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We Take an Oath, to Protect & Serve

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                                                            We Take an Oath, to Protect & Serve

When you threaten or take someone's life in your hands, it becomes our job to make peace or make an arrest. In a split second, the police officer on the scene can become a victim while attempting to contain and control a violent domestic situation or a hostile criminal who refuses to be arrested. In any situation we must always be alert, perceptive and ready to act. We know if we don't, we could lose our life in a split second - all in the line of duty. And what happens to our immediate family left behind?

It's a strong dedication to public safety that we feed on, that special call for pride and professionalism when we take an oath to protect and serve a community. Being a police officer is a 24-hour job, whether on or off duty. Never knowing when you may be required to react to a criminal misdeed of some kind. Maybe, that's the attraction in law enforcement that keeps us coming back for more.

When I became a police officer, it was certainly not for the love of money. It was a job I wanted because of my caring and love for our parish and the wonderful state of Louisiana. I didn't mind the long hours, many times working 12 hour shifts. There was also something special in my life, Law enforcement in my family was a long-standing tradition, and one we're all very proud of to this day.

The public needs to remember that we are human, and whether we're working the Mardi Gras, the Superbowl or patrolling a district. We're subject to being struck in our cruisers, being cut or shot at while trying to apprehend a criminal, and when we get hurt, we bleed just like everyone else.

It's so important for the public to pay attention to the road. It can be someone's poor judgment or that disregard for the RED signal light at a street intersection. Everyone, including police officers live in fear of a drunk driver behind the wheel. It can be a routine traffic stop when officers become victims of careless, non attentive drivers. Just the other day a Sheriff's Deputy in Edgefield County South Carolina was transporting a prisoner and was struck head-on by a drunk driver and killed.

Yesterday in my state of Louisiana, a friend was driving his state police unit when a driver ignored a signal light and hit his unit. Thank goodness, he is all right due to the fact he heard the screeching brakes and was able to accelerate and avoid being broad sided. Thankfully, he will see another sun rise.

In the foulest of weather extremes, we're on patrol, ready to respond to protect life and property. Working an accident scene in the rain or fog makes our job even more hazardous to getting struck, it's a constant threat as we try to ensure no one else gets hurt.

Why do we do it? It's our job to protect and serve. It is not a glorious one when unlawful situations go ugly. Often, a tough duty shift will be loaded with critical incident stress. Not knowing, we've personally been affected by (CIS) until a day or two later. And how sweet it is when we receive a thank you from a thoughtful public.

This year has not been a good year for police officers and fire fighters injured or killed in the line of duty. In fact, as of today, September 22, 2000 - 113 brave and courageous police officers and 70 firefighters have died on duty.

Are we as a society doing the best we can to take care of the families left behind, what about the young children who lose a police officer parent, do we have an obligation to take care of them? It breaks my heart thinking about a grieving family, how will they survive now that a daddy or mommy has given their life for the safety of others.

As a retired police officer, I will always lend a helping hand where ever I can. It could be at some vehicle crash, assisting a police officer needing my help until backup arrives... You can put me out to pasture in retirement - but you will never take the desire out of me.

Yesterday, I feared the worst when I heard about an officer involved vehicle crash, and was I glad to hear a voice on the radio, announcing everything was okay. Events like this pull on my heart strings. To some, we may seem cold hearted, and that's unfortunate for all good police officers getting a bad rap. Working the tough areas can change some personalities over time, but please, we do not wish to come across as being cold hearted.

Please, the next time you hear a siren wailing, slow down and heed the right-of-way, it could be a police officer, a medic, or a firefighter enroute to help someone in your family.
As a police officer, we like you, care dearly about our families and especially those that are left behind when an officer dies on duty. LODDs in 2000 are two months ahead of 1999, and that is a worrisome stat for police officers.

Please, do not let us support a too heavy burden on our shoulders. When we ask for your help, please listen to us. I do not want to see any more heart broken families suffer from want. They need our help.

As we leave for duty each day, we know this good-bye might be our last if some predator takes their hostility out on us. The life of emergency responders is risky, and we meet and love that challenge of adventure. There is nothing to replace that feeling of satisfaction when a frightened victim looks at you and says: "THANK YOU."

You may take my badge away at retirement, but you can never take my love for the job out of my heart.

Dee Dee Serpas is a retired police officer from Kenner Police Department (Louisiana).  Currently, she is the President of the TAPS Memorial Web site.   Following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, Sheriff Paul Berthelot, Sheriff of St. John the Baptist Parish, and that of her father, who was president of FOP Lodge 2 in the late 1950s, Dee Dee became a Police Officer. First with the East Jefferson Levee Board Police, she also joined the Kenner Police Department and was the only female to graduate from the academy that year. Later, she joined the Jefferson Parish Sheriffs Office as a street cop. This makes her the only known female in Louisiana to have held three commissions at the age of 21. Her first book, Behind the Badge in the Atchafalya Swap is due out soon.

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