A life in law enforcement is not easy. It is a unique job that requires unique individuals. Our primary mission is to prevent loss of life, injuries, and property damage. An officer can’t just say someone else will “take care of it.” We are the “people” who you call for help.
Officers do things every day which, if it was done by anyone else, would make the news, if not earn some kind of public service award.
OK, I know, I am standing pretty high on the soap box and most officers would never want that kind of formal recognition. How do you reward an officer for putting their lives on the line every day? You can’t. That kind of reward has to come from within.
In California Highway Patrol policy, there is the acronym CHP PRIDE. It stands for Courage, Honesty, Professionalism, Principles, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Esprit de Corps. CHP PRIDE is the foundation upon which the CHP is built. All CHP employees, regardless of rank, classification, position, or assignment, review this acronym when they join the CHP, whenever they transfer to a new command, and during their annual evaluation.
Asking employees to build this acronym into their personality is something you cannot buy; it is built with honor and traditions. The CHP is a paramilitary organization for many reasons, but we only need to glance at any of our armed services to see their efforts in establishing similar goals for their “employees.” It’s CHP PRIDE that keeps an officer going after 20-plus years of service, when things might be tough at home, or when tragedy strikes.
Next week is National Police Memorial Week. All across this great nation there will be ceremonies honoring all officers who have fallen in the line of duty. At the CHP Academy in West Sacramento, hundreds will gather at the Memorial Fountain to honor those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. The memorial was built in 1979 under the guidance of then Commissioner Glenn Craig. Currently, the fountain has 225 names affixed to it with brass plaques. Those plaques are polished weekly by CHP cadets, to help them understand CHP PRIDE.
This year’s ceremony at the CHP Academy will specifically honor Officers Brian Law and Juan Gonzalez, the only two CHP officers to fall in the line of duty in 2014. They were killed responding to a reported crash on Highway 99 near Selma.
Much of the service would be familiar to military veterans. Taps is played on a trumpet, “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, and a bell is rung to signify the “End of Watch.” In naval traditions, a “watch” was four hours and a bell is rung every half hour of the watch. Military ceremonies ring a bell eight times to signify a fallen veteran’s end of watch. The CHP rings the bell seven times, one for each point of the badge we are given when we become officers. There is an honor guard firing three volleys from rifles and finally comes the airship fly over in the “missing man” formation.
All these ceremonies help link officers and their families together, providing a bond beyond friendship. I have said this before, but in my 14 years on patrol, the names of 30 CHP officers have been added to the fountain.
These traditions are vital. All officers, current and future, understand they are not just doing a “job,” they are going above and beyond to protect and serve. The officer’s family needs to know this, too. That is why honoring the fallen goes to the core of CHP PRIDE. We honor their courage and dedication while showing our respect and esprit de corps.
The Fresno County Peace Officers’ Memorial wall is prominently displayed in Fresno County Courthouse Park. There will be a ceremony which will include much of the traditions we hold dear, and I would ask anyone who is able to attend on Thursday at noon. If you don’t live in the Fresno area, please contact your local police department and ask if there is a local memorial you could attend.
Join us! After all, the officers to be honored are your officers. When it comes down to it, we are public employees, chosen and entrusted by the citizens of California to protect and serve. You, me … we are all on the same team.