined by the work. Cultivate hobbies outside of police work. Have friends who are not cops. Don’t lose the person you are today to the job. Safeguard your soul.

The Noblest of Professions

You have entered the noblest of professions for no others requires a person to carry a gun and wear Kevlar to work everyday.

Your job does. With that comes the weight of having to make life and death decisions every time you break leather.

You swore an oath to protect lives and property, to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, and to do so on a daily basis under treacherous conditions.

You decided on this career because in your heart you felt the calling to a profession that is like no other.

I thank and salute you for choosing the occupation of police officer.

You are a breed above us all.

Be careful out there.

Have a long and healthy career.

Copyright©2020 Barbara A. Schwartz  All Rights Reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any manner without the expressed written consent of the author.

Barbara A. Schwartz has voluntarily written for the Badge & Gun for twenty-five years. She dedicated her life to supporting the brave officers of law enforcement.