“I want to be a police officer”

Father David Epps's picture

Recently, I was one of 60 or more law enforcement chaplains gathering in northeast Georgia for several days of training.

About 6:30 one morning, I was in the dining hall getting a much needed cup of coffee when one of the kitchen workers asked me if I was with the “law enforcement group.”

I replied that I was. We began to chat and she revealed that her father was a former U.S. Marine and a police detective and that her mother, who also had an involvement with law enforcement, was preparing to “get back on the road.”

She, too, she said, was seriously considering law enforcement as a career. The young lady working so early in the morning was not quite 16 years old.

She was petite, pretty, outgoing and, by my observation, a hard worker. Obviously, to be on the job so early, she had gotten out of bed by around 5 a.m. to work in this industrial kitchen alongside adult men and women. Later in the day, she would return home to attend classes as a home-schooled student.

The young tenth-grader shared that she might enlist in the U.S. Air Force or the Marine Corps prior to a law enforcement career. She also shared that, later that evening, she would be attending the law enforcement Explorer Scout meeting at a local police agency.

The next morning, the young lady was, once again, at work by 6 a.m. I asked how the Explorer meeting went and she reported that she had broken three toes during mock S.W.A.T. training the previous evening.

Sure enough, she had on two different kinds of shoes and walked with a grimace and a limp. When asked what in the world she was doing at work instead of recovering at home, she said that it was her responsibility to be at work.

Over the next several days, I had occasion to watch her work during the breakfast as she served the men and women who serve those who protect and serve.

As the child of law enforcement personnel, she surely has no illusions about how difficult, dangerous, and thankless being a cop is.

She knows about shift work, overtime, lack of adequate pay, and the disrespect that such men and women often receive from the community.

She probably knows that nearly 200 peace officers die in the line of duty each year and that some 60,000 are assaulted.

I wonder if she knows that the life expectancy of a police officer is 57 while that of a criminal is 64? Does she know that the divorce rate for cops is 75 percent?

Is she aware that 71 percent of spouses of officers believe that the administration doesn’t take family life into consideration when making policies?

Or that over half of officers who have a grievance never mention it because they believe it will hurt their chances for promotion?

Or that cops are five times more likely to commit suicide than to die in the line of duty?

Still, most cops love what they do and feel “called” to be officers.

Yet, at least at this point in her young life, she wants to be a law enforcement officer.

I congratulated her and told her that she was considering a noble, virtuous, and honorable career.

Of course there are always those in the community that hold cops in disdain and never miss an opportunity to criticize or accuse the police. But, for the most part, the law-abiding and responsible people in the community stand solidly behind their officers.

I do not know, of course, whether this young person will go on to be a police officer. It is gratifying and encouraging, however, to meet a 15-year-old who wants to serve a greater cause, to make a difference in her community and world, and to live a life that makes a positive difference.

She’ll be okay, this little lady who reported for work at 6 a.m. every morning with three broken toes. Whatever career she chooses, if she maintains her present work ethic, world-view, and positive attitude, she will, indeed, live a fulfilling and productive life.

I’m glad we happened to briefly meet. I feel much better about the future, knowing that young people like her will soon be assuming their places in this broken society. Such people give us confidence and hope.

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Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Thu, 09/06/2007 - 7:02pm.

I was impressed by what you wrote about that young lady. In my business, and probably yours, so many young people are seen who are light years behind this young lady on their path to adulthood.

Think about the fact that if this country actually survives the next 40 years, then someone who is currently a teenager will be our President - and also our Governors, Congressmen, Senators, CEO's and Ministers.

We could do worse than her. I'll try to pay attention, but I'll be over 90 in 40 years.

Thank you for providing a glimmer of hope.

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