No doubt you have all heard that old story about the man reporting to Police that he had been assaulted, so the Officer logically asked, “Can you describe your assailant?” And the man replied, “Officer, that’s exactly what I was doing when he hit me!”
As in any profession, none of us ought to take ourselves too seriously – meaning we need a sense of humour. As you know, so much humour comes from caricatures of human behaviour; a sense of humour can take a lot of the bumps out of life.
I would think that Police Officers, like Clergy, Politicians and other professionals, become great students of human nature as, you experience people at their best and at their worst – and all shades in between.
It would seem to me that loyalty, discipline and courage are key virtues in a Police Officer: Loyalty to the law that you are sworn to uphold; loyalty to the oath that you took at your graduation; loyalty to the Police Force of which you are a member.
There would be something fundamentally wrong with a Police Force that did not command the respect of its members or in which the members saw things which they felt did not deserve their loyalty – things like irregularity, discrimination or injustice, and if there is disloyalty in the Force, the Force itself is weakened and the community suffers.
I mention the community because, whether they realise it or not, the citizens of our State are vitally dependent upon you the Police, not only for their protection, but even for their survival. Remove the Police Force, weaken it, or corrupt it and you have chaos.
Then there is discipline: Take an army without discipline, and you have a rabble. The same could be said of a Police Force. Conversely, where you have discipline you have order, and where you have order, you have efficiency. But then, discipline in the Force, requires self-discipline in the members that compose it. Every profession has its own peculiar temptations and the Police Force is no exception; temptations to break the law while purporting to uphold it, temptations to use one’s status to enrich one’s self, temptations to lower the dignity and the prestige of the force by undignified and questionable behaviour.
A Police Officer is not a private individual working privately; you are public officials, subject to public scrutiny and rightly or wrongly, subject to public criticism. You know you require more than the usual amount of self-control.
Then there is the question of courage. I believe that these days, the fact that a person is a Police Officer at all, indicates that they are a person of courage. Daily, you confront violence and callous indifference to human suffering and you come across shocking and sickening scenes of accidents and or malicious injury. These things are widespread and it requires courage to belong to a body that is expected to face these issues and do something practical about them.
That is the poignancy of today’s National Police Remembrance Day. Tragically many of your colleagues have courageously paid the supreme sacrifice of their lives in upholding law and order in defending the community. A person can have no greater love than to lay down his or her life for others. For service above self, you today will name them in a roll of honour to fallen officers for the past year, as you do each year on this commemoration of St Michael the Archangel, the guardian and protector of the chosen people (Daniel 10:12); that’s why he is a patron saint of Police.
Your deceased fellow officers have fought the good fight: Life’s race has been run for them – you who are left want to never forget them, you want to respect them and learn from them as you lay a remembrance day wreath and bid your fallen colleagues, your fellow officers, to rest in God’s peace, as we pray for their eternal repose, comfort their families and friends, salute their courage and self-sacrifice.
In this context of prayer and worship, you are also mindful of Police officers injured or in ill health, the chaplains and counsellors, who comfort and support you in the trauma of your vital work, you pray for wisdom and understanding for those who command you with their burden of responsibility and you prayerfully remember retired officers for their service.
In all walks of life, there are times when the call of duty is so exacting and the temptation to default so attractive, that we all need the help of God to maintain our balance. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said that there were times when he fell on his knees because there was nowhere else to go. His is not an isolated case.
You are members of a body that, in the ordinary course of events, is taken for granted and the significance of which is often forgotten, yet without you, law and order would be impossible, life and property would be endangered and the freedom of the ordinary citizen would be imperilled. For that matter, your own families would be threatened. So much depends on you that you are required individually to be men and women of real efficiency and genuine integrity because, if you fail, the whole fabric of society is undermined. You are vitally necessary in our communities and without you society would disintegrate.
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
29 September 2015