To Be Your Own Cornerman

Or: A Rocky start ...

By David Magnusson  |   Sep 10, 2018
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lara Davis.

I start off with a quote from Sylvester Stallone. No, not, “Yo, Adrian.” And surely not, “Absolutely.” Rather, I start this article with something rather profound,

“If you think people are inherently good, you get rid of the police for 24 hours. See what happens.”

Yes, Sylvester Stallone said that.

I got to meet him when he lived in Miami for a while. The Miami Police Department served the area he resided in. He’s a gentleman. I was honored to meet him. By the way, I would add, he is the consummate professional. Now, the words I quoted above were not spoken to me. But they very well could have been. Law enforcement catches a lot of grief with naysayers attacking their every move. That is not to say that some criticism isn’t warranted. It most certainly is. Law enforcement can (and often is) its own worst enemy. Still, we must heed the words of Stallone.

We, law enforcement, must internalize the fact that even the most hardened criminals dial 911 and expect quick, professional service in the time(s) of need. Suffice it to say, we are on everyone’s Rolodex (I am old enough to know what that is). Yes, get rid of the police for merely one day, and see how the anarchist cream will rise to the top of coffee mug. Certainly there are more good than bad. But the good are often that silent majority. But what good is that if we don’t stand up for what’s right and correct what needs correcting?

An Apollo Creed Approach

Knowing that things would go astray in many areas should police just go away, even if for 24 hours—which is the main reason why police cannot strike—then we must act as Apollo Creed did in the original Rocky movie. (You know, the one that won the Academy Award for the Best Picture in 1976.) What does that mean? Creed was in great shape. He looked sharp as heck. He trained hard. He was engaged in all facets of his career, including and especially the business aspect. He knew people came to see the best and he was going to give it to them. Fact is, people demanded the most from the champion. He gave it to them. Creed’s eventual downfall was his arrogance. Cops must avoid that trap.

Citizens demand the most from us. We need to give it to them. We need to be held in the same esteem that Apollo Creed was held in and later Rocky Balboa, and ultimately both of them.

We are champions—champions of a civilized society. If we mail in our training, if we take a dive, that once-civilized society becomes a bit more fractured.

Don’t Sip the “T”

Some things look really good out of the chute despite our initial disdain for it. Clubber Lang (AKA, Mr. T) was knocking out people left and right. He was Tyson, years before Tyson. But unlike Tyson, I always found it interesting that he didn’t care who rooted for him or not. He was a wrecking machine, to paraphrase “Mick.”

Clubber could tell Adrian that he wanted to show her what a real man is like. But he had one terrific flaw that all boxers must avoid like the plague. It’s the same flaw that can destroy cops. Clubber Lang thought he was invincible. No one is. One can never stand on past accomplishments hoping that is enough to get them by in the present. That is a recipe for failure!

Coming Full Circle

So as we return to Mr. Stallone’s quote, we need ask, “What can we learn from these words?” I mean, they do seem pretty straightforward. Here’s what we can learn: We, in law enforcement, must know that nothing good would ever happen if the police were not there. But here’s where I veer off a bit.

Of course, in the physical sense, we will always be there. We must be engaged. We must remain beyond reproach, standing at the highest levels of professionalism. We must give a damn about everything that happens, good or bad, in our assigned areas of responsibility. It is important to realize this for if we mail it in, if we bring anything less than our “A” game, it’s like we don’t exist in the eyes of many. And, I think we already established what would take place if and when that happens.

Being a cop means a hell of a lot more than throwing on a uniform, strapping on a firearm and badge, and going through the well-trained motions. But you and I already knew that. Hence, Rocky has nothing to worry about.

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David Magnusson

David Magnusson

Magnusson is retired as the chief of Havelock (N.C.) Police Department. He spent 30 years with the Miami Police Department, retiring there as a major. He is a graduate of American Military University with a Master's in Military history. Chief Magnusson also boxed as an amateur for twenty-six years.
David Magnusson

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