The mark of a law enforcement officer is his or her badge. It is earned during training at a law enforcement facility and given by a particular law enforcement department. These badges are worn with pride and officers routinely resist any effort to denigrate them.
Their badges symbolize the power invested in them to uphold and enforce the law and, in spite of all of the vocal rhetoric against police these days, we should uphold our law enforcement officers and give them credit for the job they are doing. Without them, chaos would ensue, people would get hurt or killed, and the lack of protection would produce fear among all of us.
However, law enforcement officers are not the only people who wear badges. Yes, these may be a little different from law enforcement badges, but they are worn with pride and denote the area of service the people wearing them serve.
Would you believe that some of the people who wear badges are still in school? Yes, I know there isn't much schooling going on right now and that this fall isn't looking very promising, but there has been and will be schooling again in the future. Sometime during the 2020-2021 school year, the Safety School Program featuring young people wearing a belt and a badge will celebrate 100 years of service.
It simply isn't possible for law enforcement officers to patrol every street crossing where there are school children. That leaves schools to enlist and train crossing guards to oversee the places where school children cross busy streets. This model has been adopted in at least 30 other countries, as well, and has been praised by national and international safety groups for reducing the number of injuries and deaths among five- to 14-year-olds.
Today, school patrollers are normally identified by their fluorescent green belts and badges, often supplied by various AAA clubs. These young men and women generally get up before their classmates and attend the crosswalks before school and then after school while their classmates go on home. They are trained to not direct traffic, but to guide students on where and when to cross busy streets safely. This happens rain or shine, and the discipline involved remains with the student patroller for the rest of his or her life.
Although there is no school right now and our lives have been significantly altered by the deadly coronavirus, it is a privilege to recognize the great service these young men and women do for our communities and to honor their belts and badges.
There also are a number of other groups whose members wear badges. For instance, chaplains routinely are issued a badge when they are sworn in by law enforcement agencies. These badges are similar to the badges worn by enforcement officers but clearly denote those who wear them are chaplains. Hospital and military chaplains (and other groups) have different kinds of badges, but all of them are easily recognized by their badges. Law enforcement chaplains do not want to be identified as law enforcement officers; they want to be identified as someone who represents the presence of God and as someone who is there to provide help, not punishment. The same may be said for other groups as well, and all of them wear their badges with pride and service.
In addition to chaplains, prison and jail personnel also wear badges regardless of whether or not they also have enforcement duties. Some do and some do not. However, they are there to oversee a very difficult job of maintaining order and security among a lot of different lawbreakers who have been incarcerated. If you think their job is easy, you should try and visit one of our prisons. They wear their uniforms and badges with pride.
Fire personnel also wear badges, and I can assure you they take a lot of pride in helping others while putting out fires and assisting with injured people. If you've ever needed an ambulance, assistance in putting out a fire, or help in assisting someone physically in need; you know the value of our fire people.
Whether it's a patrol student wearing a green belt, a law enforcement officer wearing blue, a fire person wearing red, a highway person wearing yellow, or whatever color that represents who they are and what they do; all of them wear their badges with pride and desire to be of service to their communities. I'm grateful for all of them.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.