I knew when I was in high school I wanted to be a police officer.  My under-graduate degree is in Criminal Justice. I just never thought I was going to be a military cop.  When I came into the Air Force and became a Security Policeman, we were the largest police force in the free world. The only police organization bigger than use was the Soviet KGB.  Air Force Security Police, now the Security Forces is truly an international police force.  We are everywhere in the world.  The only problem is with the war on terrorism, right now we are the most abused and over worked career field in the Air Force.  General Grant said “war is hell” and for military cops, no matter what branch of service, this is true.  Air Force cops are the first ones in and the last ones out.  Nothing gets done in the Air Force without the cops there.  The next time you see the President of the United States walking down the ramp from Air Force One, notice who is standing at the bottom of the stairs.  It is two Air Force cops.  They have been flying with the President since Truman first took to the air. 

15 May through 21 May 2005 is National Police Week.  This is when cops honor their fellow cops.  President Kennedy started this back in 1962.  There are over 870,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the US and this is not including all the military police of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and my big Air Force.  This is the largest number of officers in or history.  Approximately 11.7 percent of these cops are women.  The first recorded death of an American police officer was in 1792.  Since then more than 16,500 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty.  14,010 of these deaths were from 1900 to 1998.  Not everyone is a fan of the police. 

I am a retired Air Force cop, a former State Police Officer and I spent a couple of years with a city police department and like you I don’t want to see “cop-car” lights flashing in my rear window.  However I sure like the idea that I can dial 911 and have help on its way.  The US has the most sophisticated police response capabilities in the world.  Believe it or not most cops don’t like flashing their lights and pulling you over in your vehicle.  Traffic stops and responding to domestic disturbances in people’s homes is the most dangerous time in a policeman’s work day.  For policemen the number one cause of death is getting shot and a lot of this happens when an officer is outside his patrol car on a lonely country road or breaking up a fight between two people who allegedly love each other.  The number four killer of police officers is job related illness.  You can not imagine the amount and severity of the toxic substances and toxic people a cop comes in contact with every day. 

It has been said law enforcement is dirty work, I guess the death rate of police officers proves that out.  On average a police officer is killed every 53.5 hours in this country.  Our military police are in harms way everyday in Iraq.  Some of these young military police members are National Guard and Reserve cops who only do this part time.  Some are full time civilian cops and part time military police.  These fallen cops in camouflage need also to be remembered this National Police Week. A police officer is a target every time they go to work and many times even when they are not at work.  But what other career field expects an employee to be prepared each day; to save a life, help deliver a life, be ready to take a life and if need be surrender your life.  I can not think of any other work that expects all this and still puts an employee out there by themselves.  Oklahoma has lost 360 police officers, with an average age of 38 years old.  During National Police Week if you would please, tie a blue ribbon on your vehicle antenna to show your support for law enforcement.  We are honoring those men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice to serve and protect you the public.  And to the Altus Security Forces cops headed to Iraq, “let’s be careful out there.” 

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
4 May 2005