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In Law Enforcement and the Military, Service is a Common Virtue

November 1, 2020
Tony Montoya - SFPOA President

Service. Duty. Selflessness. As we approach Veteran’s Day, these words come to mind to describe the attributes of those who faithfully protect our nation’s freedom. They are also attributes that seemed to be devalued in our culture now as we place individualism and expression above the sacrifices needed to protect and promote our communities as a collective.

Service. This a word often lost in a sea of hashtags and “influencers.” Our veterans chose a life path that focuses on doing something for others. No one pursues a career in the military to strike it rich or become famous. Rather, they seek an opportunity to serve a cause bigger than themselves to ultimately protect and improve the lives of others. It’s an admirable pursuit, a daily dedication that often is recognized on a holiday or, unfortunately, at a funeral. As a country, we should honor that commitment daily.

Duty. Webster’s Dictionary defines duty as, “obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position.” What does this really mean? It means sometimes having to do job tasks you’d rather not do or maybe you’re personally opposed to. When you are duty-bound, you do not have the option to pick and choose what you want to do. You perform your obligations because ultimately it’s for the greater good of the people you serve.

Selflessness. This is really the core of service. To put the interests of another before your own, and in military terms, to put someone else’s life before yours. Throughout the illustrious history of our armed forces, there are countless stories of soldiers who risked their lives, who sacrificed their lives, to save the lives of fellow soldiers, of innocent civilians, or in the case of WWII, of global freedom. It’s a quality that is vaulted in every religion and valued in every culture. Our frontline soldiers display this virtue every day they serve, yet it is usually only recognized when making the ultimate sacrifice versus the daily exercise of selflessness we know occurs.

As a police officer, I honor our veterans for their service to us, for rising to the challenge of fulfilling their duties, and for their selflessness. I see the same attributes when I look at our SFPOA members, and when I look at our nation’s law enforcement officers. It’s logical why we see so many military veterans transition to a career in law enforcement as they leave the armed forces.

We have many Military Veterans amongst our ranks in the SFPD and we are lucky to have them. Anti-police activists are working right now to discourage departments from hiring military veterans. They ignorantly think military training leads to more aggressive behavior. Not surprisingly, the uninquisitive brand of politician listens to this nonsense.

What’s the reality? When a military veteran comes to our department, they are well trained, they’ve lived a life of sacrifice, they understand the concept of restraint and they have the one intangible that we know reduces uses of force in the field, confidence.

What many do not want to recognize is that whether you’re a cop or a soldier, you’ve likely been exposed to the absolute worst that humanity has to offer. You’ve seen suffering. You’ve seen death. You’ve seen desperation. Yet, you chose to do your duty every day because you know that what you do matters to the community you serve. You come back to work because you know that any day you may have the opportunity to save a life or change a life for the better.

Service. Duty. Selflessness. I hope our culture goes back to valuing those attributes again. In the meantime, on behalf of every SFPOA member, to all of our veterans, and our active duty military, we appreciate you. And we thank you.