I have been a cop for 23 years and after all that time as a Violent Crimes Detective, Robbery Detective, Patrol Officer, Traffic Cop, SWAT Team Leader, Trainer, and now night shift Watch Commander, I have learned a thing or two about your expectations of Law Enforcement versus our ability to meet those expectations. My wife has been a communications officer and 911 Supervisor for about 15 years. So, when I make the following statement, take it as factual.
I won’t be there for you when you need me.
I know you depend on law enforcement to protect your community. And we try. I have trained my entire career, physically and mentally to be there and catch the bad guy. I want to do it. I am equipped and trained to do it and have the deep and abiding desire to be there when and how you need me. However, the cold, hard, truth is that I will not be there and my peers won’t either. If we were there, you wouldn’t need us. If we are parked in your yard, nobody will break in, if we are behind you in line at the ATM, nobody will rob you, and if we are in that dark parking lot, you are safe.
But, you are prone to be a victim when we are not there. Therefore, my statement holds true. I was thinking about this article while sitting in my car outside a restaurant at night and watched a waitress walk across the dark parking lot, alone, towards her car. I put my spotlight on her car to make her feel safe. I felt good about making her feel safer. Then, I thought about the fact that this was one night out of hundreds she makes that walk, in the dark, alone. Then I didn’t feel so good. Because I know, I won’t be here the night she needs me.
You can call for help. We will come. How long will the phone call, computer entry, dispatch to the officer and response time take? It will be longer than you want. We will clean up the mess if there is one, hold your hand, process the scene, and work the case. I interviewed a lot of victims in my time and a lot of bad guys. If I could go back and change one thing for most of those victims it would be to prepare them mentally and physically for that most terrible time, ahead of time. For this audience, this is a given, guns are equalizers.
When people ask me why I and my instructors are so adamant about teaching citizens to protect themselves, I say it is an extension of the job. Sharing our knowledge is the key. Knowing what I know, I cannot fathom cops feeling we should be the knight in shining armor, riding to the rescue, or the cavalry sounding the trumpet on the way to the battle. The fact is, in most every circumstance, you will need to stand on your own feet for at least a while. Good cops know you should be ready, armed and able.
The sheepdogs guarding the flock will keep the wolf at bay. But, the wolf will eat sometime, the sheepdog can’t always be there and the wolf is hungry. Unlike sheep, though, you can grow teeth and fight back. Humans are unique in that we might not be born with the ability to best a much larger predator, but, we can arm ourselves and can be very dangerous.
When people challenge you on why you feel the need to carry, train and equip yourself, remind them what cops know. We won’t be there when they need us. Help them understand that they can be a victim if they want, but, you choose the higher path, to be a protector, not the prey. Invite them to the range to introduce them to what we love. Give them circumstances where you might need a gun and ask them what they would do, given they don’t have one. Ask them what they can do to protect their family and explain that the helpless feeling they will have when they can’t do so, won’t be lived down. How will their children view them when mom or dad can’t stop the bad guy? Then invite them to join the ranks of safe, reasonable, responsible gun owners. Be an ambassador, the more of us there are, the more likely we are to keep our rights.