The Thin Blue Line

Snattlerake

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The Thin Blue Line

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Throughout history there are examples of how something fantastic and wonderful has been co-opted to represent something… well… not so fantastic; sometimes often outright evil. Virtually every religion has had their holy book used to justify cruelty and violence. Every symbol of independence and freedom from tyranny has been used as the banner for criminal behavior. But does that mean those holy books are wrong or somehow inherently evil? No. Does it mean that those symbols don’t still represent freedom and independence? No. What it means is that someone with evil or wrongness in their heart chose to rationalize their behavior by twisting something good.

The Thin Blue Line is more than just a phrase; it’s more than just a symbol. The Thin Blue Line is a family in a way that many can’t understand, and because they can’t understand – or are jealous or envious – they choose to attack and belittle it. I have been a proud member of the Thin Blue Line all of my adult life – going on forty years now. Like every family, we have those members we wonder about sometimes; those we have to just shake our heads at when they’re silly; those we have to take aside and have a word with to help them understand why something they said or did might not have been the smartest thing to do. And yes, on some rare occasions, we have to tell that family member, “Sorry. You’re no longer family. We reject you. You have betrayed us and we can no longer stand by you.”

Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often. Thankfully, The Thin Blue Line family can stand strong together, proud of the duty we perform, the sacrifices we make and the values we hold dear. Every one of us has taken an oath to uphold, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the laws of our states, county and city. Beyond the Constitution and all of those laws, we are also true to the Personnel Laws of our jurisdiction, the General Orders of our agency and every Special Operating Procedure that is published by our chain of command. Even more, beyond that, we are true to each other. I’d far rather have been called into my supervisor’s office to receive a written reprimand for having screwed up something instead of being called in and being told, “You disappointed me and you embarrassed the agency.”

The Thin Blue Line family is made up of members from every culture, every race, every religion, every sexual orientation and ages spanning from 18 to 70+. It is, hands down, one of the most inclusive families you’ll find anywhere on the planet. The outlook is simple: it’s a family you have to volunteer to join; you make the request and the family decides whether or not you’re worthy at the most basic level. If the family invites you in, you get educated and tested and have to prove your worth – not just to the family but to the community you intend to serve. You have to demonstrate that you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the citizens you take an oath to protect and serve. Once you finish the basic training (so to speak) you go out and work the street with your Field Training Officer (that big brother or sister who shows you how to do the job right and not upset the chain of command). If you finally pass all of the tests and training you become a full fledged member of the family.

Along the way, you will have fought and bled beside other members of the family. You will have learned who you can depend on and who will back you up even in the face of greater odds and almost certain discomfort. You’ll eat meals with The Thin Blue Line on holidays when you can’t be with your other family. You’ll drink coffee at three in the morning when you’re trying to stay awake because crime doesn’t sleep and it strikes when you least expect it. You’ll laugh at each other, cry with each other, and support each other through some of life’s most challenging changes.

Yes, The Thin Blue Line is far more than a phrase or colored stripe on a flag; it represents a family that, unless you’ve been a member of it, you’ll never truly understand. And if you want to feel what it’s like, deep in your gut, go visit the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. during Police Week. Take a look around. Look at the names on the wall. See the list of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Yes, some gave their life to protect other family members but the greatest number… the largest majority of those fallen officers gave their lives protecting citizens they had never met but who they took an oath to protect and then gave their lives in the process of doing so.
 

OK Corgi Rancher

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My very first day on patrol:

First call of the morning (and my career), man threatening suicide with a shotgun. My FTO and I arrived to find the man standing in the doorway of his home, holding a shotgun. He was kinda half-assed pointing the gun in our general direction, telling us to shoot him or he'd shoot us. I was looking at my FTO and watched in disbelief as the hammer on his Ruger P-90 was wavering back and forth as he applied pressure in case he had to shoot. That image is burned into my mind even now. We finally talked him down and took him to the hospital on a mental health hold.

From the hospital we got dispatched to an accident. I consoled a mother as she held her dying infant and dead toddler, both of whom were properly secured but ejected from the minivan after a runaway semi crashed into them coming out of the mountains on I-70 near Golden.

Last call of the day was a medical assist. A 30-something year old man who died from a heart attack. I helped the volunteer EMT perform CPR in the ambulance but it didn't do any good. When we left the hospital we went to the man's house to inform his wife and children he'd passed.

When we got back to the SO our 10 hour shift had turned into 14. Dave (my FTO) and I sat in the car in silence after I parked for about 5 mins, I think. I told him I wasn't sure that this is what I'd signed up for. He said he'd never had a day like that in 22 years at the department. I came back the next day and we started all over again...but without any of the drama of the previous day.

A few years later my shift sergeant was killed by a man in a grocery store parking lot after he'd killed his wife and store manager (she worked in the store). Tim had been with the department for several years and had 5 kids and his wife was pregnant with his 4th son.

