The Badge of Trust
By John L. Gray
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in my office on a beautiful, calm Friday afternoon. Like all good chiefs and sheriffs, I was trying to come up with a plausible excuse to skate out of the office and start the weekend a little early. But, my scheming was interrupted when a secretary buzzed the intercom and said that the academy director was on line three. My first reaction was to chuckle and say, “OK—who is it really?” To my horror, she replied, “I’m serious. It’s the director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), and she wants to speak with you.”
Now, I do not care how long you have been in law enforcement in Iowa or what position you hold in your agency. If you are a graduate of ILEA and suddenly learn that the director is on the line, well, it can certainly give you pause. I would describe my reaction like that of a parolee who hears the warden unexpectedly knocking at the front door.
I have two officers in the 222nd basic class, so I thought that maybe one of them had been hurt. That has happened before. Or, maybe they both were in some kind of trouble. Maybe they were together on the driving course and lost control, and the car crashed through the wall of the administrative wing of the academy. Are they all sitting together in the director’s office—my two guys, the director, and the car? And, maybe it is really dusty and smoky in there with a funny smell in the air. Well, whatever was going on, I had no choice; I had to take the call.
As it turned out, Director Westfall simply wanted to invite me to speak at your graduation ceremony. So, thank you Director Westfall; members of the academy staff; the academy council; and the 222nd basic class for allowing me to be here today. I will try to make the next few minutes very simple as I direct my remarks to Iowa’s newest fleet of peace officers. I will quote one scripture from the Bible, read one sentence from a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and tell one story.
Ecclesiastes, chapter one, verse nine reads, “What has been is what will be; and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” There is nothing new under the sun. You will see the accuracy of that scripture today because whatever thoughts I share with you here will be things that you already know. But, I hope to help you remember and prioritize some of those things, move them around to, perhaps, a more prominent place in your mind because keeping ideals, principles, and goals foremost in your thoughts will guide you to become the peace officers you want to be and the peace officers we want you to be.
First, I will remind you that life is lived minute by minute, and it changes at that same pace. Unexpected illness, shocking news of the death of a loved one or someone you know, tornados, flooding—who could have imagined several weeks ago that a little town called Parkersburg would suffer such awful devastation from a tornado strike? Or, that shortly thereafter, so many of Iowa’s cities and towns would be under inches and, eventually, feet of water? Places like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Oakville, Mason City, Waterloo, Elkader, and the list goes on. Some of you probably are from these places or have family or friends there. Whether we have direct ties to these communities or not, we all mourn the loss of life, property, businesses, and, most of all, normalcy because of a life that happens minute by minute.