Respect: The Heart of the Police Officer

Twenty years ago, I met a law enforcement professional from the Hackensack, N.J., Police Department. This began a partnership that led to countless community initiatives.

Sgt. Patrick Fay, who later retired as Lt. Fay, demonstrated law enforcement’s most effective community tool: respect.

Although he is a former U.S. Marine with a commanding presence, Fay’s greatest ability to prevent a crisis was the trust he inspired from respecting the community. Respect was his foundation for over 30 years of police service to a very diverse inner city. Fay had the respect of the community. The community knew he cared about their concerns.

Fay personified respect, the essential ingredient for all police officers. Respect and trust are indispensable requirements for all police professionals. Respect must be the heart of each and every police officer.

Police-Private Partnership

As a security professional responsible for numerous programs, I developed with Fay a unique police–private partnership. His insights as a police professional assisted my security responsibilities. My experiences assisted his community dedication. 

Our partnership led to many initiatives including:

  • personal safety presentations
  • school violence prevention 
  • citizen police academies
  • domestic violence awareness
  • law enforcement leadership training
  • workplace violence prevention
  • crime prevention practitioner certifications
  • community policing certifications
  • senior citizen scam prevention
  • national night out
  • diversity training
  • police–community conferences
  • terrorism awareness and prevention

Aside from his responsibilities to the City of Hackensack, Fay was also president of the North Jersey Regional Crime Prevention Officers Association. In this capacity, he developed interagency partnerships with additional programs including:

  • youth police academies
  • neighborhood revitalization
  • gang awareness and prevention
  • police–citizen recognition events
  • security officer certifications

Fay’s leadership inspired my own law enforcement, violence prevention, and crisis management presentations. These have now reached over 50,000 law enforcement, educators, community leaders, and students nationwide.

Police–Community Tensions

Due to the realities of the human condition, crisis is an ever-present concern in America’s communities.

To prevent and mitigate a crisis, the dedication of law enforcement professionals—who earn respect and trust within communities—is paramount. 

An unbreakable bond between the police and public is only possible when respect is the foundation with community members.

The NYPD is currently experiencing a police–community crisis based on a recent “chokehold” death of a citizen while being taken into custody.

Continual developments are unfolding related to the NYPD tragedy, including an upcoming protest across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, an interfaith gathering hosted by the New York Roman Catholic Archbishop, and the Richmond County district attorney’s investigative results.

This tragedy has led to a commitment by Police Commissioner William Bratton for enhanced training of all 35,000 members of the NYPD. This program will include proper use of force as well as communication skills and likely last for years and cost millions. 

In Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, there is another police–community crisis inflaming outrage. 

This crisis includes conflicting reports over the death of an unarmed teen by a police officer.

One story reports the teenager surrendering to police with his hands in the air. Another story is the teen attacked an officer in his patrol vehicle attempting to take his service weapon. The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice are investigating the incident.

Emotionally charged civil unrest is escalating in Ferguson with vandalism, looting, protests, tear gas, and scores of arrests.

Cultivating Respect

The most influential characteristic of a police professional is the ability to inspire respect. Respect must be cultivated interdepartmentally and with all members of the community.

Hopefully, the example of law enforcement professionals like Lt. Patrick Fay and countless other dedicated police officials throughout America committed to their noble profession will shine in our communities.

The respect a police officer cultivates will be the catalyst of community relations, crime prevention, and reawakening the nation.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com

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