If you've never been in a position like that you can't possibly understand what it's like. That's why people who think they know what it's like to be a law enforcement officer piss me off so much when they spew their stupidity about how police protect each other. Well, yeah...we do. We protect the good ones, we despise the bad ones, despite what you cop-haters think. Don't tell me you know about police corruption because you don't. I don't care what some officer did to you on a traffic stop 30 years ago. You don't know s**t.

Any of you guys or gals still on the job or retired or whatever...you have my respect. I'm here if you need something even though we may be strangers.
 

Gadsden

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Well said @Snattlerake and thanks for posting it! I have no words that adequately describe what an honor it was to serve as a law enforcement officer and to work with some of the finest people I've ever known, most who are now life long friends. They are truly unsung heroes.

Like OkCorgiRancher my first call is still a very vivd memory. I will never forget her eyes as she died in my arms while my FTO and I preformed CPR as we waiting on Life Flight to arrive. I'd be lying if I said they still don't haunt me. Then there are the memories that wake me, and many of us up, in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Anyone who thinks that first responders don't suffer from PTS, like the military, doesn't have a clue about what we do and see. We did all this because we answered a call to serve others regardless of who they were, what they did or their feelings about us. We did it because we care and I don't regret it for a second.

On a lighter note you mentioned those who are 70+ and still serve. I saw this man featured awhile back and was awed by his dedication. Here's his story...

 
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Snattlerake

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I really can't remember my first shift. I never had a training officer that rode along. I had a lot of ride along experience with OHP, Alva, PD, Cherokee P.D., Woods County, Kingfisher S.O. and P.D. Watonga P.D. Wichita. P.D. I'm probably forgetting some, Ha!

My first night in my last jurisdiction, we had a murder, Wife killed hubby with a glass ashtray. One of the things I investigated that still haunts me because he was acquitted was a rape of an 82 year old woman in her home. We had a palm print of the suspect on her pillowcase. He lived next door to her and his explanation was he slapped her pillowcase on her clothesline thereby transferring his palmprint.
I actually caught a guy in black with a black ski mask coming out of a window with money and jewelry and a TV set. I've seen a mother holding her newborn in a car wreck not wearing a seat belt and she pushed her baby into the glove box upon impact. On patrol one night I discovered a very well made fake Diebold after hours drop off box installed over the real one at a bank. We caught him at 4 a.m. retrieving it. I've seen a guy with no face saying "Let me die." I'm really glad we won the 15 minute fight over a gun in a guy's bedroom.

I put all of those bad things into little boxes and then into a great big box in the back of my mind.
 
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RETOKSQUID

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Well said @Snattlerake and thanks for posting it! I have no words that adequately describe what an honor it was to serve as a law enforcement officer and to work with some of the finest people I've ever known, most who are now life long friends. They are truly unsung heroes.

Like OkieCorgiRancher my first call is still a very vivd memory. I will never forget her eyes as she died in my arms while my FTO and I preformed CPR as we waiting on Life Flight to arrive. I'd be lying if I said they still don't haunt me. Then there are the memories that wake me, and many of us up, in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Anyone who thinks that first responders don't suffer from PTS, like the military, doesn't have a clue about what we do and see. We did all this because we answered a call to serve others regardless of who they were, what they did or their feelings about us. We did it because we care and I don't regret it for a second.

On a lighter note you mentioned those who are 70+ and still serve. I saw this man featured awhile back and was awed by his dedication. Here's his story...

92 WOW! God Bless that man. "He'll tell your momma, your grandma momma, and your great grand momma":rollingla
 

OK Corgi Rancher

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I still see faces and hear sounds and even smell things. It's weird.

For some reason one of my most haunting memories is of a guy that did the running-car-in-the-closed-garage suicide thing. He'd been in there for a couple of days when we found him on a welfare check.

At some point he obviously changed his mind but it was too late. He made it as far as the door that led into the house. He was laying face down against the lower portion of the door with his arm outstretched and his hand about 6" below the doorknob. I still feel really bad for that guy and that was nearly 30 years ago. And I don't know why but I see that image and can't shake it for hours most of the time. I don't know why that particular incident bothered me so much because I had far worse experiences...

...like the Columbine shootings. I was only there for the immediate aftermath because I'd worked a night shift the night before. I'd just got home (I lived about 45 mins away up in the mountains) and was getting ready for bed when my SWAT pager went off. I grabbed all my crap and ran out the door. I couldn't get anywhere close to the school because parents of students had left cars in the road when they couldn't get to the school to find their kids and traffic was just a mess. I wound up parking my truck and running about 1.5 miles to the school with just my duty belt and rifle. I wound up just helping clear the school. As you can imagine it was pretty awful. We didn't have any officers to work the street in the city so when I left there I went and worked two back-to-back patrol shifts...the swing shift and my regular graveyard shift. I didn't get home till about 9:30 the next morning. Then I didn't sleep at all even though I was exhausted and went back to work that night. If finally hit me about half way thru that shift. I had to go back to the PD and take a nap for about an hour. Didn't really matter because it was just eerily quiet in the city for about a week after the incident.
 

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