Rest in Peace, NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
It’s tough to work a job in which some of those whom you are sworn to serve consider the uniform you wear as worth ambushing and killing you for.
It reminds me that life is fragile and that I, ultimately, am not in control of what happens. It may sound fatalistic but I fear it is the truth.
However, it’s what every police officer in America eventually comes to realize — no matter how good an officer you are, how fair, compassionate or effective, there are a few out there who would want nothing less than to see you dead. It comes with the territory. It comes when you put on that uniform and badge and take the oath.
Thankfully, the assassination of a police officer is not a common event in our country and when it happens it is usually more often than not, due to the mental condition of the assassin — not the action of the officer.
My wife (who is also a retired police officer) and I would, from time to time, talk about the fact that someone would try to kill us simply because of what we represented — order, safety, stability, fairness. We always concluded that there was nothing either of us could do to prevent that. (I must admit, however, to having a heightened level of awareness after someone had called my office or home and told me they were going to kill me or my family. Thankfully it was not a daily event.)
But for me to continually operate on the basis of that fear-producing event would subvert everything which I believed about people, law and justice.
But what I could do was to continue to try to treat folks fairly and evenly, wear my body armor when out on patrol, fasten my seat belt when in a vehicle, and be fair and tactically proficient. Other than that, there was little I could do. Maybe it’s fate, maybe not.
All this came early in my life when, as a teenager, I became a U.S. Marine, simper fidelis (always faithful/always loyal), honor, Corps. We were trained to put our safety secondary to the unit and our mission — that which I was sworn to uphold and defend.
I carried that over when I became a police officer after my tour with the Marines. There’s still a bit of that in policing today. Just watching the video a citizen shot of that street scene in Brooklyn when Ramos and Liu were shot makes the point — scores of helping, concerned officers on the scene. Anyone of us who wore that uniform would be choked up and moved by this unfolding, caring scene.
I mourn with you the death of Officers Ramos and Liu. I pray for their families and loved ones.
I pray for all the men and women who serve as our police today that they not stop being the kind of police officer for which they once swore they would be and were trained for — to be fair, honest, and decent.