Kindergartners Say, ‘I Want to Be a Police Officer When I Grow Up.’

Kindergartners Say, ‘I Want to Be a Police Officer When I Grow Up.’

By Steve Pomper 

Chesapeake Police Officer teaching student fingerprinting (public domain wiki)

I want to present a lighter yet, nevertheless, poignant tone today by telling you about a couple recent events I attended. First, my annual LEOSA qualification course. The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004.

The various U.S. states have divergent approaches regarding infringing or not on the Second Amendment. Retired cops were essentially banned from carrying firearms in some states while traveling within the U.S. However, someone finally realized, Hey, bad guys take vacations, too.

LEOSA allows qualified law enforcement officers to carry firearms within certain statutory limitations in any U.S. state or territory. There were disturbing stories from the states of New Jersey and Hawaii which had reportedly refused to comply with LEOSA. However, New Jersey has recently remedied the problem, and Hawaii is apparently working on it.

Probably the best thing about the yearly quals is they provide retired officers an opportunity to see old friends and former comrades-in-arms. This year, I got to see a great man who’d been my captain in the police academy and then again when I arrived at my permanent patrol assignment precinct.

Funny, it occurred to me that when I was a rookie, he’d asked me to give a precinct tour to some visiting French police officers (my mother was from France). He pulled me aside and said, “I owe you one.” At the quals, I realized he’d never made good on that promise. To be fair, he hadn’t had an opportunity before he got transferred. Anyway, I figured it would be in poor taste to bring it up some 30 years later.

I chatted with several officers and detectives whom I’d worked with and one range staff who I’d gone to the academy with many moons ago. It always amazes me that, retired or active, there is zero difference between us when cops get together. Once a cop, always a cop.

It reminded of a LEOSA quals from a few years back when a retired U.S. Border Patrol agent showed up to qualify with us, as he lives in the Seattle area. From the way the SPD range staff and we retired guys treated him, an outside observer would never have known he wasn’t SPD. This treatment included inspecting his weapon and providing him with ammo for the quals.

And, speaking of ammo, a brief sour note. In another act that slights retired cops who’d served for decades, the city no longer provides retired officers with rounds for qualifications. I understand the city was not obligated to do this, but it was a gesture that showed a little appreciation.

I don’t know if it’s a result of the defund the police nonsense from a couple of years ago, but I’m not sure how much this minimal number of rounds affected the city budget. Being 600 or 700 cops down, the money sure ain’t going to officers’ salaries.

And, speaking of short staffing, following quals, retired officers are treated to a lovely jaunt into downtown Seattle to SPD HQ to get our IDs. I went today. And, again, while it’s nice to run into former colleagues at HQ, the staffing is so bad the department could not assign one officer to the entry desk, so the building was closed (it’s a Tuesday and this is an important public building!).

I had to phone the person with whom I had the appointment to come down and escort me up. The sign on the door said the building would not be open until June 20th (today is the 18th). The thing that got me, as I stood waiting, looking across the street toward City Hall, is that the police staffing crisis didn’t just happen; folks in City Hall intentionally inflicted this on the city.

Now, on to only good news. An event I attended that showed more respect for law enforcement than my old employer tends to, was my grandson’s kindergarten graduation. A few years back, prompted by the DEI monster devouring all rationality in our local public schools, my daughter and son-in-law took their kids out of public school, opting for a private Christian school. And the differences go far beyond religiosity, also affirming essential American traditions.

First, I thought about the foolish criticism that claims most private religious schools are bastions of “whiteness” and “white supremacy” and associate the schools with “white flight” from public schools. On the contrary, I observed such a wonderful racial and ethnic mix of kids the school could have been mistaken as one for the children of United Nations diplomats.

To begin the ceremony, there was a slide presentation featuring the graduates from various classes. In one photo, I saw five children dressed in the traditional costumes of their ethnic heritages. If I recall correctly, the children represented Scandinavia, India, China, Mexico, and an African nation I couldn’t specify.

To me, the people of various cultures merging to become Americans, yet retaining aspects of their distinct ethnicities, always represented our nation’s melting pot legacy. Legal immigrants (like my mother) emigrated to the U.S. wanting to make their lives better and this nation stronger by supporting the Constitution and America’s primary principles of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

I’ve told this story before, but I think the most “American” event I ever attended was the wedding of a former police partner. He was of Chinese descent, and his wife was of Scottish ancestry. I’d never been to a wedding that opened with a kilted bagpiper and served delicious Chinese food for the meal.

Back at my grandson’s school, in the lobby after the ceremony, there was something similarly “American” happening. People of various ilk socialized while waiting for their kids to join them. Then I saw something I didn’t expect.

There was a large contingent of Ethiopian folks, parents, family, and friends among the throng. But that wasn’t the surprising part. The surprise came when a kindly, perpetually smiling Ethiopian Orthodox priest meandered through the crowd, laughing, chatting with anyone nearby, and holding a sparkling gold hand cross, which he used to bless his parishioners.

It struck me that, like my daughter’s family, these families had also chosen not to send their children to “free” American public schools, opting instead to pay expensive tuitions to send their kids to a religious school of a different Christian denomination.

As graduates walked up on stage to accept their diplomas, they paused at a microphone and told the audience what “I want to be when I grow up.” Aside from an overdose of adorable, a few outstanding things stood out. For me, this was the cherry on top of the sundae.

Among the first few graduates, some boys and girls said they wanted to be firefighters and others said police officers. My wife (a retired firefighter) tried to keep track (you know how competitive FFs can be), with six kids choosing firefighter and nine wanting to be cops. (I won!)

Other popular choices were teacher, veterinarian, engineer, scientist, and a healthy smattering of soccer players. One girl wanted to be an astronaut, a boy wanted to be President, another wanted to join the Navy, and one little girl wanted to be a rock star—and a teacher.

Ironically, our grandson didn’t say police officer even though he has a grandfather and great-grandfather who were cops. Didn’t want to be a firefighter like his Nana, either. Instead, he declared he wanted to be a construction worker “like his dad.” How could I argue with that?

Anyway, these are the types of random thoughts that bounce around the mind of this retired cop at such events. Still, I’m happy to pass along these positive signs for the future from students who attend schools that still promote traditional American culture, where kids actually want to become cops.