It took nearly five decades for me to realize the lifelong calling that law enforcement had on me. At 46 years old, I became the oldest rookie officer anyone could remember.
I was once a congressional aide. I was a teacher. At the late age of 29, I became a seminarian. While I spread peace through my church congregation, I now also serve warrants and perform peacekeeping duties as a Pennsylvania state constable.
Law enforcement may seem like an anomaly in my career path, but in hindsight I cannot deny a constant and irresistible pull toward it throughout my life. I realize now that policing is central to my very being. After all, I am the son and brother of Washington, D.C. cops.
With National Police Week upon us, it makes me wonder if law enforcement is a vocation – similar to a priest or teacher.
Father Martin Eppard, one of my seminary professors, thinks so. He spent five years on the beat as an officer in Howard County, Maryland. He still serves as a police chaplain. “I believe that law enforcement is more than a career. I see it as a vocation and a calling,” Eppard told me. “It’s not indelible or ontological like the priesthood, but something deep in the soul of those called to it.”
Dr. Darrin Porcher, a retired New York City Police Department lieutenant who now teaches at Pace University, noted an increased penchant for policing among recruits as the profession evolved. As law enforcement become more formalized, more people began to recognize it as a special calling.
Porcher joined the NYPD after serving in the military. “I always believed that my attraction to the culture of policing was a calling like no other. Policing will never enable one to procure a financial fortune; however, fulfilling one’s calling is priceless,” he said. “As a sworn police officer, one can go from delivering a baby in the back seat of a patrol car en route to the hospital, and minutes later engage in a gunfight with a felon.”
“As a sworn police officer in the New York City Police Department, I’ve been assaulted, insulted and disrespected by the very citizens I was tasked to protect,” Porcher noted. “A series of peaks and valleys are experienced by police officers. However, based on answering my lifetime calling, I would never change a thing.”
As a constable, each day is starkly different. When I knock on a door to serve a warrant and make an arrest, I have no idea what’s on the other side. Someone you anticipate being difficult can often be surprisingly docile. Other times, you may let down your guard only to find you have a runner or a fighter on your hands.
The tragic recent assassination of two Gainesville County, Florida deputies as they ate lunch by a gunman who then killed himself proves the random danger of the job.“What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement to the extent that it has been demonized?” asked their boss, Sheriff Bobby Shultz III. “The only thing these men were guilty of was wanting to protect you and me.” So far this year, 24 officers have died in the line of duty.
But I’ll never regret my choice to wear the badge.
David Clarke, the former sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin – a high-profile member of the law enforcement community who has been talked about as a future political candidate – told me his reservations about making such a transition. He told me: “This is who I am. I have been doing this for 37 years. I hear it all the time. Run for this, or run for that. I didn’t get into the position I’m in now to get into elected politics. I am a cop at heart.”
After all these years, I understand. At mid-life, I now realize that I am also a cop at heart.
In addition to serving as a Pennsylvania state constable for the past two years, Council Nedd II – “America’s Constable” – is also a bishop in the Anglican Church and rector of St. Alban’s in Pine Grove Mills, Pennsylvania.
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