What is a policeman made of? He, of all men, is once the most needed and the most unwanted. He’s a strangely nameless creature who is ‘sir’ to his face and ‘fuzz’ to his back.

But… if the policeman is neat, he’s conceited; if he’s careless, he’s a bum. If he’s pleasant, he’s flirting; if not, he’s a grouch. He must make an instant decision which would require months for a lawyer to make.

He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without damaging his uniform and without being ‘brutal.’ If you hit him, he’s a coward. If he hits you, he’s a bully. The policeman must be a minister, a social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy and a gentleman. And, of course, he’d have to be a genius… for he will have to feed a family on a policeman’s salary.” 

-Excerpts from Paul Harvey’s 1970 newspaper article titled, “Policeman.”

Police officers are some unique people. I’m sure many of the people who work in accounting or sales may say the same about their co-workers, but man are we some multi-faceted creatures. I know policemen who are or have been artists, comedians, professional musicians, licensed mechanics, gunsmiths, Special Forces operators, coaches, authors, teachers, pastors, salesmen, and attorneys. I know policemen who grew up dead broke in the worst ghettos and others who grew up with a trust fund, a silver spoon, and a nanny. There are some policemen who are tactical gear junkies who’ll buy everything from a $6,000 infrared optic they’ll never use — because they sit behind a desk all day — to tactical pajamas. Others couldn’t care less about weapons or tactical clothing: when they’re off duty they dress like college kids cruising campus in skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors or like high schoolers rocking sweatpants and oversized hoodies. I am friends with police officers who are both gay and straight, liberal and conservative, Christian and atheist, and of every race under the sun.

In other words, we are you.

We are the society in which we patrol. I’ve never considered myself to be any different than any citizen I run into. I consider myself to be a culmination of what I believe and what I enjoy — in other words, what I’ve chosen. I didn’t choose to be born in the midwest. I didn’t choose my parents or my skin color. I didn’t have one ounce of decision-making in that process. I could’ve been born rich or poor, black, Native American, Hispanic or French (though frankly, I am somewhat happy I’m not French; they’re a bit persnickety…). I – and many of my police officer friends – see other people we serve in a similar light. We look at them as an amalgamation of who they are, what they enjoy, and how they act — not at their skin tone, ethnicity or economic status as many in the media would imply.

From an investigative standpoint, it makes sense that policemen focus on a person’s behavior more than any of their other characteristics. If I know, through experience, how most people act when they see my marked squad car or when I stop them for a traffic violation, then I can quickly tell when something isn’t right. My “Spidey-sense” goes bananas. A person’s eyes, which are not exclusive to their race, tell a far greater story than their skin color ever could. Military friends I know, who have returned from Afghanistan, routinely say, “I knew the Taliban fighters hated me to their core just by looking into their eyes.” There are few absolute truths in combat, in police work, and in life, but one of them are that the eyes never lie, people often do. Skin color is an irrelevant indicator of past or predictor of future behavior.