Growing up in a military household we had a standard of upbringing that included: Honor, Courage, and Discipline. Although I never spent one second of my life in the ranks of the military the stern commitment of my father to pass them along to me in my childhood certainly paid off in my life.
I can remember with vivid detail my father coming home and griping to my mother or anyone that would listen for that matter about the actions or performance of a subpar soldier within his unit. The type of solider that would always do the bare minimum, who narrowly got by with whatever it was they were tasked with. Often people dismiss these substandard workers as “ones that slipped through the cracks.” My father was no exception to this, but as time went by the dismissive tone turned to enmity. He felt that many were slipping through a wider crack that was created for whatever reason. In time his bitterness was consuming him to the point of where anyone would tire of hearing his aggravation.
I finally came to the understanding of what all those years of ranting was all about. My father, a decorated soldier achieving the rank of sergeant was constantly working to set the standard. He took pride in his work and when a soldier from any branch violated the rules or even the law he felt it cheapened his uniform. He had a firm believe that the careless actions of one could erase the tremendous work of thousands.
I remember in 2009 watching the breaking news of the shooting at Fort Hood. The state of shock the nation was in when it was uncovered that the suspect was an officer in the U.S. Army. I was almost glad that my father was not alive to see the atrocity of Major Nidal Hasan. What the media and general public will fail to realize and report is the significant impact that something like this has on the rank and file of the military. How would the world view them now? Would they all be judged on the actions of one rogue Army officer?
In the last month two Chattanooga police officers have been arrested one on serious charges after evidence came up missing and the other just this weekend for domestic violence. Another was arrested last year for DUI after being stopped by Tennessee Highway Patrol. Let’s not forget the amount of coverage the Emmer and Cooley beating received. There is no doubt the impact of these things begin to have a community spinning its wheels. Certain people in the community begin to voice their uncertainty of having “good” police officers. It’s preposterous to think this way and any cop with even the slightest bit value will tell you that they hate a bad cop more than anyone. This type of pride is not much different than the pride my father voiced for many years. When I read stories like the ones above I think of some officer standing before a mirror in full uniform. He is fighting the feeling that the missteps of another have cheapened the meaning of the shield he worked so hard to attain. He must now go out and set the bar even higher, he must go out and go above and beyond his calling to restore the name of his profession that he takes so much pride in.
I can see where at times that this can be quite a burden that most could never stand up to. As a community we must realize that there are far more of these officers than the ones that selfishly draw negative attention. I breathe easy knowing that as this winter storm approaches there are plenty of officers in our community that will unselfishly be working many long hours, providing valuable service to our community. Officers like Tyrone Williams who just recently saved a handicapped man from his burning house or Officer Josh May and Officer Clayton Holmes whose training took practical shape after performing CPR on an infant, ultimately saving the child’s life. I’m thankful that valuable officers like two time Medal of Valor recipient Lorin Johnston protect my city. The officer received the department’s highest honor by donating a kidney to a fellow officer in need and then once again for actions during a gun battle in which Sgt. Chapin lost his life. Despite being shot Johnston shielded Sgt. Chapin until help arrived. Johnston not only received the Medal of Valor, but was awarded in Washington as one of 10 officers selected as Top Cops in our nation for 2012.
We must not judge an entire profession based on the actions of a few. We don’t stop trusting doctors when one of them is disgraced. We don’t stop eating in restaurants when a cook is arrested. If a fireman is arrested would you still call them if your house was on fire? The good will always outweigh the bad. The fine men and women of the Chattanooga Police Department will continue to prevail. I salute them and hope this letter gives them encouragement that many are still behind them.