In this introductory episode, Royce, the host, takes a look back through history at the beginnings of the law enforcement profession in the United States, the duties we've tasked them with throughout the years, and an intimate look at the toll the profession takes upon those who serve on that thin blue line.
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Welcome to Voice of the Blue! I am Royce your host, bringing you an intimate look at the men and women of the law enforcement profession through their service, their stories, their lives and their own words. This program was funded and produced for you by the American police Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida. Check them out at APHF.ORG. And it's with the American police Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida that I share in the mission of this podcast. This introductory episode in particular, wishes to show you the human face of those behind the badge. Because it is, unfortunately, easy for the average citizen to, let's say, formulate incorrect opinions of the police profession when they've never been where police officers have been, they've never had to make the decisions that they have to make on a daily basis. They never been thrust into dangerous situations or dealt with the daily hazards that we demand that they face on our behalf. And most interactions between law enforcement and the citizenry are essentially negative, including everything from writing expensive citations for various and sundry driving and traffic infractions to arrest for civil and criminal violations and such. So oftentimes, our interactions with the thin blue line are negative. So I understand how those interactions can cause us to form incorrect opinions about the profession. That's why this program is dedicated to those men and women that hold that blue line, we want to give them a voice that needs to be heard by the general public, there has to be understanding between the citizenry, and those in law enforcement and you can't understand somebody unless you first sit down and talk to them and hear them out and hear their side of things. And thus the thrust of this program. Future episodes are going to include many special guests within the law enforcement community. Many names you may recognize some you may not. But they're going to be joining me here on this program, some behind the mic in the studio and some via phone from across the country as they tell their stories, and show you the human face of police life. Now, often when discussing any topic, we need to take a look back at the past in order to understand the present. And so with that in mind, let's take a brief look at the history of the police profession here in America. Let's start by going all the way back to colonial days prior to our independence. The beginning of law enforcement here in this country as a profession began back in the days of the tri-corner hats and horses being of course the speediest form of travel. And back then, Colonial Era police forces were really not part of a city or county government agency as they are today. They consisted mostly of volunteers and other private citizens of the community much like they are today. They were referred to as "watch groups" back then. Whenever it was just a singular person acting in that role, they were called watchmen or a watchman. And when they were formed into groups, they were called watch groups, of course. And that's a term that morphed from the term nightwatchman. Police forces like this were privately funded, and often employed by their local community on only a part time basis. And these watch groups were first formed in the major well known cities, the colonial cities like Boston in 1631, and New York City in 1658, and Philadelphia in 1700. Now bear in mind the significance of the fact that the colonies had police forces in place decades before they had actually achieved independence. Now, this alone should exemplify the fact that societies recognize the need for law and order and to call upon their fellow citizens to act as enforcers of their laws. And so, if I may take a sidebar on this and just explain human nature, when it comes to the enforcement of our laws, even criminal groups like gangs and even organized crime, they understand the need for law and order. They create their own laws, their own rules. And they even call upon their fellow criminals to act as enforcers in order to keep what they deemed to be order amongst them and as a society. And we do the same thing here. As law abiding citizens, we understand that there is a need to have a central figure, or figures, or organization on hand and able to respond to criminal situations and other emergencies too. So, we understand that there's evil that walks amongst us, I think we all do. And thank God for those behind the badge. Now, these watch groups back in colonial days, they had multiple responsibilities, most notably was the protected property and public safety much like today, of course, and watch groups in those early days, also performed rather mundane public social services, including lighting street street lamps at night, and even running charitable soup kitchens, finding and recovering lost children and even capturing runaway farm animals like cows, horses, pigs, chickens in the light, and a variety of other services that were asked of them. So it wasn't just always chasing bad guys and a lively game of cops and robbers at all times. It was, like I said, often very mundane. And believe it or not, even in today's profession in the law enforcement profession, a lot of the duties of our officers are rather mundane also. Most of the ones that I know despise having to write reports and other things like that. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, I assure you. And as we go through in each episode, I'll have guests on and I'll explain to you just how tedious some of those tasks may be. Now, like today, many of the members of the watch groups of colonial era were combat veterans, men who had lived through hazardous situations and they had prevailed, and that made them perfectly suited to the duties of protecting the community at night. These were people who had dealt with danger. And believe me, walking around the streets at night in those days could indeed be very, very dangerous. Now as time progressed through the colonial era, and a westward push began to settle more of this continent and began to ease into the days of what we know it called the Old West, law enforcement was often non existent in some of the small towns. And so groups would form there, and they were called vigilantes. Now the term vigilante has been denigrated these days to where it means someone who takes the law into their own hands. Or, when a man goes and kills people that they think need to be killed. In the days back then these were people, (vigilantes means "vigilant ones"), people who were just like the nightwatchman of the colonial days, and they would patrol their streets during the day and the night and yes, sometimes they dealt very