This past week, I attended a course where one of the topics we disussed was the “nobility of policing.”
There were a lot of great words used in the class – like courage and honor, duty and integrity, service and selflessness. Then we watched a video depicting all of the awesome stuff we do and the public graciously thanking us. It was all very “rah-rah-rah” high school pep rally-ish.
At the end of the video, the instructor asked the class, “how does that video make you feel?” There were some officers (this was a multi-agency course, and full of complete strangers to me) that had bought into the message, and had the prototypical responses indicative of being in a training class, the “I’m gonna tell you what you want to hear so we can go to lunch sooner rather than later” type of participatory comments.
I raised my hand. I spoke my piece. I gave 12 words. “That video made me feel silly. I don’t feel like a noble.”
And I don’t. Is policing a noble calling? Sure, I suppose so. I mean, it has to be right? But am I a noble cop?
I don’t feel noble when I hear a call come out just down the street when I finally get to the QT to grab my coffee, and I groan inwardly and hope someone else volunteers for it before I get sent.
I don’t feel noble on those days that I see four guys slinging dope in front of a convenience store, and I pass them on by to go to my next call; with neither the time nor the interest in shutting down the corner drug trade that would reopen in less than two hours with a new dealer and the same product – recreational pharmacists are very attentive to finding undersupplied markets. (They are more efficient sometimes than the daggone Wall Street Journal.)
I don’t feel noble when I fail to save a life. Or when I get to the call too late to make a difference. Or when someone asks, “what took you so long?” And I don’t have a reasonable answer. Or when I tell someone their family member will never be coming home again, as God had made other arrangements with them.
I don’t feel noble when my brothers and sisters in blue fall in the line of duty. I dont feel noble when I have a moment of gratitude that it wasn’t me that fell as I wrap my badge in the black of mourning, or when I push aside that pain to go joke and laugh with a buddy after a call and keep on soldiering.
A noble? Me? Nah.
I’m sure I’m not the most cynical amongst us out there. I know we SAY protect and serve, and I definitely buy into the service aspect – but shouldn’t a noble be more effective at protecting everybody than we are? Shouldn’t a noble be a little more super hero and a little less fallible human? Shouldn’t a noble be kingly, or princely, or something really fantastic – and not some bald slightly paunchy guy frantically buckling his duty belt and with powdered sugar from his last donut sprinkling his uniform shirt hauling ass out of the 7-11 bathroom to head to a traffic collision?
But then I got to thinking about it more, and realized there are some distinct parallels and historical ties between our profession and to the nobility of merry old England, from way before patriots tea-partied at Boston Harbor. We just don’t discuss it much.
The catch is – that nobility from whence we can trace some of our lineage as guardians of the communities we serve? Those were the lowliest of nobles.
The badge or shield worn upon our left breast represent the shields wielded by the knights as they protected their communities and served their liege lords. The patch adorning the shoulder of our uniform represent the coat of arms that most knights had adorning their armor or upon the shield they wielded in their off hand. Just as knights raised their visor in salute to an opponent on the jousting tilt, so too, do we raise our hands to the brim of our visored caps in salute to a fallen comrade, or the sounding of the colors.
Knights were not all about feasting and leisurely hunts on grand estates – they were warriors that protected their communities and countrymen domestically and abroad. Yes, while at times they waged war – they also served to keep the peace. They mediated disputes. They lived amongst those that they protected – and not removed in a far off castle like a king or some-such noble. The knights had the dirtiest of jobs to be performed by a member of the nobility. They were accustomed to discomfort and privation, dirt and blood, hunger and thirst. They worked outdoors no matter the weather – all in service to their communities.
I am sure that some knights were slovenly. I am sure that some were prone to sloth or gluttonous appetite. Some disgraced their family name or the more loftier of noble they served. But those were the very few – as it is within our own profession of officers and deputies, troopers and agents.
And just as a knight was to be called “sir” as a title of respect, so too are law enforcement officers today called “sir” or “ma’am” – even by those that have contempt for us.
You know, perhaps there is something to the idea that policing is a noble profession made up of noble people:
The lowliest of nobles.
When someone cries out for help, we answer. When someone is lost, we give direction. When someone is in need, we respond. When the community hurts, we hurt with it. When the community celebrates, we keep a watchful eye.
We preserve the peace, and stand vigilant guard against crime and disorder. We live amongst those we serve, and not in some grand estate or villa. We are accustomed to dirt and blood, discomfort and privation, hunger and thirst. We too, wear body armor – with our arms strapped to our sides and the noble steed of the jousting tilt now replaced by the black and white patrol cars more suitable to domestic highways.
Yes, this is a noble profession. And we are the lowliest of nobles.
We are the knights of our communities, and our country.
Fellow Knight – I salute you.
Dan Cincinnatus | Instructor/Staff Writer