I don’t normally write these kinds of letters but with all the different things I have seen posted on social media lately, I am compelled to share my thoughts. Thoughts on what you might be asking. Well, I am going to do my best to explain.
I have seen quite a few posts on Facebook lately that involve our local law enforcement. Now while I can’t tell you that any of your opinions are wrong (they are yours and therefore not up for debate), many of them have caused me to have mixed feelings on how to address my own thoughts. I have seen things about CCSO taking over and pros and cons to that, I have seen posts about how our officers should be married to hold the badge or that they should not visit certain local establishments on their time off because it looks bad. There have been many about how bad this community has gotten compared to others and how our local FPD is corrupt or not doing enough to stop the thefts and drug activity. I have seen a few (although not many) positive posts thanking officers for patrolling through some areas during late hours and making them feel safer.
All of these things have caused me to really look at my own opinions harder. As a police cadet advisor, a volunteer EMT and a community coalition coordinator, I have worked closely with FPD for the past three or four years and I have seen it change both for good and bad over the years. The one thing that stands out right away for me is that with all the negative comments that are being put out there, we are overlooking some positives.
I won’t speak for everyone (although I know I’m not alone) when I say that officers of the law, no matter what agency you work for, are held to a higher standard. We expect the officer to at least follow the law they are enforcing. We also expect them to have a higher moral standard than most of us. Yes, I am one of the “we” of which I speak. I believe to be taken seriously in any job you do, you must first practice what you preach. We live in a small town and our actions reach the ears of many before we even finish them at times. For our local law enforcement personnel, this means that they must act as if they are wearing the badge even when not in uniform.
What I would like to point out is that yes, while we have had some officers that have not earned the respect of the badge they wear due to their actions, there are those officers who have earned it on a daily basis. In the past as well as right now we have officers that “live up to the badge” both in and out of uniform. To those officers, I want to say “Thank you! Your actions have not gone unnoticed!”
Lately, the posts I have seen have lumped all of FPD with the actions of a few. In a small town, we all know everyone and seem to know everyone else’s business as well. So if that is the case, why do we not see those who are doing right? Why is the whole being judged by the actions of a few?
While short staffed at the moment, our FPD is doing the best they can with what they have. I also believe that the handful that are “holding down the fort” at the moment have the best of intentions. These officers truly have their hearts in the right place and believe in what they do. They are still putting on the uniform every day to serve and protect the community they live in and hoping they are making it a better place to live.
Even when their department standards and effectiveness come into question, they get up, put on the uniform and come to work. I can only imagine that some days this may not be an easy decision. Still, they do it anyway. I find that action to be worthy of another “Thank you! Thank you for not giving up on our community even when there are days it may feel like they have given up on you.”
I truly love this community and how at times of need it comes together to help one of its own! I have gone to other places and bragged about Forks because of that fact alone. It really is a great place despite the drug activity that rears its ugly head. I have many family members and a handful of great friends here. This gives me many choices on a Friday night when I want to “hang out” with people and don’t want to be at home. It also gives me more choices as to where I go.
For those who move into the community and do not have these kinds of ties, however, their choices are limited. We don’t have many places to go to just meet new people. There is a lot to do if you have someone who knows the area, but to find that “someone” and make new friends where do you go?
I have heard criticism from some because they have seen our local officers at the bar in town — the one place we have where people can go mingle. It is just my opinion but why is this a problem? If the officers are off duty and conducting themselves in a proper manner, why is it an issue that they are there? Are they not people just like you and me? Are they not allowed to go out and be seen as normal citizens and not just a police officer?
I love to see our local officers out and about out of uniform mingling like the rest of us. They are a part of the community and should not be feared or alienated because of their chosen profession. Underneath the uniform, they are just like you and me. They like to laugh and have a good time. They like to go to games and local events and yes they like to have a night out once in a while with friends. Yes, one can go out and have a good time without compromising one’s integrity or causing disgrace to the uniform.
I will not speak much on the subject of CCSO taking over FPD because I feel like I need to gather more information on the subject before I can make an informed opinion. I do want to say that I believe we are lucky to have several officers from Clallam, Jefferson, Forks, La Push and the state that are wonderful to work with.
There are many who do the job because they believe in what they do. They do it because they believe they have a calling to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Most of them do not do this job for the “glory” of it but rather for how they feel inside when they go home and hang up the uniform.
To those officers, I want to again say, “Thank you for doing what most people won’t! Thank you for putting on the uniform and putting yourself in harm’s way for people like me. For choosing to go to work even when you are being criticized for doing your job. For standing up for others and having our backs. For the times you stand alone on the streets doing your best to be everywhere at once even though you know it’s not possible.
I know that most of you may hang up your uniform when you get home but you never hang up your vigilance. Some of you are never truly off duty and always are on alert to what is happening around you. You might hang up your uniform for the night but can never turn off the urge to protect those around you even if they are not family. I sincerely appreciate you and all you do for your community. Thank you!