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The artists of police work.

Chiefs, captains, and lieutenants like me network and attend meetings. We sit on boards, councils, and task forces. We develop programs and work on projects. We deal with the politics and business of running a police department. We endeavor to provide 100,000 people with a safe and secure community. Our jobs are full of challenges, but it is the individual beat cops who actually make it work, breathe life into it, and give it real value.

One of the funny things about police work is the ability of the people at the very foundation of the organization to make the most important decisions; decisions that have powerful meaning, make permanent impact, and make quantum changes in peoples' lives. And, they do it without re-reviewing policy or the latest case law. They do not confer with the city attorney or consult with the city manager. They are expected to take immediate action, and that is what they do.

The beat cop is an individual. There are tall ones, short ones, thin ones, and ... well ... burly ones. But, there is one thing that they all have in common--when people are in crisis, it is a beat cop who comes to their aid. In the moments when there are blood and pain and injustice and suffering, there is little time to defer to brilliant management, program formation of "managerial support." Given their training, experience, education, and, most important, their gut instincts--and just plain guts--beat cops respond and take care of business.

A beat cop meets with broken children who don't need policy set in the future--they need their little bones set now. They don't need a children's safety review committee--they need safety now. They don't need an administrator to schedule a meeting concerning the problem--they need a hero now--and they find that hero in a beat cop, as does the abused spouse, the sexual assault victim, the robbery victim, and the Alzheimer's patient found walking blocks from home on a cold, dark night.

Administrators are about the business of policing. But, those amazing beat cops--they are about practicing the craft of police work. It is a craft, you know, part science and part art, part application of law and part application of common sense, and part of what you hear and see and part of how the hair on the back of your neck stands on end when you walk into a room devoid of any objective catalyst for that uneasy feeling.

Because, you see, when the fat's in the fryer, budgets, grants, and protocol make no difference. It is the beat cops who make the difference--often a huge difference. They are the artists of the craft. They are the most important heroes we have.

Consider this: lessons learned from the tragedy at Columbine required a complete revamping of tactics in an active-shooter event. Officers were trained to immediately form small teams, actively seek out and engage the shooter, and neutralize that threat. As we saw during the sad events at two of our local high schools, there wasn't enough time or people to follow even that sparse plan. There was only time for the individual action of beat cops.

Now, what action would most people take upon hearing gunfire? Duck and cover? Run? Hide? In both cases, officers and deputies took the second option--they ran. But, they did not run away, they ran toward the gunfire. They looked death in the eye and spat in it. They immediately advanced on active shooters, neutralized them, and saved untold lives. Saved untold lives.


We have cops here tonight like my friend who spent the night in a hospital after crawling into a burning trailer to save an elderly woman who otherwise would have died. How is it that, faced with consuming fire and thick smoke, he did not have to stop and make a decision or choose his course of action? I submit to you, my friends, he made that choice a long time ago, when he was much younger and shorter. He would watch his father pin on his badge, load his wheel gun, and head out the door to work. He knew way back then the dangers and sacrifices of being a good beat cop. So, when the time came, his direction was clear. Take a deep breath and hope it is not your last. Do the job of a beat cop. These men and women don't make their business in an office behind a desk; they make their living on the street, practicing the wonderful, dangerous, thrilling, compelling craft of police work. They are the real heroes who make a real difference.
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Title Annotation:Notable Speech
Author:Cunningham, Jim
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:Identifying law enforcement stress reactions early.
Next Article:The Bulletin's e-mail address.

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