Mark Scott: Our communities need heroes

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, February 16, 2017

In the current political climate, it is tempting for us in law enforcement to hunker down, try not to draw attention to ourselves, and wait for the storm to pass. Maybe, if we wait patiently, public opinion will change and we will be perceived as heroes again, instead of villains. I was speaking to a fellow officer recently about how our community has come together after the murder of Officers Nicholas Smarr and Jody Smith, and he said what many have said over the past month; that it is sad that it takes such a senseless tragedy to make people appreciate law enforcement. If such a thing were true, that would be the real tragedy. Don’t believe it for a minute.
For decades, various pollsters have had fun asking kids across the country what they want to be when they grow up. Their answers are often humorous and make good material for talk show hosts and disc jockeys. For decades, police officer and firefighter have always made the top 10 in these polls, but what about today? What do our kids think about us today, in light of all the protests and riots which seem to indicate that the public has a less than favorable view of the police now? I asked my colleagues in South Georgia and the answer was overwhelmingly positive. The majority of them believe that we are still in the top 10.
My colleagues are correct. A quick Internet search turned up several recent polls asking kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up”? In every one, police officer and firefighter are still in the top 10. In one survey, police officer was number three, right below superhero! That brings me to the point of this article. Our communities need heroes. We need men and women with courage and integrity. Our children need strong, positive role models. Our culture desperately needs to know that there are still people who believe that helping others is our highest calling and who are willing to risk their own lives to protect the lives of people they don’t even know. Heroes.
Nick Smarr and Jody Smith were two such heroes. So were Patrick Carothers, Justin White, Daryl Smallwood, Michael Sondron, Timothy Smith, T.J. Freeman, and Gregory Barney. Nine Georgia heroes who lost their lives for the cause. We must live up to their legacy. We must be the heroes that our communities so desperately need. Now is not the time to cower in fear. Now is the time to show the people we serve that we are proud of our badge and our profession and that we are worthy of the trust that they have placed in us. We must hold ourselves and our fellow officers accountable. If one of us betrays the badge and the public trust, we must take public action to correct the problem. We cannot withdraw from the communities that need us the most. We must work together to address violent crime in our communities. We must be proactive in enforcing the law and we must constantly work with our communities to make sure that they know that we care about them and that we are addressing the problems that they identify in their own communities.
I, personally, am proud to wear the badge. I am proud of my brothers and sisters who have chosen a career of service. I am proud of the way that they have come together in the midst of tragedy and of all the overtime hours they have worked to keep this city safe. We must support and encourage our officers. They need to embrace their roles and know that they are making a difference. When they look in the mirror each morning, they need to see in themselves what I see in them. A hero.

Mark Scott is chief, Americus Police Department.