A few days before Christmas, a news reporter asked me if I felt hopeless after having our own Windermere police officer and several others killed in the line of duty and now having to deal with the negative perception many people have of law enforcement.
I’m certain she was soliciting a different response for the camera, but also I had a feeling that she may actually have felt this way herself.
Well, I don’t feel hopeless in the least. I am saddened by what I have seen and for the lives lost. I know this feeling all too well. I am disheartened by our lack of real leadership from some of the highest-ranking people in our nation; yet, I am still not hopeless.
Conversely, I see men and women doing great work all around me. So many officers do their jobs with honor, integrity and service to others every day. In my 29 years in law enforcement, I’ve witnessed warriors walking into gun battles, barricaded gunmen, hostage situations and encounters as violent as war-time assaults, all of which ended with some lives being saved.
Moreover, I’ve seen officers pay for someone’s meal, purchase gifts for a child, pay someone’s rent, provide physical labor on local churches on their days off, help the less fortunate, take children to theme parks and work with special-needs and terminally-ill children. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the good deeds I’ve witnessed throughout my career. The evidence of overwhelming generosity, care, compassion and hope that I have watched officers display is simply amazing.
I’ve also seen officers lose their lives, and I’ve seen the pain, grief and suffering of the families, friends and fellow officers who are left behind.
But I have faith, which gives me hope. One great irony in life is that whether or not you consider yourself a religious person, grief seems to reveal the element of faith in all of us. It shows us where we place our trust when faced with the reality of loss. If you are a believer, the Bible reveals a path through the unimaginable that eventually leads to hope.
Initially, when we live through such tragedies, the thought of anything good possibly coming from our world being rocked to its very core seems ludicrous and even downright disgusting. But the reality is that each loss changes things forever. However, we are not passive players in that change; we get to decide whether it makes us bitter or better.
Our prayer for everyone who is dealing with tremendous grief, the kind of grief that takes your breath away, is that you will each find hope once again and you will be better and stronger for it. I know I am.
So, to the TV reporter who interviewed me before Christmas: No, I don’t feel hopeless. Hopeless is the last thing I feel when I know God has provided a pathway toward hope.
Hopeless is the last thing I feel when there are more than 700,000 men and women in blue willing to put on the uniform every day, despite what the secular news with an insatiable appetite for the negative reports.
Hopeless is the last thing I feel when thousands of local residents have banded together to honor our fallen officers over the past year.
Hopeless is the last thing I feel when I see citizens stopping by our police department to drop off cookies and, yes, doughnuts, to say thank you for our service.
I am biased in that I believe that law enforcement is one of the most honorable professions people can choose to do with their lives. But I choose to not be hopeless.
Dave Ogden is the chief of police for the town of Windermere.