Gray Matters: Thank you police officers

Dear Police Officer,

You don’t know me but this conversation is long overdue. I’m a guy who normally tries to avoid you and hits the brakes whenever I see you sitting on the highway median or hiding around the bend of some remote road. I’m not proud to say I’ve mumbled stuff under my breath as if the only reason you put on the uniform today was to come give me a ticket. I see you in line at the convenience store and notice the patch on your shoulder or gun on your hip and give little thought to the responsibility that comes with wearing both. If we make eye contact I may give you a half smile or “hey” as you pass by but we never really talk. The truth is I barely think about you at all and I should. The truth is I’m an idiot.

I know this now as I watch the news and see so many of you being assassinated. Yeah I didn’t use the word “killed” because that’s not strong enough. When you show up for work to protect people who are holding a protest against you, people shouting nasty things toward you.. when you protect those people and get shot by a cowardly sniper, that’s being assassinated. When you hear a radio call of a man dressed head to toe in black, wearing a mask and carrying an assault rifle and you run toward that man, when you run into the gunfire, that’s courage I couldn’t begin to understand.
You risk your life 40 plus hours a week for a meager salary and benefits. You are not rich and never will be even though the work you are required to do should reap incredible rewards. You are forced to see things on your job that change you and not always in a good way. I don’t have to roll up on a head-on collision and see pieces of people splattered across a dashboard. I don’t have to knock on someone’s door and tell them their child just died in that crash. I don’t have to walk up on a dark car at night, put my hand gingerly on my gun belt and hope the person behind the tinted windows doesn’t mean me harm. You do those things and not just because “it’s the job.” You do them for me so I’ll be safe. You do them for me so I don’t have to be the one to grab a broom and dustpan and sweep up the worst that humanity dishes out. You do a lot for me and I don’t even know your name.
So I wanted to say a very public thank you. And I’m sorry for what is happening right now in this country and the nasty things that are being said about you as if when one officer makes a horrible mistake somewhere he or she is representing every police officer. We don’t do that with any other profession but we do it to you and it’s not fair.

So thank you for being there for me. Thank you for stepping forward to make society better while the rest of us take a big step back preferring the safety of the sidelines. Thank you for getting up tomorrow and putting on a uniform that is starting to look like and feel a target on your back. And thank you to your families who must toss and turn with worry every sleepless night. Especially lately.

Please know the vast majority of us respect and appreciate you. I know we haven’t always said it but I’m saying for us right now. Thank you and God Bless you.

– John Gray

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