It’s tough being a peace officer.
That’s right, a peace officer.
We call them law enforcement officers, police, cops, and flippant nicknames as well as ones that are derogatory.
But the bottom line is they are charged with keeping the peace.
Imagine a world where those that lack scruples, have no impulse control, those that prey on the elderly and young, are violence prone, thieves, think traffic laws don’t apply to them, are part of organized crime groups such as gangs and others had free range.
Now toss in the endless pounding from media, social and otherwise that anyone who has sworn to uphold the law and agrees to put their life on the line every day they report to work to protect and serve take.
Paraphrasing Kermit the Frog, it isn’t easy being blue.
Perhaps that is why 18 of the nearly 100 men and women who serve Manteca as police officers, community service officers, dispatchers, animal control officers and in other capacities with the Manteca Police Department were genuinely touched Tuesday night when the Manteca City Council presented them with a simple plaque that thanked the department as a whole for the excellent job they are doing for the people of Manteca.
I know, I know. Crime is rampant. The homeless are running from here to there. Idiots are driving down the road texting and reading stop signs as if they are “roll on through” signs.
But guess what: Crime isn’t rampant in Manteca based on crime per 1,000 residents the only true way to measure apples with apples. Crime has been declining as Manteca grows. That said, there’s not an officer among the 70 plus that serve and protect that won’t tell you one crime is one crime too many.
And say what you want about the homeless and there is a lot to say, but find another police agency that can match Manteca’s efforts to work to get help for the homeless that want it and address those that blatantly break laws. You can’t ever eliminate homeless problems just like you can’t eliminate crime. But you can make both better and that’s what every man and woman at the Manteca Police Department strive to do every day they report to work
What we forget is they are upholding the law. That means due process and rights are things they have to uphold. You may “know” there is a drug house in your neighborhood but officers have to make sure they build a case that passes muster and doesn’t violate the rights of suspects. Innocent until proven guilty is the way it works.
We always take note of the “exciting” stuff that police do whether it is chasing after suspects, making a big drug bust, or catching a burglar in the act.
Most of the stuff they do if it was made into a TV series would put most people to sleep.
Then there are the things they do that are under appreciated. They earn their “peace officer” moniker virtually every shift helping defuse everything from family tiffs to neighborhood quarrels.
And they do it knowing at any second a seemingly harmless situation can go south whether it is a traffic stop, responding to a domestic violence call or — as has happened elsewhere — simply minding their own business.
We ask a lot of peace officers. We spend a lot of time second guessing them.
No disrespect, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t happy or relieved when a firefighter shows up to a medical emergency or a fire. That’s not the case with a lot of people that peace officers come in contact with. People beating up other people aren’t happy to see them nor are most people they issue tickets to whether it is for a traffic violation or some other infraction.
It’s been said 90 percent of the people peace officers come in contact with during a shift aren’t having a great day. Toss in a few human grenades and stress becomes a way of life for a man or woman in law enforcement.
Even with all of the verbal abuse, the risking of their lives, and the constant microscope they are under they still look forward to coming to work to protect and serve you and me and 74,998 other Manteca residents. It takes a special person to answer such a calling.
Are they perfect? No. Are they infallible? No. Are they human? Yes.
But unlike most of us when they make a mistake there is hell to pay. It takes a lot of pressure to walk the line that they do. Life and death situations are made in seconds.
No officer I’ve ever known wants to go to work and have to draw their gun, grapple with a drug-crazed and out of-control suspect, or be shot or killed. They know the risks. They know the price. And they are willing to pay the price because from what they see day to day they know the risk to society and the innocent if they don’t take the risk.
They’re not perfect. But without peace officers we would quickly descend into the bottomless hell of anarchy and endless mayhem.
They are the peace keepers.
And we — just like the Manteca City Council — owe them our thanks.