Six months ago my wife and I made our permanent move here. We made the final move because we loved the mountains and the people of the broad community.
For clarity, I am a semi-retired cop. These have been difficult days for me to watch. So much hatred. Were I to stigmatize a group for the actions of a few of that group, I would be roundly castigated and rightly so. However, that is exactly what is happening to my group, law enforcement officers. Yes, we have some within our ranks who should not be wearing the uniform. Please note that every profession has its “bad apples” – doctors, lawyers, bankers, ditch diggers, firemen, mechanics and politicians. We should not hold the majority responsible for the unjustified actions of the few.
Law enforcement officers carry the heavy burden of seeing the victims of crime and tragedy as they are in the moment. We see the horror, pain, anguish and broken hearts of those we serve and must live with it. The images of those victims are starkly real to us, not the sterile environment in which they are viewed in a court of law. Much like the soldier in combat who relives moments of horror, terror and fear, so do law enforcement officers. And yes, many of us have been soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.
We put on the uniform and badge every day to protect those we serve, many times at the risk of our own lives. We have to make decisions in the fraction of a second within the heat of the moment. And sometimes those decisions turn out wrong. We do not wake up deciding who can we abuse today. Quite the contrary.
Let me relate two brief personal stories with you. My team and I responded to a rescue call at a historically black university of a trapped college student. That student was successfully rescued; however, in the course of that rescue I sustained a broken back and was hospitalized. Several months after recovering from my injuries, I found myself crawling under a train trying to rescue and save the life of a young black teenager who had been run over by that train. We successfully saved the life of that teen, who later grew up to be a remarkable young man. We did not care what the race of those people were. We only were concerned with two young men who were in deep trouble, and what we could do to save them.
Please understand that these two stories are not about me. They were personal examples of what my brothers and sisters in blue are doing every day for the citizens we are sworn to protect and serve, even at the cost of our lives. The priority of life we embrace does not put us first. First are the innocent citizens we serve to protect.
Lastly, what does this profession cost us? In 2018, 185 officers lost their lives on duty. In 2019, 147 lost their lives on duty, and in 2020, to date 92 have lost their lives. For those killed serving the public, where is the compassion for them and their families? Where is the moral outrage and protests for those killed protecting the public? Why is there so little said about them in the media? Are they not as newsworthy as the others? Obviously not.
We live our lives with few thanks or recognition. The vast majority of us understand that and are OK with it. We took on this profession to do good, and to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. This letter was not meant to gloss over the mistakes that some of us make. We are human and make mistakes like everyone else. But those are not the norm. And yes, there are those amongst us who need to be weeded out. But they too are few.
We are called upon to uphold the law for the good of society. For some that is uncomfortable. Especially for those who chose to break the laws set forth not by us but by society. Civilization is a very fragile thing and once broken it is very difficult to restore. We do our best to protect that civilization for everyone, regardless of what their race or creed is. There are many more stories I could tell, and hopefully someday I can. It is time for the other side of the coin to be told.
Greg Boggs lives with his wife in Whittier. He is retired from New Orleans PD as a member of the Emergency Services Section, served overseas and worked in private industry. He is currently still traveling and training law enforcement officers.