Prior to being elected to the Concord City Council I was a Critical Response Chaplain with our police department, a position I continue to fill in addition to my service on the council.
This experience has given me an insight and appreciation for the depth of commitment required to perform public safety functions to give us a safe city. I am proud of the men and women who have selected a career in law enforcement and serve our city.
I am also proud of all of our city employees, those who repair our roads, plan our housing developments, inspect buildings to ensure code compliance, provide for our recreational needs, and more, but today I want to focus on what I have observed in my capacity as a Critical Response Chaplain with the police department.
The phrase "critical response" provides the clue that this is not your normal, day-to-day activity. The nature of maintaining the public safety involves being present when bad things are happening. There is a message in labeling those who police our cities as being the "thin blue line."
In Concord, for example, we have 149 sworn officers, 50 non-sworn personnel, and more than 100 volunteers who support police services. Their area of operations is 30 square miles, inhabited by 125,000 people.
We are deeply indebted to our volunteers who serve faithfully and save our city tens of thousands of dollars. The job could not be done without them.
Our police officers play a unique role in our society because they're entrusted with considerable power, such as the powers of arrest and use of force, while remaining locally controlled.
They also must continue to improve their skills in a high-tech world which increases training requirement levels. Because of this training, many criminals who would have escaped arrest and prosecution just a few years ago are regularly tracked down today with amazing skill. Law enforcement has earned the professional career status it enjoys.
The daily 24-hour workload of the police department is divided into shifts. Each shift begins with a briefing, recapping recent criminal activity and discussing proposed strategies designed to mitigate potential criminal activities. There is an obvious quasi-military aspect to these briefings.
Going out on patrol can be hazardous. I've noticed the use of banter and slight jesting that goes on among personnel receiving the briefing. It seems to energize those about to face whatever adverse behavior may arise.
Police officers tell me that one of the most difficult situations can be what is termed a "domestic dispute." A call comes into the dispatcher that people are fighting or a person is being physically abused in a household.
The officer going to the home has no idea if those inside are armed, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, mentally incapacitated, or if there are other contributing factors. This is a time when Mother Nature provides a boost to one's adrenal system.
Crowd control is another difficult situation. Officers responding to a robbery, fight inside a business establishment, or even a traffic accident, have to display a level of judgment far above what is normally expected. I'm told that in many cases the initial story rarely aligns with the facts once the full investigation is completed.
As a police chaplain, I have also observed that not all police officers are alike. They differ in background, personality, experience, attitudes, behavior on the job, qualifications and interests. Collectively they are referred to as the police, but the occupational demands placed on any one officer differ from those placed on another.
There is no one type of police work. A division of labor or occupational specialization exists in police work, just as it does in most other work organizations. Some police go to work in automobiles, others ride bicycles, walk around school campuses or move gently through concert crowds. They patrol the downtown area, Todos Santos Plaza, or sit behind a desk as a crime-scene technician.
We need to remember we are dealing with a diverse group of people that share a common occupational responsibility: the enforcement of laws and the preservation of domestic order.
I feel special being afforded the opportunity of spending significant time with these dedicated and committed individuals. Concord can be very proud of those who man our "thin blue line."
Tim Grayson is the mayor of Concord. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.