It seems that as the years pass by, I look around at families of hard working men and women of law enforcement and realize, even at my age, how important the small things are. I have 4 kids, one of whom is finishing college and has a beautiful baby girl. Both of my eldest were raised while I was working with a federal drug task force.
Men and women who work long hours in regular civilian jobs have an overwhelming task in being present in their family’s lives. As LEOs, we have an even more daunting task. We must be present in heart and mind, not just in body, when we are home.
When we work the street, interview suspects or conduct lengthy investigations, our first level of force and gauge of professionalism is officer presence. With officer presence, on duty, some noteworthy things must exist to be effective. First, we have to look good. This means keeping ourselves physically fit, clean, well groomed, and carrying ourselves with a confident demeanor that portrays the professionalism of our department.
However, at home our families want our presence to simply just be with them. Our spouses need our ears to not only hear, but to truly listen to what they have to say. We should guard our responses and make sure that we show respect and support for the things that they are going through. We should not communicate to them that their issues or concerns are insignificant just because they are not related to potentially life changing problems.
When we are with our children, we must strive to not just be around, but to be actually plugged in. I know firsthand how tough it can be to come home after a long shift, tough case or administration decisions that weigh on your mind long after you get home.
Brothers and sisters in blue, heed my warning. You must, on your way home or when you get home, have a productive outlet to leave work at work. This may mean some quiet time, a stop at the local gym, a talk on the phone with a friend or fellow officer or even calling your wife to discuss your day.
When you get home do not let your day affect your kids. You may be the only positive influence that they are looking forward to all day long. You must be your family’s stronghold. I know it is a hard calling but we are warriors. I know how difficult this can be.
The general public looks to you all day long to be their stronghold but, your first responsibility is your faith. In your faith you will remain strong, challenged, but strong. Next, is the biggest blessing that God bestows – your family. After your faith, your family is next in line. If you fail your family, then all of the other categories of responsibilities will fail beneath them. Finally, in that order, is your profession. A sound administrator or supervisor who practices servant leadership as Christ did will understand this.
Here is an example. A Christian sergeant of 10 years strives for the next promotion and puts in long hours at the station. He takes on extra responsibilities and extra assignments just to get that promotion only to miss his little girl’s first t-ball game along with several others after that. His little girl grows accustomed to her daddy not being there. When he is home, he always talks about work.
He does not hear her tell him about her day at school or about the A she made on her spelling test. She loves him so much, but does not understand why she cannot get his attention. Oftentimes, he is angry because work did not go well and is too tired to watch a cartoon with her or play a board game.
He receives his promotion only to find out that his wife and kids no longer know him. You can easily fill in the blank here of what is to follow. His family looks to him for guidance and support, but he is too busy with his new job duties. Their stronghold has fallen, their family crumbles, and now they are in a tailspin out of control. A fellow officer who sees these events unfold grabs him by the shoulders shakes his faith up to get him back on track just before he loses it all.
Ladies and gents, this is what we are called to do. We are called upon to be warriors every day. We are warriors at our jobs to protect the innocent. We are warriors at home to protect our spouses and our children.
We are called to step in to help even when it is hard to remind each other of our spiritual calling. The Bible speaks of “iron sharpening iron” in describing how Christians can help each other during the tough times.
Surround yourselves with strong Christian men and women so that you will impact veteran and rookie officers all around you. Do not tolerate the language that often comes with our profession. You are called warrior. You are called servant. You are called officer, deputy or investigator. You are called husband or wife. You are called mommy or daddy. Above all, you are called Christian.
It seems that we get to this point when it is time to step into a Christian brother or sister’s life. Many times we can say, “I am staying out of all of that, it is not my business.” We must reject passivity and pick up our swords. We must, in love, confront these situations. At the bare minimum, we can be a set of ears. We can listen to fellow officer’s problems or concerns in a a non-judgmental way that only a fellow officer can.
We can listen to the problems they have at home, to the temptations they are battling, and hear the trials that they are encountering. We can help them to understand that the best learning is done in the storm with thunder, lightning, and waves so tall you cannot see the horizon.
These storms are when we need to be life preservers for fellow LEOs. We are called to be the stronghold. Point them to the Word of God and teach them how to apply it. As the song says “He never promised that the cross would not get heavy And the hill would not be hard to climb He never offered our victories without fighting But He said help would always come in time” You are not alone, sometimes you just need to know when to call for backup.
Do all these things in love, honor, and respect. Seek His face daily.
Kelly Smith is a Marine Corps veteran and an LEO since 1997. He has served as a Special Response Team Commander, DEA Task Force, Patrol Sergeant, and Chief of Police. He currently holds a Master Peace Officer License with over 5,000 training hours. Kelly has been an East Texas Police Academy adjunct instructor for 10 years. He is a graduate of LeTourneu University and the 240th Session of the FBI National Academy. Kelly has instructor licenses in over 14 areas pertaining to firearms instruction and defensive tactics. He is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers, International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, National and International Association of Chiefs of Police, a Lifetime Member of the American Hunting Club and the National Rifle Association.