Boys In Blue

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Glad to see you made it through the basic academy. It was nothing compared to real-life on the streets. You look pretty proud of yourself right now. Give me a few minutes for some honest talk before you go into those streets. I have twenty years of experience as a street cop and I want to tell you a few things.

That handgun on your hip only weighs about eight pounds but remember that its role is the heaviest that you'll carry for the next twenty- five years. It has only one function, to fulfill an instant task that society trusts to no other of its members. When it comes out of the holster, be sure that you completely understand the ramifications of what you're about to do. Also understand the ramifications to yourself, fellow officers, and the public if you fail to act. Confused? You should be. There is no finer line that I know of in any job or occupation.

Learn how to use your baton. You will be involved in many situations where lethal force will not be justified and pepper spray will not be effective. You'll need some level of force to complete the arrest. Unless you've studied the martial arts for a long time, your baton will be your best bet. Don't leave it in the car.

Your badge shines for a reason. Keep your behavior sterling as to not tarnish it. People will watch your every move; on or off-duty. We can't make the small mistakes that most people make and expect to be forgiven. Some people will respect you just because you wear that badge, but that kind of respect can be quickly lost. True respect must be constantly earned. Never forget that.

Many younger members of society will see you as a role-model. Some of them don't have much else to use for comparison, just cops and crooks. Take time to talk to the kids over ice cream or shared candy. Just a quiet moment of genuine concern may be enough to encourage them to keep straight. Used correctly, this may be a more powerful weapon than your handgun but that's only me thinking out loud.

Speaking of which, your mind and voice will be your most used tool while you're on-duty. Sometimes its best to let a citizen vent to retain their dignity; other times you'll want to verbally control the situation before it escalates into a physical confrontation. Watch the cops that you admire and see how they operate. See what works for a seasoned officer and use it to your advantage. Most good cops would rather talk than fight. There are people on the street that you cannot physically subdue and it will get worse with age. Youth, with attending quickness and strength, is fleeting. You will grow old. Look at me.

Get a hobby or interest outside this job. Keeping in touch with people that are not cops will give you a base of reality that some of us don't have. Remember that cops tend to group together and sometimes you'll want a fresh or different perspective on an issue. Hard to get that when you're at a role call.

Don't be in such a hurry to promote up the ranks. Good street cops are hard to find and good supervisors even harder. Put your street-time in and don't pursue the desk job in the first part of your career. It's not why you hired on in the first place. The citizens, and us, need you. Make that difference, I believe you can. I have faith in each of you.

You may not like some of us and we may not like some of you but we're family now. I may not share a cup of coffee with you but if you need help, I'll risk my life and defy the laws of gravity to get to you. I expect the same from you. To have it any other way means that the thin line of justice will crumble. Do your part to keep it strong. I have. That's my legacy to you. Have a safe shift.