Perpetuate the Good – Why Cops and Their Communities Need Each Other

By Sgt. Nancy M. Dowdy 

Even when the loudest voices scream hate, remember lots of people in our communities respect and support their police.  In fact, the Gallup organization’s annual poll of Americans’ feelings about local law enforcement consistently shows that our citizens overwhelmingly support us.   Don’t forget to focus on the positive.  This past week I have been especially focused on the good I’ve seen, and I want to share it with all of you.

As a sergeant, I always wanted people to feel like they could vent their frustrations, but made sure to do that in a one-on-one environment.  Generally speaking, group gripe sessions spread toxicity rather than solve problems.  Early in my supervisory role, the agency was forced to implement layoffs and furloughs.  The brand new “kids” didn’t know if they would still have a job next week. Having a positive briefing each day became a necessity before asking people to go out and risk their lives, especially when they were stressed by local politics.

I recall having just finished one briefing and people were laughing, motivated, and focused.  I was sending them out with my usual optimistic perspective when a commander walked in and stated, “You aren’t going to get any raises, the community just doesn’t care.”  It was a strange speech that clearly conveyed how he happened to feel about the most recent budgetary decisions. His job was secure,  my job was secure, but those new guys and gals were not so secure.  It was our responsibility to keep them motivated, keep them focused, and ultimately provide the tools they needed to stay safe.  I remember watching their shoulders sink and the worry come across their faces.  As soon as the commander left and I said, “Well, on that note, how about we go fight crime for the good guys!”  There was sarcasm in my voice, I was clearly annoyed by what had just happened.  It was just enough that the room erupted in laughter and we readjusted our mindsets before hitting the streets.

Over the years, anytime something like that happened, it shifted attitudes in such a negative manner.  It was depressing.  In retirement, I find myself avoiding the news first thing in the morning.  So often it seems like I am force fed negative stories and then the rest of my day is predisposed disparity.  Lately, I have been looking for positivity, love for law enforcement, true community support.  Turns out, I didn’t have to look very far!

Teaching provides me the opportunity to travel around the country and catch glimpses of my law enforcement brothers’ and sisters’ lives.  Last week we were in Boston.  The first place we found for dinner due to the very late arrival time was a tavern.  As soon as we walked in the door, I saw it.  The thin blue line flag was proudly displayed in a well lit location.  There were also supportive fire department decorations, just so our fire readers know!  I was overwhelmed with a feeling of pride and comfort as I sat down at the wooden bar.  Our bartender had that wonderful Boston accent, and upon hearing why we were in town, immediately spouted off about all the amazing women police officers he knew in that community.  We finished our meal and headed off to bed, to teach in the morning. On our way to class, I saw signage in a number of yards declaring, “We love our Police.”    After a great training day, we again hit the streets of Boston in order to take in the beauty of it before heading back to the desert.  I felt welcome everywhere I went.  There are so many people in that city, but I found myself seeing so many patriotic shirts, thin blue lines, and support for their cops.

This week I am in Alaska.  Again, I find myself surrounded by good people, patriotism, and love for their law enforcement.  There is an Alaskan State Trooper museum here in downtown Anchorage which I fully intend to visit.  We took a boat tour to see a glacier and a man walked on wearing a shirt stating he “stands for the flag and kneels for the cross.”  Seriously, patriotism is EVERYWHERE.  Wait, let me restate that… It is EVERYWHERE in the ACTUAL world.  In the world of anonymous keyboard blowhards, fake news, and a large part of Hollywood, it seems to be lacking.  The second I walk away and take in the world around me, the truth becomes evident – THE PEOPLE SUPPORT YOU.  Those people are the ones that inspired us to take the job in the first place. They acknowledge your sacrifice.  They value you.  They believe in you.  They are the people who know that one cop who does the wrong thing is not the example of the culture of law enforcement.  These people, these real, not afraid to admit how they feel, people are the ones who support you.  They don’t wear masks to hide while they destroy property and life.  They proudly display their support.

I would suggest that we all spend a little more time focusing on what is actually happening out there than on what some anonymous loudmouth feels like typing or yelling from behind a mask.  This country is known around the world for the bravery of its men and women.  Tell those who are supporting you how much you appreciate them.  Remind them that they are the reason you do it.  Let’s push a little more positivity, which is the real truth that exists.  If someone thanks you for what you do, thank them for their support – for without it, we could not do it.

Staying involved with your supportive community is vital to reminding them that we are all working together.  Take an extra minute to introduce yourself to the shop owner or store clerk.  Show them you are a real human being wearing that uniform.  Give a little shout out to the days of “Officer Friendly.”  Talk with the neighborhood kids and parents in your beat.  Show them there is more to you than what they might have heard in the false narrative overwhelming their social media feeds.  Appreciating moments of positivity will help you cope during busy shifts when you are running from bad calls to worse.  Dealing with negative calls one after another can pile up on you without noticing.  Commenting on a smart store display or thanking the convenience store clerk for always having hot coffee can be a bright spot in both of your days.  I can assure you that putting your mind in the right place will provide exponential rewards both mentally and physically to guide you through your career.  I support you, and I fully intend to do my best to drown out anyone who says differently.

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