heavy handedly with any criminal eruptions there in their little small town. That's because there was no central figure or central organization, like sheriff's or federal marshals. Those came later. So it was often that they had to deal with law and order on their own. And again, I say it's because they recognized the need for law and order in their town. There has to be law and order, because there's always bad people that walk amongst us, oftentimes looking like good people. So back as the West began to push, you know, towards the Pacific, and they began to settle the wild west and the plains and other areas, and towns sprang up and mining communities and such. Sheriffs and federal marshals were the primary peace officers. In most of those areas, many of them were working on a fee based compensation system. Now, one little known fact is that sheriff's were first utilized in America as sworn law enforcement officers in the colonies back in 1634. In Virginia, that's the first notice that I can find anywhere that with where sheriffs first began to be in the public eye, and then the US Marshals Service actually began in 1789. That's two years prior to the Bill of Rights being adopted into the Constitution, long before the Old West ever began to be tamed. So, these guys, they rose to the occasion and as civilization at American civilization expanded westward, the necessity of law enforcement followed them. And, of course, by consequence, many of these law enforcement officials saw the need and they went to stand in the gap and protect these towns with law and order. So our perceptions of the duties of law enforcement during those days, the Old West, they're often the product of Hollywood, you know, the stagecoach robberies gunfights in the street at high noon, the saloon brawls with guys swinging on the chandeliers and falling through the railings on the second floor mezzanines, and sheriff's chasing bad guys on horseback shooting at each other. But in reality, their duties were just like the watchman of the watch groups in the colonial days. And a lot of times there were just really mundane and very routine tasks. They were actually used as tax collectors, they ensured that licensing remained current for businesses and such. They prevented and they enforced liquor laws also, and prevented the sale of illegal Mecca. They also went through towns and and checked the doorknobs of businesses, after hours to make sure they're sure that they were locked up really tight. But also the sheriff's in those days often found themselves cleaning up manure and trash off the streets as well as keeping order in the saloons and the gambling establishments. So it probably wasn't as glamorous as Hollywood likes to make it out to be. Now like the watch groups of the colonial days, many of the sheriffs and marshals and especially legendary law men, like the Texas Rangers, were also combat veterans, men who understood the keeping the peace required deliberate men, men who would not hesitate to meet violence with violence when and if necessary, and sad as it may be, that is certainly a quality that law enforcement officers today must have whether they be men or women of the sheriff's department or the local police department or the state police department. They have to be very deliberate people and ready to act quickly. Whenever they're faced with violence, or they're fighting, or violence is being brought against the general public. The having a deliberate a sense of deliberation, you have to know when to act first, you have to know that sometimes hard actions must be taken. Sometimes they have to be taken, that is the sad fact of the matter. When we empower these men and women of law enforcement. we give them the not only the power and authority to make arrest, but to also make split second decisions concerning life or death and defend themselves and the community with deadly force. And that requires somebody who is trained and again, I keep using the word I'm going to keep driving at home they have to be deliberate. That was a quality that was assigned to men like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, they were called very deliberate men. Now, like to professionals within law enforcement today, most back then carried the common firearms of their day, some favoring a rifle, some a double barreled shotgun, like the legendary officer or sheriff I mean, Heck, Thomas. He loved his double barreled shotgun, but they all wore a pistol as a sidearm. Whether it was the old cap and ball revolver or the cartridge-utilizing revolvers, like the Peacekeeper or the Scofield and things like that. They always carried a sidearm with them. And during future episodes, we're going to be highlighting famous lawmen of bygone days including their weapons, many of which you can see on display at the American police Hall of Fame and Museum. And we'll be talking about their tactics and their personalities and their character. Men like Bat Masterson as I referenced earlier, and Wyatt Earp, Heck Thomas, Seth Bullock, Bass Reeves and many other and we'll be we'll be telling their stories of the confrontations that they've had with some serious Desperados. Some men like John Wesley Hardin who was said to be so mean that he once fired multiple times into the hotel room next to him is simply because the occupant was snoring too loudly and yes, that really did happen. This guy was cantankerous as the day goes long. One of the shots unfortunately struck the man and permanently cured him of snoring in a rather terminal fashion. And matter of fact, John Wesley Hardin was later heard to say by a confidant that that was one man that he regretted the shooting that he wasn't really trying to kill the man, he just wanted to fire into this room and wake him up and tell him "quit snoring so stinking loud, you're keeping me awake". Now, just like we said earlier, as they did in the 16th century, I've often seen our citizens in blue, like those back in the days of the watch groups, serving soup and sandwiches and pizza and other meals to the homeless of their communities today, and some still walk a particular beat in like downtown areas, checking the doors of local businesses to make sure they're all locked up tight, just like the sheriff's and the watchman both did have their day. And even today, just as they used to be called upon to search for lost children, all of us, at some point have experienced an Amber Alert on our phone. Whenever police are searching for lost or a kidnapped child. Not to mention the fact officers have often you know, plenty of times been called to remove cattle from highways, you can even see that on some episodes of cops, shooing them back into fields and even repairing the broken fence through which that bovine fugitive had made its escape. And even today, we have livestock agents that are law enforcement officers also being utilized to recover runaway or stolen farm and ranch animals just like the watchman. And the watch groups have the days gone by now, so much about the police profession has remained the same over