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P1 First Person: A devotional reading dedicated to the patrol officer

Editor’s Note: Police1 recently launched a new series, “First Person,” where P1 columnists and members candidly share their own unique cop’s-eye-view of the world, from personal insights on issues confronting cops today to observations and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. This week’s feature is from Police1 Columnist Joel Shults. Dr. Shults presently serves with the Adams State College Police in Colorado. Do you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members? Email us your short article.

Just remember me. I may not have my name engraved on a memorial wall or be saluted once a year with misty eyes and trumpets played. I don’t want to compete for glory or take away anything from those whose last heart beat was beneath a badge stilled at their last breath or lovingly adorned before they are laid to rest. Remember me in the glow of the patrol car’s console as I bumped through alleys on a quiet midnight shift, balancing a cup of coffee.


By Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.
Chief of Police, Adams State College, Alamosa, Co.

Part of me is glad for the quiet respite from the back-to-back demands of dispatch. Part of me wishes something would happen because I’m wired for those adrenaline infusions that keep my soul alive. From some subliminal habit my mind balances a practiced calm against the constant scanning of my senses. A thousand cues are processed as sounds or silence, shades of shadow, and reflections of light keep every atom at attention. I am ready to chase, ready to retreat, ready to rescue. To the happily ignorant observer I’m a dulled door shaker just waiting for the donut shop to open. But remember me as the warrior who, while my family and yours slept warmly, shared the darkness with the evil I was quietly hunting.

Just remember me. I may not have a war story of dodging a hail of bullets. Not many of us do. Remember that I was willing—why else would I wrap my torso in Kevlar every day? My life is a walk among weapons. Guns and knives are plenty, but I see the ball point pen, the cell phone, the ashtray, the boot, the mini-van all poised for a kill. Just to go to work requires attaching tools of destruction to my body, itself a weapon and shield. An officer of peace adorned with a half dozen ways to kill, inflict pain, and subdue. This same one who proudly assured those who hired him that he wanted to be a police officer to help people now heavy hearted that victory often means another man in chains. Remember me as a tormented crusader for all that is good, tainted by all that is not.

Just remember me. I may not show you my scars. I may not be among the many of my fellow warriors disabled by distress, but I am touched by their early deaths, their PTSD, their failed families, their addictions, and their bitterness. Remember that I could still smile and be quick with a joke and enjoy a good conversation. But know that I was always fighting pain. I cannot have pure grief for a fallen comrade at a police officer’s funeral without weeping for my own mortality. I cannot shake the reality that death is my constant companion. I cannot enjoy the luxury of looking at my own delightful children without thinking of the dead and broken ones. It is a discipline to sit down and eat a meal soon after binding up the wounds that left skin and blood on the asphalt, to touch a loved one in a loving way after you’ve touched the dead. Remember me as one who carried on with life surrounded by reminders of its brevity.

Just remember me. I may not have as many enemies as I imagined, but it was not because I watched too many cop shows that I always had my eye on the door in the restaurant and I never carried anything in my gun hand. Nobody knew that I was calculating my odds on being able to take on anybody in the room, that I was looking for snipers and pickpockets at the ball game, that I was always a little disappointed that there was not a robbery in progress when I went to the bank to cash a check, and that while I was singing hymns in church I was scouting trajectories to minimize crossfire just in case. Remember that I was 24/7 even when I didn’t want to be.

Just remember. It is what I tell myself. If I don’t celebrate my walk in this life I may, in my current comfort, forget the others still on the front lines of the ongoing battle. I mostly sit at a desk now. I have finally aged into my premature gray hair. My fingers are on business cards and laptop keyboards much more often than on Miranda cards and handcuffs these days. But I must remember the midnights. God forbid that I lay my head on my pillow and forget the men and women watching over the night to own it for me. Shame to me if I drive the highways and fail to remember why they are smooth and safe, or go to the voting booth and fail to appreciate why it is such an easy exercise in this nation. May I never leave a prayer unsaid for a siren sounding in the distance. I must not forget that nearly every block and section of the land tells a story of when a hero was there. They are my brothers and sisters whose hearts have beat beneath a badge. I am proud of them.

I remember.

The contents of First Person essays solely reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Police1 or its staff. First Person essays shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Reference to any specific commercial products, process, or service by name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply any endorsement or recommendation. To submit a First Person essay, follow the instructions on the Police1 Article Guidelines for Authors page.