If you are one of the few people who regularly read my Badge & Gun columns, you know how much I harp on being each other’s “keeper.”
Now more than ever, we need to live that pledge every single day at work. The suicide numbers within law enforcement are staggering. We had 228 officers commit suicide nationwide last year. This year, so far we have seen 60 officers take their own life across the country.
With the strain of the pandemic and the stress that comes along with it, this staggering number will likely grow. It is incumbent upon all of us to check on one another and make sure our friends and co-workers are doing all right.
Our community is stressed as well during this pandemic and has been a factor along with bail and criminal justice reform in causing violent crime to skyrocket in Houston. Murders are up 50 percent this year when compared to 2019. We are on track to have the deadliest year in quite some time.
Compound this record with aggravated assaults being up over 20 percent and it creates an extremely dangerous environment for all of you and the community we swore to protect.
Nationwide, we have already had approximately 110 officers who have been shot. We need to make sure that we are checking by with one another and responding to one another quickly when requesting help on a crime scene. If you want to ride as a two-officer unit, ask your sergeant, as the commanders have a received a directive from the chief that anyone who wants to ride as a two-officer unit, will be allowed to do so.
The two examples of being your brothers’ and sisters’ keeper are ones we know, and they are easy to follow. But we need to talk about a third. The truth is we do an extremely difficult job, one which is judged with the highest of scrutiny – a well-known fact that will never go away.
Now, I don’t need to sit here and lecture you about how to do your job and what is right and wrong. You know what is right! You also don’t need everyone in the world to tell you what is right and wrong…YOU KNOW! You know on a scene that you are handling what you are seeing, what you are experiencing and what you are feeling in your gut.
If a fellow officer on your scene is doing something that you believe is wrong, from what you see and feel, you have an obligation and a duty to STEP UP and SPEAK UP. It could be as simple as saying, “Let me take your suspect” or “Turn him on his side” or “Get them up and get them in the back seat.”
The time to correct that is not a week later by filing some anonymous complaint with IAD. By then it’s too late. In that moment you need to step in, you owe it to our profession, our community, the 800,000 other officers in this country, your co-workers and – if that isn’t enough – you owe it to yourself and your family.
If you don’t STEP UP and SPEAK UP in that moment, we will all pay the price. Every single officer who wears a uniform, who is honest and does the job the right way – what we call the 99 percent – will pay dearly. We will be trashed, ridiculed, painted with a broad brush and be the target of every other cliché you can imagine.
It can do immeasurable damage to our profession and our relationship with the community, one that will take years to recover from, and likely cost some officers their lives. In addition, if in that moment you don’t act, you could be looking at losing your job and going to prison.
In a moment where you know something is wrong and you feel it with every fiber of your being, you MUST use all of your courage that I know is in all of us, to step in and do what is right.
I can promise you all the next viral video of another officer is just around the corner. And I can also promise you that anyone looking to harm the reputation of police officers will always pull up videos from the past.
The point of this article is how do we move forward to make sure we protect the community, ourselves, the other 800,000 officers across this country, and our profession.
The only way to do that is to be each other’s keeper every single day and to STEP UP and SPEAK UP when we know what’s happening is wrong.
We owe it to this generation of police officers and the next one as well. We are beyond blessed to have the support we have in the Houston community, and we cannot afford to lose it.