Duty in the face of difficulty is still duty.
And men and women of honor do their duty.
That is my reminder to the officers of the Rochester Police Department. You are wading through hell, but how you conduct yourself, and how you do your duty, is about you, and nothing else is relevant.
Certainly, it is a perfect storm of discord and dysfunction.
The mayor is a crook, the chief is an incompetent, the union is missing in action, you are awash in a sea of hatred fomented by lying and scheming activists, pastors, professors and reporters. Every call, every contact, every time you get out of the cruiser, your career and your life can be in jeopardy. Everybody with a cell phone wants to provoke you into their viral moment.
You are not seen as a human being, but as a role player, the scapegoat, in a society at war with itself – a society at war with you, and the law and order and decency for which you stand.
To say that the community spits on you is not to use a figure of speech.
And you know better than anyone else that you hear far more “fuck yous” than “thank yous.”
And all of that can be discouraging and dispiriting. It can be hurtful and hateful. It can affect you emotionally and psychologically. It can drive you to tears and rage.
And it can tempt you to abandon your duty.
It can tempt you to dishonor yourself and your badge.
It can tempt you to do less than your best, to give less than your all.
Don’t let that happen. Don’t let the weakness of others induce weakness in you. The fact that others fail in their roles is in no way a justification for you to fail in your role. When you begin your tour, it’s not about the marchers or the mayor or the chief or anybody else, it’s about you. Their conduct is on them, your conduct is on you.
You’re the one who swore the oath, you’re the one who made the promise.
To God, to your family, to the people, to the state, to the heroes on your left and right. To every man and woman, living or dead, who ever did or ever will wear the badge you chose to pin on.
It’s your duty. And you’re the one who has to live with your conscience. You’re the one who knows whether or not your service was honorable – and honor lies not in what you are asked to do, but how you do what you are asked to do.
Right there on your chest they put your family name and your badge, and each day you’ve got to answer to yourself and to your God whether or not your actions reflected honorably on your family and on your brothers and sisters in the department. Did you live up to your family name? Did you live up to that badge?
Don’t let the failures of city government or society at large lead you to failures of your own.
You didn’t swear an oath to a union contract, you swore to protect and serve everyone, at any time, in every situation. You didn’t sign up to sit on your ass or hang back when you were needed, you signed up to be Superman, to be different, to be a force for good in a world of evil.
Never let them take that clarity away from you. Never let them turn you into one of them. Never give credence to their insults against you and your profession.
Never forget that you are not called to treat people the way they treat you, you are called to treat them the way you would want to be treated. Though they wallow in filth, still you must hold aloft the light of truth and right. You can’t blame your compromises of duty on the mayor or the brass or the activists.
Rather, in this season of adversity, as the storms of evil blow all around you, you must be better, not worse. These must be your best days of service, not worst. You must be strong, not weak. In the face of lies about your profession, you must show forth truth.
And you must lean into your duties. You must do them more faithfully, not less. These must be your best days.
You must never leave a firefighter or a medic wondering where their backup is. You must never adopt a lackadaisical attitude about responding to calls or interdicting the violation of law. When the clerk phones from the store, you go, you get out, you make things right. When the son is missing or the daughter is high, when the grandmother is afraid, when the shots are fired and there’s a hole in the wall, you go, you keep the oath, you ride for the brand, you honor the badge, you do what you swore to do.
Period. No exceptions.
And in this year of deadly violence, though the mayor and the chief may do nothing but lie for the cameras, you, in your small way, must do everything you can, proactively, to save life. Others have created this swamp of sorrow and death, their attacks upon decency and upon you, their evil decriminalization of crime, their fomenting of hatred and anger, their fists in the air, you are the only defense. The only resistance. The only hope.
We need you in the game. One-hundred percent. All day, every day, every call. You are in battle, and you can’t retreat, because you are our only hope. But that’s ok, because that’s what you chose, that’s what you promised, and because inside you know that’s what you were born for.
And nothing must get in the way of that.
Because you don’t work for Lovely, you work for God.
And he needs you to do your duty.