Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

A Broken Badge and Community Heartbreak

By: | April 13, 2015

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York and is a director at large and delegate for the government and public sector division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

No one law enforcement officer defines a police force, a community or a nation.

Law enforcement officers come in every shape, size and ethnicity. Their badge is a shield earned through extensive vetting, training and monitored performance. Their chain of command is similar to a military operation that is looked to in every community to hold the peace and protect our freedom.

Every flashlight, handcuff, Taser, body camera and gun held has countless hours of training, practice and monitored use associated with it and the officer given permission to use it.

As public entities strive to provide monies for training, equipment and personnel to build and shape law enforcement across the country, they are constrained by the communities they serve and the economy that supports them.

Studies indicate that successful law enforcement programs integrate continuous education, risk management and strong connections to the community into the fabric of their operations.

Communities are diverse and are dependent upon our cultures, socioeconomics and expectations. Our constituents look to the badge that serves them and defines them as partner, friend — and sadly, sometimes as an enemy — dependent upon our upbringing and our perception of reality.

Law enforcement is about partnership. Studies indicate that successful law enforcement programs integrate continuous education, risk management and strong connections to the community into the fabric of their operations.

Police officers carry heavy gear and fierce weapons. They also carry heavy hearts each time one of their own stumbles, makes a bad decision and a life changes in a moment.

If you look closely you can see it in their eyes as they watch the aftermath of questionable decisions made within their own communities or a city far from their beat. They know that each life lost splashed in headlines across the nation cannot be replaced and brings with it questions of their own integrity.

Alleged police brutality is a controversy that brings introspection, examination into policy and protocols, and questions from across the nation. How we individually and collectively choose to react to those headlines, however, defines our humanity.

A badge broken through tragedy breaks the heart of all of us and brings with it the choice to positively challenge the constraints of our present or bring destruction by tearing ourselves apart without learning from our mistakes.

Let me argue for the high road — the need for open dialogue and the challenge to learn from all of our interactions.

Relationships are forged through tenacity, a willingness to acknowledge diversity and the need to know that we all matter. Badge or no badge, each of us needs to make a commitment to extend a hand as a partner who strives for positive and transparent dialogue with a commitment to reach higher toward the common goal of unity in spirit.

We need to listen, be slower to pass judgment, and to understand that as each of us are different, so too are the folks who consider it an honor and privilege to carry that badge.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]