On June 19, 2019, our nation lost another hero. 

Officer Tara O’Sullivan of the Sacramento Police Department lost her life in the line of duty.

Her life mattered. 

While this brave officer lay mortally wounded waiting for help, members of the “community” could be heard cheering and celebrating the fact that she had been shot.  One made sure to let Officer O’Sullivan and her comrades know that in their estimation, she deserved it. They reveled in the idea that someone who had responded to that neighborhood to protect the life of a domestic violence victim was now dying. 

 

After learning of the disturbing response by some in the community to this event, it made me wonder if, in the final moments of her young life, Tara regretted her decision to become a police officer.  However, after some consideration, I am confident that she did not.  I believe this because of who Tara O’Sullivan was.  She was a hero.

(From Sacramento P.D.)

 

In the law enforcement profession, we are not simply doing a job. We have answered the call.  Our communities have called us to be their protectors, their guardians, and sometimes, their warriors.  This is not an easy task, and it’s evident that not everyone can do it.  It takes a special person to meet the challenges of this career.  Not only do the physical and emotional dangers associated with our line of work preclude many from joining our ranks, but the standards of character and integrity we must adhere to also disqualifies many. 

I believe our calling is not dissimilar to another calling we read about in the Bible.  In the 6thchapter of the book of Isaiah, We read about God’s commissioning of the prophet Isaiah.  “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Without hesitation, Isaiah responded, “Here am I, send me.”  God was seeking someone for a difficult and dangerous mission. This job would likely result in great personal cost to whoever accepted. Isaiah was well aware of this.  He did not answer without a thorough understanding of the potential consequences.  Despite the danger he knew he would face, he counted it an honor to risk everything for such a sacred mission.  While this passage is referring to the commissioning of a prophet, there are obvious parallels to our profession.  Much like the time of Isaiah, our culture is desperate for good men and women to answer the call for service.  Like Isaiah, Officer Tara O’Sullivan answered, “Here am I, send me.” 

 

There is a unique mantra in law enforcement that may not be completely understood by those outside our ranks.  From the first day of the academy throughout the rest of our careers, we are taught we must do whatever it takes to ensure we make it home from each shift we work. Many of us often verbalize, “I WILL make it home after every tour of duty.”

For law enforcement officers we must contend with the very real possibility of facing mortal danger as a part of our duties. In light of this, we must constantly remind ourselves of our commitment to doing whatever it takes to survive.  We all say it; we all believe it; but can we guarantee it?  If we are to be honest with ourselves, we admit we cannot. 

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This year, as of the publishing of this article, 58 heroes in this nation have had their lives cut short in the line of duty.  While I don’t personally know any of them, I have no doubt that each was just as sincere as I am when he said, “I will come home today.”  And yet many did not.  Not because they were not committed. Not because they were not prepared or equipped, but because that is the reality of our profession and the world in which we live. Despite this, with full knowledge and understanding of the potential consequences, these brave souls answered the call and said “Here am I, send me.”  None of them thought they would die. In fact, I’m sure all of them believed they would live. However, each accepted the risk and chose to stand in the gap for their communities. Just as Tara did. 

Sacramento Police Officer Tara O’Sullivan was killed by a gunman when trying to help a victim of a domestic call. (Sacramento PD)

 

 Each day, before we begin our shift, we will tell ourselves “I will come home today; I will survive.”  But we must also not lose sight of what our commitment to our department, our community, our country, and our profession means. We have agreed that we will stand in the gap for those who are unable.  We will protect the weak and seek justice for the innocent.  We will confront the evil that many pretend does not exist. Despite the dangers, we have each responded to our communities call, “Here am I, send me.” 

So today, to my brothers and sisters, I not only issue this challenge to you, but I accept this challenge as well.  Let us reaffirm our commitment and willingness to serve as law enforcement officers despite the potential risk of great personal loss.  Let us remember the need to boldly answer the call of our community when they ask “Whom shall we send, who will go for us?”  Here am I, send me.  Let us reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the ideals and values of our profession. They very same ideals and values for which Tara gave her life. 

So, as I close, I will do so with my personal pledge to the community I serve and I would ask that each of you to consider doing the same.  It is slightly different than the oath we took when we first became law enforcement officers but I believe it to be a fitting reminder of exactly why we do what we do.  I pledge to continue my service to my community without regard to hateful and negative characterizations of our profession by some. I will not allow their ignorance to forestall my most earnest efforts to be an advocate for those who need a protector.  I pledge to those who are victims, I will do all that is within my power to see that you are safe and your abuser brought to justice.  To those who are abusers, nothing will stop me; I am coming for you. I will find you and I will arrest you. I pledge that I will survive our encounter. I will survive all encounters. If you threaten me, or anyone else, I will respond accordingly, up to and including deadly force if necessary. I pledge that I will never tolerate corruption within the ranks of this honorable profession. I will never forget the importance of character and integrity. I will demand this of myself, and all others who wear the badge.  I pledge to be the kind of law enforcement officer that my community expects and deserves. I consider it an honor to risk everything for such a sacred mission, just as I know Tara did. 

 

To my family, I promise to do everything within my power to come home safely to you after every tour of duty.  It is my prayer that I will die a very old man, surrounded by family and loved ones, to include those from generations yet to be born.  However, should this not come to pass, if I am to meet a violent end at the hands of a criminal, I pray fervently for two things:  first, I pray that I will have the strength and courage fight until my dying breath.  When my brothers and sisters recover my body, I pray that my magazines are empty, slide is locked to the rear, and I’m surrounded by a pile of hot brass. Should that day come, I ask God to grant me the strength to ensure that whoever may take my life will never have the opportunity to hurt anyone else. 

Most importantly, I pray for those I may leave behind to remember: it was willingly that I accepted the terms of my service.  I knew the potential risks, but I also knew the need for someone to answer the call. I pray they will find some measure of comfort in the fact that I did this job because someone must, and so few will.  I pray they will remember my words as I volunteered to answer the call for service; “Here am I, send me.”   

“I pledge to continue my service to my community without regard to hateful and negative characterizations of our profession by some. I will not allow their ignorance to forestall my most earnest efforts to be an advocate for those who need a protector.  I pledge to those who are victims, I will do all that is within my power to see that you are safe and your abuser brought to justice.  To those who are abusers, nothing will stop me; I am coming for you. I will find you and I will arrest you. I pledge that I will survive our encounter.”

To my brothers and sisters of this honorable and noble profession, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your service.  Thank you for what you do for your communities and our profession. You are all heroes and I feel honored, albeit somewhat unworthy to count myself a part of your family.  I pray that God will bless and keep you as you continue your service. As we move forward, I urge you never forget Tara. Never forget those brave souls who have gone before, as well as those who will undoubtedly go after.  Remember them.  Remember what they stood for.  Remember what they died for.  Remember what we still stand for.  Whenever you may question whether it is worth it, remember them.  Godspeed heroes.

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