A toast you don’t hear much anymore

It goes something like this:

Here’s to cops. The beat cops: uniforms, flatfoots, the rookies and the vets. The men in blue – and the women – who get called everything your mother told you not to say, back when you were a kid and remembered what it was like to respect other people. The cops who endure lectures on their failed lives from drunken teens when they’re breaking up keggers in the woods; who pull those same teens out of ditches and off power poles, and sometimes have to call their parents with the worst news a parent could receive and it’s not about their totaled car.

Here’s to the cops who wade alone into barfights, whose responsibility it is to preserve life and property in the midst of a dozen throwdown rednecks who are ready to swing at anything. Here’s to the cops who enfold a child in their arms and tell them it’s going to be alright when they know it won’t, at least not anytime soon.

 © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Here’s to the cops who get called “stupid” every day by clean-fingered technocrats who think sea kayaking is an adrenaline sport; who are called “racist pigs” by every mother of a black gangster and just plain “pigs” by white kids who tag mom ‘n’ pop stores with anarchy signs; who are even reflexively termed “statist oppressors” by grown, prosperous adults who really ought to know better. They go to work anyway. They pray their kids never see them on TV.

Here’s to the just plain cops who are always depicted as bumbling clowns in movies and on television because they’re not tacticool SWAT guys or high-speed federal officers or sports jacket detectives; who’ve never seen a “drop gun” that wasn’t laid down by a screenwriter; who have faces and names and are your neighbors, if your city can afford to pay them enough to live on your street. They saw the same movies you did, and took the oath anyway.

In an age of armored hoplites locking down cities under the watchful eyes of rooftop snipers, here’s to the cops who still have the guts to go talk to American citizens in short-sleeved shirts, with no bigger shields than the ones shining on their chests.

Here’s to the cops who swear to serve and protect, even when that means trying to bring peace to a house where violence has erupted like a family pox and there is no right answer for the broken people behind that door. They take a deep breath and knock anyway.

Here’s to the men and women who drive fast and run hard toward the things that chase you, sweating and screaming, out of your nightmares. And chase them out of theirs, too.

Here’s to the cops who take the baggie from your son or the shoplifted pendant from your daughter and tell them not to be stupid at their age; it’s too much paperwork and just go home, willya? Go home and don’t be stupid next time.

Here’s to my cops, in my town, who have entirely failed to make themselves into Facebook-enhanced, cartoonish images of justice gone awry – yes, even the Shoreline guy who gave me a ticket for rolling a stale yellow, and even those SPD guys who gave no citation whatsoever to the idiot who ran down my motorcycle from behind.

I’m not perfect, either.

Here’s to the 99 percent of honorable officers who aren’t a “thin blue line” of omerta, but the wide blue flying wedge of civil stability in a society of mostly reasonable laws. Here’s to the guys who smile quietly when they hear about high depression rates among dentists, go home, clean their service weapon for the thousandth time, and consider.

Proud to have you on the force, officers. Thank you for honoring your oath – especially when it seems so many of us, from national-level politicians all the way down to those of us who elected them, have such a hard time respecting it.


  1. Murray Fraser says

    Well said!

  2. David Foxley says

    Honest and well written. You set a high bar for aspiring writers. And you are welcome.

  3. Interesting timing, Jack. I wonder if it has anything to do with the current controversy in Ferguson?

    Myself, I believe it is the agencies themselves that have lost respect for an officer’s oath:

    On my honor,
    I will never betray my badge,
    my integrity, my character,
    or the public trust.
    I will always have
    the courage to hold myself
    and others accountable for our actions.
    I will always uphold the constitution
    my community and the agency I serve.

    The War on Drugs has cost cops the public’s trust, Jack.
    The racial disparity in our prisons for those convicted of ‘drug crimes’ is ludicrous. And no, people of color do not do more dope than white folks.

    Want to see a video of a little Corgi dog, dying from a gunshot, with its six-year-old owner present? There will be over 100 SWAT raids in the U.S. today. How many of those will really be necessary?Care to see a map showing various SWAT raids gone bad?

    If anything good comes out of Furguson it will be the publicizing of the ‘militarization’ of today’s police forces. Are twenty men with a BearCat, M-4s, and the flash-bang through the window necessary when busting some guy for peddling a few bags of weed out of his house?

    Oh, I’m sure some will claim officer safety is paramount, but if that’s the case why not just kill them all and let God sort it out?

    Where’s the accountability?

    Are you aware you can have your assets seized and not be convicted of a crime? Did you know the various agencies involved in the forfeiture get to dibby up the loot? Where’s the justice in that?

    Now, I’m sure hackles are being raised from my little rant here. Understand, however, my intent isn’t to cast aspersions on the officers themselves. It’s the agencies they work for I have a problem with. After all, a cop is just an employee. True, the job might be a little bit different than washing dishes in a cafe, but they are employees nonetheless.

    It’s their employers I take issue with.
    In my opinion, it is the employers that do not respect the oath,
    and I believe it’s to the detriment of those who take the oath to heart.

    Oh, boy, am I gonna get it now. Heh!

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