My dad has been in law enforcement, in some fashion, for around 40 years. He and his fellow officers or deputies are why I’m here. Many of them are what I’ve come to believe law enforcement should be.
I’ve always considered my dad to be a servant of his community. I’ve watched as people have approached him to say how he helped them at a time of need or, at times, have said he saved them from a path of inevitable destruction. I’ve seen him get out of bed in early morning hours to help his co-workers or answer a call from someone in need at 2 a.m. because he was the only one in their lives they had to call.
I’m proud of him. I’m proud of the many men and women I came to know because of him: people throughout the State of Illinois who are amazing, caring people; people who got into this profession because they wanted to help their communities; people who have been there for their fellow citizens at the most critical times in their lives.
I grew up in a very small community. I live in a small community, so maybe I am naive. Or, maybe it’s just different when you are part of the community you serve.
My dad taught me many years ago to treat people how you want to be treated and to give respect to everyone. He’s worked through times of national crisis, through times when the trust in law enforcement within the national community was negatively impacted by a national event, as have I.
Know this: none of the people I serve with, have served with, or who he has served with, thinks what happened in Minneapolis is OK. Every single man or woman who places that shield on his or her chest, each and every work day, should realize the civic responsibility that shield carries.
There are times in this profession where it gets hairy, where you have to enforce the law. Times when you are pushed into scenarios where force is required. You do what you have to do to come to a successful end and hope every person involved comes out of it safely.
This was not that, and it does not represent what I have seen in my now 40 years of either observing or participating in law enforcement. If every single person who wears that shield doesn’t realize that each and every action they perform, each and every day, affects the public perception of every other person wearing that shield, then they aren’t paying attention.
I’m proud of my father. I’m proud of his service. I’m proud of his co-workers. I’m proud of my co-workers. I hold that pride because they represent the best of us.
It hurts to watch this play out across our country, to know that such a small portion of our profession can hurt the reputation of so many men and women. I am so proud to be associated with them and so confident in who they are professionally and personally.
Trust is earned. It is precious and fragile. It can be broken easily. I hope it can be earned, again, in those places where it’s been broken.
If history has taught us anything it is that these incidents create dangerous situations as the division grows and anger elevates. Citizens and officers have suffered significant injury and/or been killed in the aftermath of these incidents. I hope that does not ring true, again.
So, to my fellow officers, deputies and troopers, be safe out there. I will carry my shield as if it was your own and I know you will carry yours as if it represents me. If we can all do that, we will all do better, everyday. My most sincere hope is that I can finish this career without watching another one of these incidents unfold.
Litchfield Police Chief