We have seen an increase in people being verbally critical of police and stirring up anti-police conversations. These recent high-profile cases are often a result of people jumping to conclusions before facts are investigated and determined. These incidents can leave us frustrated and divisional with those we serve and protect. I completely believe that most often the verbal attacks are coming from a very small number of citizens, most of which were not affected by these incidents. Often times though, the volume seems to get attention.
Recently, I attended the seventh trooper funeral since I have joined the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in May of 1992, almost twenty-three years ago. It was just like all of the other trooper funerals I’ve attended. Lots of law enforcement officers and honor guard details standing in honor of a fallen warrior, all of us knowing, it could have been us. We all know how dangerous this line of work can be. Wearing a gun and standing a post can put us in many difficult and dangerous places, but we all knew that going in.
The non-uniformed attendees were the ones I really noticed this time. As the funeral procession started, the pride and the tears welled up in me as I watched several hundreds of people along both sides of the highway standing at attention, waving flags and holding up signs honoring our fallen trooper. The folks lining the highway were from every walk of life. There were children waving and saluting, elderly folks, bikers, farmers, businessmen and women, all standing with a mission of support. The procession continued on, and these people never wavered. They came out to honor and to be a part of this memorial service to a fallen hero, and they were certainly a big part of it.
I have had so many people walk up and say; “I’m sorry about your trooper buddies”. We have had so many well-wishes and prayers for the troopers and their families. There were well over a thousand people at the service, and I will point out that many were not uniformed officers. There were lots of civilians there in honor of the fallen trooper and his family.
Here is my perspective. When these terrible events happen, our true friends come out in force. The prayers, concerns, sadness, handshakes and hugs, support, and out-pouring of people confirm what we already know. We have a huge support group of people that are glad we are out there, guarding the door, watching the wall, attending to business, and deterring those that don’t play by the rules. There are more supporters than we will ever know. Fathers and mothers were teaching their children that it is time to stand in one place for a long period of time, saluting, waving and supporting their protectors in their darkest hours.
We do have friends out there; many of them. When it begins to feel like it’s us against the world, keep that thought and that perspective. We are very much loved and appreciated. Those we serve are very glad we are there. Safety and security are critical components of a free society. Don’t let the bad people get you down. They might try, but in the end, we are wanted, needed, and truly cared for.
Keep up the good work. There are many people that are glad we are guarding the wall. Do not get discouraged. The folks we serve really do have our backs. Stay safe in all you do in this dangerous job we have been called to do.