Jack Simpson: Follow your dream -- with your eyes wide open



I think it was in the 1980s. Mike was beginning a new career in law enforcement and asked if an old veteran like me had any words of wisdom I could pass on.

"Mike," I replied, "I'm not Socrates, but I do have a few common sense rules that might help you."

If you have a dream, go for it. What you need to be a good police officer is a burning desire. If you don't have that, seek another profession. Remember, police work is not a place where you will get rich. You do this job because you love it. It is a challenge daily, and you serve the public. Be an optimist, be honest, be dedicated, expect setbacks. Along the line you'll hit rough spots. Should you fall, get up, be fearless, face your challenges.

You will meet nice people. You'll meet sorry people -- snakes in the grass. Watch your behind. Constantly learn, be ready to meet your destiny.

Oh, and don't wreck, don't put it in the payroll. Resulting paperwork will overwhelm you.

Don't let some smooth talker tell you that a black cat crossing your path won't bring bad luck. Be skeptical, investigate, analyze.

Keep an open mind, be a good listener, but be receptive to new ideas. Remember you are a servant of the people. Their welfare is more important than yours. Do not break the public trust.

In police work, time bombs (in whatever form) are for real. Left unattended, they will go bang and can kill or injure you. You must do your job carefully, watching not only your back but the backs of your fellow officers. You and they want to return safely home after each shift.

Facing the public every day, you will want to be neat and clean. Dirty underwear is frowned upon in all hospital emergency rooms. A dirty cop, in whatever form, reflects badly on everyone in the profession. Police work will prove to be dramatic, full of surprises and political intrigue. There will be times of crisis. You'll conduct business with your share of inflated personalities, bores, hapless individuals, phonies, crooks, self-seekers and dangerous nuts.

Along the way, you may have a vision of eventually commanding an army and leading elephants across the Alps. Dream big, but don't be too disappointed if the highlight of your day turns out to be nothing more than a successful bowel movement. Few police officers ever succeed in winning all the causes they fight for. They expect to lose a few, rise and enter the battle again. They don't give up.

Some are humble. Few are cocky. They know they don't become commanders solely by kissing rears.

So, Mike, what can I say? Be true to yourself. Be prepared, do your best. Serve with honor. Even wise men are not wise at all times. Still, a good head is better than a hundred strong hands. It is the man of sense who has the advantage.

Be a true professional. Provide public service. In the end, your life may end the same way as everyone else, but the details of how you lived and how you died and the record you left, will distinguish you from the others.

Good luck. Serve well and with honor.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.