I hope this issue’s presidential message finds all of our members and their families safe, happy and healthy. So much has happened in the past year. We have dealt with riots, COVID-19, attacks on our profession from politicians and even the injury and loss of some of our own.
During the riots of 2020, our officers were working more hours than they could count. They were handling nightly protests that often erupted in violence and chaos. Officers’ families sat home every night praying for the safety of their loved ones. Officers were finishing their shifts with cuts, bruises, injuries and a level of fatigue they had never experienced before. They dealt with people screaming in their faces, cursing at them and holding signs degrading their profession. And through it all, our officers maintained a level of professionalism that goes unmatched.
COVID-19 was also in full swing, as well as the rollout of the vaccine. Our officers were some of the only employees in the state who continued to be on the frontlines of the pandemic, working every day and putting themselves at high risk of exposure to the virus. Police work is one of those jobs that cannot sit on the sidelines and wait for a disease to go away. Many of our officers were exposed, and many contracted the virus. To this day, we are still dealing with grievances and negotiations over being forced to quarantine and use your own time, along with other issues related to COVID-19. I am asked often about whether officers should get the vaccine. My answer is the same every time: It is the officer’s choice, plain and simple. The same politicians who say “my body, my choice” believe you should be forced to take a vaccine. I call that being a hypocrite. If you want to take the vaccine, take it. If you do not, then don’t.
Following the George Floyd case, we began to see many politicians across the country, as well as in our own state, attack our police profession. Politicians who have never put their life on the line, or who have never stepped foot in a patrol car for a shift, began saying that police work needed to change. They claimed officers were targeting people of color and had no regard for our minority communities. These same politicians, who have been in office for many years, saying that police needed to be reformed or defunded were the same ones who passed laws to strengthen police rights only a year earlier. These politicians cared not for George Floyd, rather they only care about re-election. I stand by this position, because if police have always needed reform, why wasn’t it addressed in the 2019 session? In our state, why pass the best legislation for police officer rights that we have ever had during the 2019 session? I had conversations with politicians who supported our rights in 2019 call me saying, “Steve, my party is making me do this. I may not agree with it, but I have to.” These people are spineless and have no character. The answer is because they are disingenuous politicians who will do or say anything for a vote. We still have some amazing folks in government who support our police. The 2022 election cycle, known as the midterm elections, will be important to our profession. We must elect folks who support law and order. We need a legislative body that will support the police force in this state. And we need a governor who will stand up for what is right when it comes to our police and not just pander to a vocal minority. I pledge to our members that we will actively attack these folks when they are up for re-election.
Finally, we as a state suffered the loss and injury of two of our own. Lieutenant Erik Lloyd contracted COVID-19 and lost his fight to the disease. I knew Lloyd for many years, whether it be from Narcotics or when he was the FIT lieutenant. Lloyd was a good man, a friend and a solid leader. His loss will forever impact our community. We also saw, during the riots, our own Officer Shay Mikalonis take a bullet from a piece of garbage who had no regard for human life. I was there at the hospital the night he was shot. I was with his partners as we sat outside on the curb. I saw the impact on our heroes who helped save Mikalonis’ life. Mikalonis and his family had their lives forever changed that evening, as did our profession. Today, Mikalonis continues his fight, recovering from that incident. He will always be a police officer, no matter where he is or what he is doing. We love both of our brothers who have been impacted as a result of this profession.
My hope for 2021–2022 is that we see no more loss or injury to our officers. I hope we continue to protect our community and serve our citizens. I hope those politicians come to their senses and commend and recognize the hard work and sacrifice our officers put forth. I hope every officer stays safe and healthy and has a long career.
God bless all of you and our profession.