April 7th 2013
Making a Difference
During these tough economic times, it is easy for officers to become disgruntled and upset. Many of our departments have seen budget cuts and layoffs. We are all expected to do more with less. At the same time, we are watching the penalties for laws which we have been charged to enforce be relaxed. It is understandable how an officer can feel they are not making a difference. The truth is we have more of an effect on others than we realize.
We make a difference. We touch people’s lives every day but may not see the impact we have. I, like all of us have felt this way. It is natural; we all do at one point or another. But just as I think I should give up and consider this “just a job”, I run into someone who reminds me how much we impact and affect others.
Recently while on patrol, a woman came up to me I had known for several years. In the past she has had issues with drugs, been arrested on various charges and is a single mother with several children. This day she intentionally went out of her way to stop me. She informed me that I had changed her life. About two years earlier, I was at her home dealing with an issue. She was telling me how hard her life was and how difficult it was for her to get ahead. I took the time to listen and told her that she was the only one who could change the direction of her life and that nothing was holding her back. We talked a little more. I continued to be supportive and listened. She told me she had taken my advice to heart that day and made a conscious effort to turn things around. She informed me she had gone back to school and had recently received a full scholarship to attend law school at a high end university in the area.
Another day, I ran into a woman I had known most of my career as a cop. She is a single mother with three children. She works very hard and has always tried to do her best for her kids. One of her sons however, became addicted to drugs, causing his life to spiral out of control. To support his habit, he began to burglarize homes and eventually began selling crack cocaine. His mother would call and come to the police station asking for help and advice, hoping to save her son. Some of the other officers and I would take the time to speak with him and her, trying to find a way to help. Unfortunately, her son’s addiction was too great. He was eventually arrested and had to do jail time. His mother, who had suffered a lot through this ordeal, decided to write a book about the experience. Most people would assume that the family would have had negative feelings towards the police. She instead had taken the time to write in her book and thank us for our help during this difficult chapter in her life.
Due to a tragic murder which occurred several years ago, I was introduced to a woman and her eleven year old daughter. After the tragic incident, I stayed in touch with the family and tried to help them anyway I could. I became a positive role model for the girl and stayed involved as she grew up. She stayed out of trouble and became an excellent student. She even told people I was her uncle. Two years ago she graduated from high school and received a full scholarship to college. She is currently maintaining a 3.5 GPA and continues to excel. Recently, she called me on father’s day to thank me for all I had done, leaving me extremely humbled.
As police officers it is easy to become disgruntled, angry and feel like we don’t make a difference. The reality is we do. We are role models. What we say is heard and the way we act is watched. Whether it is taking the time to listen, giving advice or just being there for someone, it all makes a difference. We touch people’s lives in more ways than we really know.