A Message From the Executive Director
I believe that law enforcement is the most dangerous and challenging career of our time. What other profession requires so much and pays so little? You are expected to be an expert on everything. You are a coach, counselor, mental health expert, guardian and warrior all wrapped into one. You go to work every day not knowing what the future holds and whether you will encounter someone who wants to take your life that very day.
Officers deal with the negatives of society on a daily basis. You are there to keep order and are truly that thin blue line – the line between order and chaos. It is estimated that in an officer’s career, most will deal with hundreds of critical incidents (murder, suicide, child abuse, automobile accidents, etc.). Over time this, along with other life stressors, takes a toll on officers and their families, resulting in divorce, substance abuse, financial difficulties and much more.
In the days following the senseless death of George Floyd, I have asked myself how could this happen? What went wrong? While I do not know any specifics about this officer other than what has been reported in the media, many officers in this country are at a breaking point. Over time, the stressors of the job can lead even the best officers to do the unimaginable and make decisions that not only impact their lives, but society as a whole.
Over these past few days, I have experienced a number of emotions. One has been anger – mad that law enforcement is being made the scapegoat for a much larger problem in our society. The other emotion that has haunted me is fear – a fear that no one will want to pursue a career in law enforcement. Over time, this will have a negative impact on society. We will not have enough officers to handle the calls, leaving citizens to defend themselves. Moreover, this can result in departments resorting to hiring anyone just to fill a spot. This will only lead to greater problems than those we’re currently facing. Either way, good will not win while evil prevails.
I had a law enforcement career that spanned 27 years with three agencies. During this time, I had the honor and distinction of serving with a lot of great men and women. These were officers who wanted to do the right thing every day. No one reported to work wanting to harm or harass anyone. They simply wanted to serve their community and go home to be left alone with their families. I believe this is still the case for officers today. The vast majority have good intentions. However, the demands of the job can turn heroes into villains overnight.
This is why the work of Blue Watch is so important. I have said, and will continue to say, if an officer’s heart is right and his mind is clear, he/she is much more likely to make the right decision in that critical moment. They will protect and serve causing no harm to anyone. The recent events of civil unrest across our nation continue to emphasize the importance of law enforcement, the role they play in our community, and the challenges they face.
For most of my childhood, my father served as mayor in a small south Alabama town. He always said the police officer is the most important hire you make. This is because they are a constant reflection of and an ambassador for your community. Oh, how true this is!
Now is not the time to turn our backs on the officers that serve us. The Blue Watch motto is “Watching Over Those Who Watch Over Us”, so we need to be proactive and reach out. I believe that Blue Watch and other like-minded organizations can help facilitate change. We can be a bridge between law enforcement and the community.
Board Chair Keith Phillips Participates in Ride Along
Last month, Keith Phillips had the opportunity to ride along with Lieutenant Joel Gaston, who works second shift with the Vestavia Hills Police Department. “I have always had a heart for first responders and have served on the Board of Blue Watch since its inception,” said Keith. “As a businessperson, I have always believed in communication between law enforcement and the community, and I cherish the time I got to spend with a few of the second shift police officers in Vestavia. As a man of faith, I considered it an honor to pray for the guys during roll call at 2 p.m.. All of us can pray for our first responders.”
Keith got to observe a meeting discussing how SWAT would be entering a house the following morning to serve an arrest warrant. Keith attends many meetings, but never has the topic of discussion been the best way to blow a door! Although there were some cool things about riding with Lt. Gaston, like sirens, learning about neighborhoods, and actually seeing an arrest, Keith quickly learned that his daily tasks are different, but many of the struggles are the same. “As a leader of thousands of people in my company, I am constantly working on issues like recruiting, motivation, creating opportunity, training, leadership development and skills improvement. Our success at The Onin Group depends on things like creative thinking, serving clients, employee development and resource management, These are many of the same things that the Vestavia Hills Police Department spends time and energy improving on.”
Over the past couple of years as Keith served on the Board of Blue Watch and participated in Leadership Summits, he has seen the passion people like Captain Brian Gilham and Lt. Joel Gaston have for developing their officers and creating opportunity in Vestavia. He knows that these things ring true all over our state.
“Thank you to all our first responders for what they do. While we are busy with our daily obligations, our police force works every day — and every night — to protect us in our daily lives. Having a chance to give back to those who watch over us is a true honor. We are not only praying for your safety, but are committed to seeking ministry opportunities and helping in the development of your officers as leaders and people.”
Keith continued to express his gratitude, “Even though he never let me drive, I enjoyed my time with Lt. Gaston and had a great time eating dinner at The Ridge with some of the second shift officers.”
Spring Conference Update
We are actively working to reschedule our Spring Conference with Jim Bontrager for late August or early September, but a number of venues remain closed to scheduling.
Jim is anxious to bring his message to Alabama. His message is being well received as he travels sharing it with countless officers around the country. It is a very timely message for the trying times that we are facing as a nation.
Please pray that we are successful in our efforts. As soon as a decision is made on a new date, an announcement will be sent.
Support Our Mission
- Donate on our website
- Make a check payable to Blue Watch and mail to 2620 Swiss Lane, Birmingham, AL 35226