Local law enforcement offers service with a smile

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

“Ma’am, the reason I pulled you over is because you were speeding.  I need to see your license, proof of insurance and registration”.

“Well thank you officer…I had actually budgeted myself a speeding ticket for this month and I had been looking forward to this”.

“No problem ma’am…would you like fries with your order?”  We all know this is not how a traffic stop works, but it is a service that law enforcement provides.  It’s not a government service that makes you happy, but it’s expected, required, requested and it’s the law. Other services that law enforcement has to provide are arresting abusive spouses, removing children from neglect, death notifications, investigating  suicides and infant death, guarding inmates with tuberculosis, and sometimes even burying our own. Law enforcement officers come to work every day knowing that every 53 hours an officer is killed in the line of duty and that thousands of officers are feloniously assaulted each year.

All of these are part of it and we are taught and expected to do our job with a smile. You dare not say what you’re really thinking when you’ve been spat upon, assaulted or told by a prisoner what he’s going to do to your children when he gets out of jail. For if you do react with anything other than a smile, you will be disciplined through an internal affairs investigation, which will lead to loss of pay, maybe termination, and if a clip of the incident makes YouTube, public ridicule.

Because we wear a uniform, we are the first one people look at when a function of the government is out of order and the people’s trust in government fails. We represent the “police state” and do what the people have asked us to do – they just don’t want to see how it’s done. We tear our rotator cuff while arresting a resisting prisoner, weigh 35 pounds more once we gear up for duty and work on Christmas.  What is unique about what has now been referred to as “Law enforcement,” is that 95 percent of the time, we are not enforcing the law. We are a presence that only wants to keep the wolf away.

We are public servants that go to your church, coach little league baseball, and are never off the clock.  We are sometimes cynical, paranoid and rude. But it is only because we know what is out there and we aren’t perfect. Unfortunately, some of my proudest moments in my career have been while traveling in a fallen officer’s funeral procession. This is when I see that people do care as they line the streets with American flags, stop traffic to get out of their cars to salute, and go out of their way to say, “Thank you.”  I have never met a cop who took their oath merely to harass and terrorize the citizenry. This is our home too, and what we do, we do it with a smile.

Chris George is the commander of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division.