Vargas: It takes courage to be a police officer


If you follow Behind the Badge you probably saw the story last week about two Fullerton Police officers running into a burning building to rescue an elderly woman.

If that wasn’t enough, after being told there was possibly another person inside, they ran in again. Both were treated for smoke inhalation and are going to be okay.

At some point I’m sure they’ll be nominated for a Medal of Valor.

Great job guys.

What most people don’t realize is that every day police officers display uncommon courage. It is part of their nature. Through expectation and training police officers ignore that part of common sense that tells most people not to run into burning buildings or that part of the brain that warns, “There are gunshots being fired over there. I wouldn’t go there if I were you.”

Imagine it’s 3 a.m. and a call comes out of a shooting having just occurred.

You start driving gangbusters to get there and see a possible suspect vehicle leaving the area. You lock up your brakes and make a U-turn to check it out. You turn on your emergency lights and the car pulls over.

You open the door and suddenly it looks like people are moving around inside. Your backup is still on the way. Good guys? Bad guys? You just don’t know. At some point you have to walk up to the car. That takes courage.

It’s a hot sweltering Saturday night in town. You respond to domestic-violence call. You get to the door and hear the screaming, swearing and breaking of glass. You pound on the door and announce in a loud voice, “Police officers open the door!”

Who’s going to greet you? Maybe an outraged intoxicated spouse with a hair trigger temper and a knife collection? That takes courage.

These aren’t unrealistic scenarios I just made up. They happen every weekend in almost every city in this country.

Courageous men and women ignore common sense and overcome fear to maintain the peace and enforce justice. Its something called duty. Duty is a moral obligation to fulfill one’s responsibilities and expectations. Most veterans can relate to this.

It’s an idea of duty that begins in the police academy. Screaming drill instructors make you repeat it everyday under threat of pushups and memo writing until it becomes a part of who you are.

It goes like this:

Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

AS A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder;

I am at peace knowing we have these courageous men and women out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, committed to fulfilling their duty and, without even a thought, willing to step in harm’s way.

They earn that Medal of Valor each and every day.