the last couple of centuries, just as towns in the old days in the West saw the necessity of having a central figure or organization that upheld and enforced the rule of law. The same holds true today. The rule of law and the enforcement thereof is never unnecessary. In any society, it is always necessary because again, I say evil is always present amongst us, in every town, every city, every county within the union. And we have to remember that once the rule of law and its enforcement has been neutralized in an any society, that society faces imminent destruction. And if you'd like proof of that, just look at our recent history here in America, where in multiple American cities across the country, where the officers were told to stand down and essentially allow crime and criminals to flourish and operate without fear of consequences. What happened then when the the law enforcement element was removed? Well, cities were burned, businesses were looted and destroyed. Citizens were assaulted, battered, and even raped and murdered. communities and neighborhoods were essentially abandoned and left looking like post apocalyptic wastelands. And anarchy essentially reigned as the order of the day and all because the presence of law enforcement had been removed. There always has to be law enforcement, we have to have it people. And we must also remember just how much of a sacrifice that we ask for these brave men and women behind the badge. I mean, we put them through a very rigorous winnowing process before we trust them to wear the shield. We dive really deep into their past. We test them to see if they're up to the rigors of police work mentally, emotionally, even physically. And we do that because we demand that they put themselves into life or death situations every time they don their uniform. We demand that they interpose themselves between us and the evil that affects our daily lives, duties that leave indelible impacts upon them and their psyche. We expect them to charge headlong against the threats to society to place themselves as a shield between us and desperate criminals. And then we're too quick, way too often to cast blame upon them whenever they don't handle such stressful situations exactly the way we think they should have, situations in which they had to make split second decisions. We expect them to handle the incredible stress that is such an inherent part of their job with superhuman mental and emotional strength, stress that literally cuts years off of their lives. Far too many of them leave this life just a few short years into their retirement due to the physical and mental toll their careers inflicted upon them, because they're not superhumans. They're just plain Humans just like you and me after all. And the scenes they've had to witness, scenes that have laden their psyche with horrific memories, memories that haunt them and cause sleep to evade them as they toss and turn, vividly reliving tragic events, the sights, the sounds, the voices, the smells, memories that have created mental and emotional reflex responses within them that those who have never walked in their shoes could possibly ever understand. They wrestle with their own personal failures, always reliving critical incidents, they've been thrust into, maybe even wishing they'd handled certain situations differently, because they're, they're human. after all. Many officers have had children, men, women, even their own partners, die in their arms, and they feel guilty for the rest of their lives for not being able to save them. They've had to hold back tears of empathy, as they brought terrible news to mothers, fathers families, children whose loved ones they just minutes before had tried to resuscitate. Only to have to cover them with a blanket after their earnest efforts simply weren't enough to save them after they'd been mortally wounded in a car crash or shot by a criminal, maybe even destroyed by a train or other terrible misadventure. They know that the tidings they bring to that family are going to horribly impact them, they know full well and dread the reaction that they know will immediately follow. And they hate having to bring that news, and yet they ring that doorbell, they knock on that door, dreading the sound of the approaching footsteps on the other side, dreading the sound of the lock turning of the hinges creaking as they look a total stranger in the eye, and with every ounce of their being wanting to run away to find a quiet place to weep, they deliver that sad news, and they do that difficult job we expect them to do. Even worse, some have had to take a life in order to save their own life or the lives of others. And because they're not murderers, they're not evil, they did not join the local police force to take the lives of others, but now they bear the constant reliving of that incident in their memories. Even though they did exactly what they had to do, what they had been trained to do, that choice being removed from them by the actions of their assailant. But that doesn't assuage their self doubt and guilt that may plague them because they're human after all. Some sadly, after fighting their daily demons, along with a lawless of society, and maybe dealing with a lack of appreciation or a troubled home life or family troubles, spousal troubles, feeling that they're damned if they do and damned if they don't, they decided to leave that blue line on their own terms, because after years of conflict, danger and emotional pummeling, they only seek some semblance of peace because they're only human after all. Many of them have been slain in the line of duty, in vehicle collisions, hit and run accidents as they were attending a traffic stop on the side of the road, or shot from ambush or in gun battles with desperate felons. And their names 1000s upon 1000s of them have been etched into granite walls of memorial at the American police Hall of Fame Museum in Titusville, Florida. This profession that we demand of them is one of sacrifice. And many of them that have entered into it had done so not completely understanding the depths of that sacrificial requirement. I mean, they all understood that their life would always be on the line. But perhaps they didn't realize that sacrificing their lives meant the sacrificing of their time, their sleep, their health, their families, their emotional well being, because that's what this profession demands, ALL of their life. And yet, even in the face of that eventual realization, they stayed the course. They put on their uniform. They pinned on their badges, they strapped on their guns, and they stood on that thin blue line. Because while they may be only human we've called upon them to do a superhuman job and they risen to the challenge in exemplary fashion. Please pray for our men and women behind the back and United States of America. God bless you all. I'll catch you on the next episode of Voice of the Blue. This program was funded and produced for you by the American police Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida. Check them out at APHF.ORG.