Notable Speech 

Nobility of Our Profession

By Paul O’Connell, M.S., J.D.  
A close-up of a police officer's badge.

Tonight I would like to start by saluting the families and friends of our graduates. Your support and encouragement have allowed for this day and these dreams to come true. Never doubt that when these graduates look back on this day, they will see and remember you and the strength you gave them to move forward through this challenging process.

To our graduates, please accept my sincere congratulations on your successful completion of this initial phase of your law enforcement career. Each of you has become one of the few to survive an arduous process, and you should take pride that you now wear the uniform of a law enforcement officer. Wear it with pride in and passion for the profession that you are joining.

Did you notice the wording I just used? I said “initial phase.” Indeed, you have completed only the first step in your career. Many more await you. As one example, over the next few months, you will participate in a very challenging field training process, during which you will be exposed to a variety of procedural and technological tasks. Keep an open mind, absorb like a sponge, and never be afraid to ask questions. I have every confidence that those with whom you are paired in this training process will share with you their knowledge and experience to ensure that you are ready to take command of your patrol car and patrol duties.

I hope that your career choice will be as it has been for me—a lifelong commitment. In my short time with you tonight, I would like to share three expectations that our community has for all of us who wear the uniform of a law enforcement officer. If you understand and adhere to these expectations, your journey through this profession will prove successful.

Have integrity. This is important because it forms the very bedrock of people and their standing in the community in which they live and in the organization in which they serve. Integrity must rise above all else; without it, a person is like a voice without an audience.

Act with courage. Doing so is critical because this one character trait moves us forward in the right direction. In the face of adversity, courage will aid us in making the right decision, even when we stand alone. Never fear adversity. Life experiences teach us that we should embrace adversity because it produces endurance and patience, which, in turn, create true character that is steadfast and resolute. Courage in the face of adversity is a character trait that will pass the test of time and guide each of us along our journey through life.

Serve others. I remind you that a career in law enforcement is not about self-enrichment as measured in a paycheck. It is about self-fulfillment as measured in one’s soul. This career entails being committed to the community and its citizens. Winston Churchill once stated, “Making a living is what you get; making a life is what you give.” That expression defines our profession.

Chief O’Connell of the Wilton Manors, Florida, Police Department delivered a speech to the 283rd session of the Broward County Police Academy on September 19, 2012.
Chief O’Connell of the Wilton Manors, Florida, Police Department delivered this speech to the 283rd session of the Broward County Police Academy on September 19, 2012.

If you have entered this profession for pay and benefits, I promise you this: You never will be happy. However, if you have entered because of your commitment to making a difference, I guarantee that you always will be challenged, you always will be rewarded for the work that you do in service to your community, and your life will have a special meaning beyond measure.

That is what the law enforcement life is about—facing the challenges. The challenges of an officer are much greater than those of other professions. In the life of a law enforcement officer, you constantly will swim against the tide. But, you never will swim alone. In the life of a law enforcement officer, you constantly will be second-guessed. However, you always will have a backup. These are some of the challenges you will face going forward. But, we will face these challenges together.

Regardless of the color of the uniform you wear or the shape of the shield you pin to your chest, I urge you to perform with honor. Know that your reward is the joy you receive in making a positive impact on the lives of those you meet along your journey—one that commences tonight. Always remember that the nobility of our profession can be found not just in what we do but why we do it and, most important, how we do it. We do it with honor.

Class, tonight you will go 10-8, and here is my charge to you. I urge you to patrol with passion, drive with care, and always know that you now are part of a special team with three fundamental and common goals: See wrong and try to make it right, see suffering and try to heal it, and, for all of us, make it home safely at the end of our shift. God bless each of you and keep you safe.