Our Uniform Is Not a Kryptonite Shield

Myron Hamm
Myron Hamm
Director of Corrections

An officer who loses their life in the line of duty is something we all think about on a daily basis. I remember a female officer leaving work one night and heading to her car in the parking garage at CCDC. She was stopped by a guy who wanted information on someone who was in custody. The guy became increasingly hostile, and this officer had her 413, which was in her bag, not visible to the subject.

As luck would have it, a janitor came walking through the exit door and startled the individual, and he abruptly left. The officer went back into the building and reported this incident, and our sergeant notified dispatch and sent our SERT team to sweep and clear the parking garage. Our officer handled the situation, but it could have been a horrible outcome on both ends.

Let’s think about our substations for a moment. Southeast, Enterprise, DTAC, Northeast and Spring Valley sit nestled in neighborhoods where people have a direct view of officers and their vehicles. The North Valley Complex is in an industrial area, but the parking lot is open, and anyone can just drive in. From day one in the Academy, we are taught to play the “what if?” game.

I hope and pray that we all remember that we are possible targets of not only the people we deal with on a daily basis but also their family, friends and even casual acquaintances. When you pin a badge on your chest and take that oath of office, your life will change forever, and your thought process will need to change as well.

My 15-year-old son asked me the other day why it seemed that all my friends were cops or people I knew in the military. I asked him why it seemed like all his friends were from his basketball team. He said it’s because we have a lot in common. I explained that is the same reason my circle consists of cops and military people. When most of us go out of town, we have a family member or a co-worker keep an eye on our homes, check the mail or handle any emergency that could arise.

A couple of weeks ago, Officer Jonathan Diller of the NYPD died at the age of 31, leaving behind his 29-year-old wife and 9-month-old son. He was shot and killed during a traffic stop by a subject who had multiple arrests and a lengthy and violent criminal history. My point is that these people are out there, and wearing our uniform is not a kryptonite shield that protects us from the evil that these criminals perform.

Always take a moment and think about your routine; think about the route you take to get home and the places you shop and eat. I watched an officer discuss with an inmate the type of car he drives, and I asked why he was discussing personal information with this guy. He stated, “It was no big deal, man. You are too paranoid.” 

There is a huge difference between paranoia and complacency. If given a choice, I choose to be paranoid. A wise man once said, “Safety and comfort comes with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.”