Your Choice

As a cop you can't be a victim of the negativity that surrounds us

By Scott Hughes  |   Jan 22, 2016
Photo Courtesy St. Louis Police Foundation

“We can’t change the past … It’s water under the bridge.”

Ever heard something to that effect? Well, guess what? It’s true! And those of us in law enforcement need to abide the wisdom those words impart, especially now.

There’s nothing we can do to change how we were portrayed in 2015: The media pundits who looked for every opportunity to demonize us; the political figureheads who were trying to make a name for themselves by jumping on the anti-police bandwagons; those who made false accusations, and flat out lies, certainly affected our collective psyche.

But we already knew how hard this profession was going to be. Even before all these distractions, we knew this was a challenging career and not for the faint of heart. At this point we can assume that public perception of police will continue to be a challenge.

However, as professionals, we have to be committed to move forward and remember why we chose this profession. As my fellow Calibre Press Instructor Lt. Kelly Devoll wrote last year: “I am willing to put my life in jeopardy to protect the citizens without hesitation, as are all the men and women of this department. It’s not the pay that brings us back every day. It’s sure not the prestige that calls us into action.”

This was evidenced by San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Det. Jorge Lozano last month when he told a group of people scared beyond description as the terrorists were still in the vicinity: “I’ll take a bullet before you do, that’s for damn sure.”

I know that there are certainly some of you who have lost the drive you once had. It’s only natural. Every career takes its toll on people, and that’s just how it goes.

But we aren’t just in any profession. We are police officers. We took an oath, and we love our profession. I’ll say it again: We love our profession!

Even some of the most disgruntled, angry, negative people in your agency still love being a police officer. They may not admit it, but most still enjoy being part of it all.

Last month, my agency, along with many others across the country, spread holiday cheer in a variety of ways: handing out money to unsuspecting motorists, participating in shop-with-a-cop events, buying toys for needy families and spending time cooking food for the less fortunate. We weren’t forced to do these things. It’s in our nature. We have, as police officers, an opportunity to give back to the communities we serve–a reminder of the real reason why we entered this profession.

The fact is you choose how you feel every day. It truly is a choice. If it isn’t, you’re a victim. Victims have no control.

So make the choice. You can whine and complain, arriving to work each day with a negative attitude. You can surround yourself with negative people who will drain you on and off the job.

Or: You can choose to be the positive trendsetter that radiates affirmative vibes throughout the department and the community.

Again, your choice.

So make a decision. What and who will you be in 2016? Your life and others’ may depend on it.

Happy New Year.

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Chief Hughes holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Charleston and is a graduate of The Supervisor Training and Education program as well as The Police Executive Leadership College. Scott is also a graduate of the 133rd FBI-LEEDA Command Institute and is a certified Law Enforcement Executive (CLEE). Chief Hughes is an active member of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police where he serves on the education committee.