By Stephen Owsinski
In a well-written and heartfelt missive penned by Horry County, SC, police Chief Saundra Rhodes, the public is invited to glean what it is like to experience life as a law enforcement officer. In response to the continuing vitriol slighting cops as brutal and murderous beings, Chief Rhodes opens up her heart and candidly describes the atypical odyssey of a police officer. Published by myrtlebeachonline.com, Chief Rhodes paints a clear canvas depicting a day in the life of a cop (Chief Rhodes full comments are posted at the end of this piece).
Admitting she refrained from reply for a while now, Rhodes explained even her close friends' opinions "based upon the negative incidents that are portrayed by the national media" compelled her to candidly convey what police culture is like in the United States.
Realizing no state is unaffected and no LE agency is exempted from misinformed individuals' scrutiny, Rhodes cited several to-the-point dedications exemplified by the 315-member agency she leads. A widely-publicized experience Rhodes and her department recently encountered was the Christmas Eve elopement of a 4-year-old non-verbal boy with autism.
Pointedly, Rhodes denoted how she and her officers worked to remove the "young baby's body" from the body of water in which he drowned. In her sentiments, one can hear how Rhodes labored while watching the boy's parents, especially when she realized she could provide no answer as to the question Why. Why, indeed, do such travesties occur? Despite a lack of answers, law enforcement officials pick up the pieces. You know this well.
Considering that last paragraph, the burdens shouldered by police personnel who are increasingly ridiculed and condemned by some members of society become weighty. And that is what the op-ed written by Chief Rhodes sought to alleviate, by conveying a hard-truth, fact-based perspective.
Not only is donning the uniform and performing police duty centering cops in the cross hairs, simply being perceived as a LEO draws perils. Dedication: an underestimated word when it relates to police work.
On New Year's Eve, a male wearing civilian clothing walking into his home where a Roswell, NM, police cruiser was parked out front was shot at by a motorist driving by. According to the Roswell Daily Record, the "civilian" happened to be an off-duty policeman. Post-investigation, the Roswell PD believes the pot shot was taken because of "association," that the man's proximity to a police cruiser parked in front of his home made him a viable target.
Similar stories abound nowadays, lending creedence to the prose of Rhodes. Prefaced by the phrases "It's not just a job..." and "We are police officers...," Rhodes touched upon cops' convictions in serving the public: cops' dedication to duty at great risk to themselves; the police mediators who stave off domestic violence attackers only to be attacked themselves; cops who feed and facilitate shelter for the homeless; cops who navigate the political underpinnings making police work more difficult; cops who make death notifications to decedents' loved ones; cops who are forced to shoot someone, then live to battle the emotional toll; cops whose families spend holidays as their loved one reports for duty.
As Oxford, AL, police Chief Bill Partridge put it: "I hate to break the news to the cop haters, but the more you hate us, the more we are determined to make sure you don't win. I, along with every police officer, will give their last breath to make sure the anti-police establishment and haters don't destroy our freedoms and communities." I'd say that echoes the message of Chief Rhodes (and countless other LEOs) quite well.
At the nexus of evil-doers and innocents are police officers, dedicated to duty and defense of the Constitution. Chief Rhodes is just one voice speaking on your behalf, elucidating your dedication to duty. Chief Partridge is another. Never mind the ill-conceived media accounts and naysayers; continue to fight the good fight!
From Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes
I have sat by quietly for weeks now and listened to or read posts of people that I genuinely consider friends, speak so ill of my fellow law enforcement officers.
I told myself repeatedly that it is simply because they do not have a true understanding and that all of their opinions are based upon the negative incidents that are portrayed by the national media.
I acknowledge that there are some officers who should not be police officers and that our criminal justice system does not always get it right.
I think that it's time that I give my friends my perspective.
I am a police officer, it's not just a job; I am just as much a police officer as I am a mother, I am just as much a police officer as I am a daughter, a sister, a cousin and a friend.
It is not just a job to me and it's not just a job to most of my fellow brothers and sisters who wear the badge with pride.
It was not a job that caused Officer Bo Sauls to buy the baby formula that his suspect was trying to steal to feed her baby, instead of taking her to jail. That selfless act was due to him being just as much a police officer as he is a son and a father.
It was not the job that caused Officer Richard Ernest to go home and take an air conditioner from his garage and go back to a ladies house and install it for her after he had responded there for something else but noticed she had no air.
It was not a job that caused my officers to go out and find furniture for a family that had none so that they would no longer have to sleep on the floor; they did this because they are police officers.
It was not the job that caused Cpl. Brad Thompson to not stop until he found the suspect that stole an elderly ladies appliances and made the suspect load them back up on his pick up truck and return them to the victim before he took him to jail, he did this because he is just as much a police officer as he is a grandson.
It was not a job that caused Detective Heather Brummett's life to be changed forever as she was forced to shoot and kill a suspect that was trying to kill another officer; it was her devotion to the life that she chose and that choice of being there to arrest a suspect has caused her to never be the same person that she was before.
Finally, it was not a job that made all of my officers leave their families on Christmas Day to search for a missing 4 year old autistic boy who had wandered away from his family's vacation home.
It was not the job that made them willingly walk through mud, woods and water searching every nook and cranny for young Jayden.
It was not the job that caused me to watch as this baby was pulled from the water, nor was it the job that caused me to hold his father's hand as he kissed his baby goodbye for the last time and to hold that mother and not be able to offer an explanation of why bad things happen to good people.
No it was not a job that caused me to hold in my emotions and to be strong for people that I had never met before, knowing that young Jayden reminded me so much of my own “grand baby” Zaevion and that all I wanted to do was to get home to him and hear him yell out for his mema.
It was not a job that caused me to be strong for this family although I wanted to fall apart and cry with them.
We are police officers, we are willing to head towards the gunfire when everyone else is running away.
We are police officers, we are the ones who tell parents that their child is dead and then hold them as long as necessary as they cry out in sorrow.
We are police officers, we are the ones who respond when a husband is beating his wife and then take the hits from her as she tries to prevent us from taking him to jail.
We are police officers, we are the ones who will listen to you call us pigs, pieces of crap and murderers; yet will head your direction with lights and siren the minute that you need us, because ......... We are police officers.
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