Building community relations

Published 11:53 am Tuesday, May 21, 2013

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

Each May, thousands of law enforcement officers flock to the state capitals and to Washington D.C. to honor all officers that were killed in the line of duty the previous year and to remember those that have died before us. It is very humbling and a great reminder of just how temporary this life is.

It is during this time, or when there is a tragedy, that we hear the word “hero” used over and over. Unfortunately, in the everyday life of law enforcement, the name “hero” is seldom used. I’ve been cursed, threatened, spit on and had human waste thrown at me. And I, like most, have seen my share of death, violence and thievery.

Throughout my career, I have often wondered what law enforcement can do to market themselves better in the community for the sake of public safety. Firemen have done an excellent job in marketing fire safety. There are laws on the books that tell us how many people can be in a public access room at a given time, that smoke detectors must be installed in all new homes and that schools must conduct fire drills. Sprinklers in all of our classrooms, illuminated exit signs, and easy to read exit plans must be visible for all to see.

They have done such a good job, we haven’t lost a child in the country to a school fire since 1958. We only have to go back a few months to find the last child lost at the hand of an intruder.

Fireproof doors, walls and windows slow the fire down and contain it to an area. Fires are predictable; people are not — good guys stop bad guys. What we need our children to know is that officers are people just like them. They are dads and moms, brothers and sisters and more than likely, have or know school-aged children.

Our children need to understand that cops are people and they are approachable. They will not throw you in jail for not doing your homework. Our officers need to understand that they represent the community, and they have an awesome opportunity to make a lasting impression on children. Even if only one child is positively influenced, it could make a huge difference.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at