Lanterns: What I Learned At a Police Academy Graduation—And What You Should Know, Too


What I Learned At a Police Academy Graduation—And What You Should Know, Too

Boy, were we in for a ride.

“Wow, yeah, these are the Ferrari of dogs,” our vet said in reference to the energy level of the beautiful Border Collie he had just adopted. “You better find something for her to do, and fast!” he said.

We soon found out that Border Collies are real workers. They are high energy, crazy smart, and wonderfully loyal. Since Border Collies are bred to herd animals, unless you give them a task (in our dog Elsie’s case, it was a rubber Kong toy that she treated as her “herd”), they’ll herd anything from other pets to the family’s kids. When we gave Elsie her Kong, that thing became her “job” permanently. Seriously, God forbid if she ever lost that thing—because we’d never hear the end of it. The times that she did accidentally drop it down a vent or lose it in the grass, was like she had lost a child. It was her job to protect that thing and she didn’t stop until she got it back. That’s just how Border Collies are.

Elsie passed away a few years ago. Her fierce loyalty to her “job” was something I’ll never forget.

Fast forward many years and I’m sitting in an event hall in Texas watching a member of my family graduate from the police academy. I thought about Elsie as I listened to one of the academy’s instructors give a speech about how there are three kinds of people in society: the sheep, the wolves looking to get the sheep, and the sheepdogs who stand in their way. Police, as he put it, are those sheepdogs—sworn to stand on the line and stave off the wolves tirelessly and relentlessly.

“I wonder how many people really get this,” I questioned silently, my mind wandering as I thought about what my loved one was going to face. How easy it is to think of police as the annoyance that writes you a ticket for speeding, or the killjoy who breaks up the party, or worse—some kind of violent tyrant looking to exploit minorities.

Sadly, in society, that last one has become so common, thanks to leaders who refuse to truly decry the rising violence against police and the false rhetoric spewed by so much of our media, and armchair quarterbacks who think they understand it all.

Yes, yes, I get it. There are crooked cops. (I dare you: name for me a profession that doesn’t have its share of scumbags.) But that’s not the point. The point is that what I saw in that room represented the vast majority of men and women in uniform.

So let me take you to this graduation. Let me take you to what I saw; let me humanize these sheepdogs for you.

You should know that two officers drove nearly two hours, one way, every day to get from their homes to the academy.

You should note that one of the officers missed his wife’s labor and the birth of his child in order not to miss one day of training.

You should know that one of the officers had a deathly ill father and showed up every day, no matter what.

You should know that each officer is shot with a Taser gun as part of their training. I watched as they showed us videos of each officer as the sharp barbs pierced their backs and electricity coursed through their bodies during this training. I saw my family member’s bloody t-shirt after their turn.

You should know that a little boy in the crowd sobbed out at the sight of his father in pain—as he saw him fall to the ground in one of those videos.

You should know that each officer is sprayed point blank in the eyes with pepper spray as part of training, and then they are expected to instantly drop and begin sit-ups and push-ups.

You should know that not every recruit makes it—in fact, this class had someone flunk out as it became clear that she wasn’t fit for the job.

You should know how many kids were in that room and how many fathers and mothers will often spend holidays and birthdays with their children alone as their spouse patrols the streets.

You should know how many parents were in that room, eyes brimmed with tears as they balanced overwhelming pride with sickening fear for their child.

You should know all this because there’s a human behind that badge. Behind every uniform, there is a mother, a father, a child, a sister, a brother—someone who wants you to go home safely to your family as much as they want to go home to theirs.

You should know that they recited a 347-word code of ethics—word for word from memory—in which they swear to put you and your safety first.

As 2016 came to a close, we witnessed a year with across the board increases in police fatalities. 137 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty— that’s up 21% from 2016. 64 of those were killed by firearms, up a whopping 68% from the prior year.

I wrote an article recently where I illustrated that if you’re an African American, statistically (all things equal) you have a 1 in 1,490,186 chance of being killed by a cop and a 1 in 8,858,333 chance of being unarmed and killed by a cop. I wrote, “there’s a greater chance you’ll die from being left-handed (seriously!) or become a movie star with those odds.”

Do you know what the statistics say about what your chances are of dying on the job as a cop? 137 out of 809,000 sworn officers in this country is 1 in 5,905.

1 in 5,905. And society’s put a big target on their backs. Yet, they continue to stand on the line for us as millions espouse false narratives about their behavior towards the community.

I ask that you think about something. Think about the impact that your words and actions have. I see this all the time: someone gets pulled over, gets a ticket, maybe deals with a cop who isn’t up for the Miss Congeniality Award that year. When you get on social media and talk about how crappy cops are, you fuel the hatred of those who are a little more serious about it than you are. And in turn, their hatred fuels actions—actions like those that put a bullet in the back of a cop’s head in Washington state just yesterday.

On that graduation day, I watched 19 men and women of all backgrounds, races, and beliefs put on a uniform, a badge, and stand up in front of their families and community to swear to protect them no matter what.

Let’s do them a favor by fully educating ourselves in how they’re trained, what they go through, and who they’ve sworn to protect before we shoot our mouths off. Let’s do them a favor by recognizing that they are humans.

Most of all, we need have their six, because these sheepdogs certainly have ours.


Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, M-F from 3 to 5 p.m. EST). She can be reached at:; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree

Written by Mary Ramirez

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