Is Law Enforcement a Job or a Profession? You Decide.
In our discussions of the present economy, much is made of the number of jobs created or lost. However, people use the term “job” to describe the positions of LEOs lost in cities and counties around the United States. I have always marveled at the fact that politicians and the media do not differentiate between jobs lost and professionals who are unable to pursue their careers. While jobs are gained and lost in a prosperous economy, rarely are professionals displaced during any economy. However, city administrators and county officials seem to hesitate very little before reducing the number of LEOs or furloughed in the name of fiscal responsibility. So, the question is, is law enforcement a job or a profession?
Dictionary.com defines a job as, “a post of employment; full-time or part-time position.” The same source defines a “profession” as “the body of persons engaged in an occupation or calling.” Now either definition could apply to LEOs. LEOs receive a job assignment on a full or part-time basis. They are paid for performing assigned tasks like any other individual. However, it is the “calling” part of the profession that leads me to the conclusion that LEOs are professionals engaged in a long-standing tradition of professionals. Let’s see if I can convince you.
Far from the person who punches a clock and leaves at the end of his shift, LEOs stay on the scene of wrecks, domestic disputes and homicides until the job is done. They stay up for days chasing fugitives and serial rapists keeping them on the run until the make a mistake and end up in jail. Unlike the person who works according to a strict job description, the LEO handles the tasks at hand. There is no manual for her to consult to determine if a given tasks is within her responsibility. The protection of the rights and lives of strangers is a sufficient enough job description to provide guidance to every LEO. Unlike the typical worker who calls for assistance with uncomfortable, delicate or dangerous tasks, the LEO is tasked with being the first and last person called to handle the mundane and complex tasks, those involving routine matters and those involving mortal danger.
LEOs act as counselors, mentors, coaches and problem solvers each day they wear the badge. With a steadfast commitment to rise to any challenge, they often run in the direction of danger when the citizens they serve flee in fear. On May 21, 2011, four Capitol Police Officers ran into a smoke-filled tunnel to evacuate commuters and intervene in an emergency following an explosion of unknown origin. Even after hours, LEOs put themselves in harm’s way to protect the citizens they serve like an off-duty deputy who ended a killer’s shooting spree in Aurora, Colorado in April of this year. However, this does not end the commitment of a LEO to his community.
When their shifts end, LEOs serve as church deacons and Boy Scout leaders, little league coaches and camp counselors, mentors to troubled kids and parents to their own children. In short, their commitment to their community evidences a calling to a higher purpose. They push to increase their skills and abilities to continue to serve and to gain an advantage when performing the tasks no one else will accept in the hopes that they will survive the mortal dangers they face. No one would do all this solely for a paycheck.
So, in the end analysis, I believe it is clear that law enforcement is a profession. It is a proud profession served by those called to it. Those who wear the badge serve not only for their pay and benefits but for service to the higher calling. Without them, our society would suffer more than just a lost “job” on a report by the department of labor.
A vacancy in a law enforcement position is an opportunity for a criminal to succeed, a felon to escape and a lost opportunity for a life to be saved. So the next time you hear about a jobs report in your community, make certain the politicians and the media separate those jobs lost from the loss of professionals who serve each day in a profession worthy of respect. Stay safe.