What Is a Law Enforcement Professional?
Since the modern era of policing began nearly 200 years ago, law enforcement as a profession has been continually
evolving. Advancements have been made in the many aspects of policing, such as mobility, communications, and
policing strategies, but the fundamental concepts of persons entering this profession have never changed. Integrity,
character, and a desire to safeguard the community must be in the heart of every individual who wears a badge.
Law enforcement is one of the few professions that require an oath of office as a matter of law. We all took
this oath—we made a solemn promise to faithfully and diligently carry out our duties and, to the best of our
abilities, preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States and of the state
in which we serve. Do you still mean it today? Are you doing your job to the best of your ability?
Think back. Do you remember that day? The day that you raised your hand? The day that badge was
pinned on your uniform? Do you remember the feelings you had and the thoughts that went through your mind as
all of your hard work and determination came to fruition? A sense of noble pride, a sense of humility as you
joined the ranks of the “thin blue line.” When we took our oaths, we accepted a great responsibility.
We committed to carry out our duties to the best of our abilities. What was your mind-set on that day that you
said the words “to the best of my ability”? You raised your hand in front of your family, friends,
and fellow officers. Do you remember those feelings? Do you remember that pride? Do you remember the
promise that you made to carry out your duties to the best of your ability—which means striving to reach your
potential through this profession—being the best that you can be?
Men and women join the ranks of law enforcement for various reasons. Some join to make a difference, some to
help others, and still others for the rewarding opportunities and daily challenges offered by a career in law enforcement.
Many of you would admit that you were “called” to this profession, while others would admit that you just needed
a job. There is a distinct difference between those of us who treat our commitments as merely jobs and those who treat
the commitments as a profession.
Officers should treat law enforcement as a profession and strive to be lifelong learners. Just as lawyers and doctors
must keep up with new laws and medical advances, so too must officers stay knowledgeable about the many changes and advances
in law enforcement. Officers who maintain the lifelong-learning mind-set view continual training as a means to maintain
and advance their skills, expertise, and safety awareness. These officers are not just going through the motions,
completing mandatory training hours—they are advancing their profession. These officers not only apply current
training and best practices, such as proper use of bullet-resistant vests, but promote these practices to other officers.
They see the necessity to stay current on interpretations of constitutional law, the adoption of new laws and the repeal of
old laws, departmental policies, and community objectives; moreover, seasoned law enforcement professionals consider it their
duty to mentor their younger counterparts.
Law enforcement professionals strive to meet their own high expectations and those of the community. Every officer who
takes the oath has a perception of what the job will entail and what kind of officer he or she will be, but the community
also has a perception of a law enforcement officer’s job and how officers should fulfill their oaths. Law enforcement
professionals strive to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, whether observation comes from personal introspection
or through the eyes of the community.
Are you, as a law enforcement officer, going through the motions and treating your profession as just a job? Or are you a law enforcement professional?
To all law enforcement—to all in this noble profession—we thank you for all that you do to keep our communities safe.