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Boston bombings: 6 things cops know that most Americans don’t

I do not want to be counted among the journalists who — in the necessary chatter of avoiding dead air — weave a thousand speculative stories. But in the wake of the events in Boston last week, here are some observations I offer after nearly four decades in the business.

1.) There is evil in the world.
We can scramble for meaning and theories and existential answers but you don’t have to be a believer in the supernatural to see that some people just want to kill and destroy. Many commentators and reporters centered on the theme of why a person everyone describes as a nice, normal guy could do this.

Study it all you want my friends. No one is immune from the influence of wickedness.

2.) This is why we have seen the militarization of the police.
This week’s events will not silence those who say that SWAT tactics and “military grade weapons” are not appropriate for civilian policing, but it will mute them for a while.

Guess what: you want us to deal with bombers and mass murder? Then give us those tools.

3.) Facts and theories are golden. Conjecture is foolishness.
We don’t try to keep the public in the dark. We just can’t play “expert commentator” and throw out a bunch of possible scenarios.

We deal in evidence. Facts. Rational probabilities.

Trust us and don’t blame us for silence or misinformation. We’ll tell you what is appropriate to be shared at an appropriate time.

4.) Cops are not omniscient or omnipresent. We work within the laws of physics.
The cheers after Tsarnaev’s arrest were preceded by impatient questions of how he had gotten away from “all those cops.”

If we could recruit officers with psychic powers we would.

5.) The applause will fade.
We’ll bask in appreciation while we can, but the next police officer who is murdered will not make CNN headlines.

Jesus was welcomed with shouts of adoration not many days before the crowds turned and called for his crucifixion.

Maybe you won’t forget, but you probably will.

6.) This is what we face every day. Every. Day.
Shootouts with murderers? Well, not many of us have, but all of us are standing in line and ready for it.

You can say, “I’m out of harm’s way because I’m not in a war zone” but if shooters and bombers have taught us anything it is that they can strike anywhere, anytime.

I can’t think of any warrior cop that I know that would have hesitated one minute to go to Boston if called or who thinks that kind of thing couldn’t happen in their patrol area.

Joel Shults retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.