What it really takes to serve as a police officer in today’s American cities

What it takes to serve as a police officer...

(NORM ‘n’ AL Note:  This article was written by the St. Paul police chief you see above.  It’s well worth your time to read it.)


The call came in just after 6 p.m. A newborn baby boy had been abandoned at 239 Selby Ave. on a dark, frigid St. Paul evening.

It’s calls such as this that test officers’ mettle.

 Thankfully, the child was alive, a small beacon of hope in what would otherwise be a difficult night of calls for the cops who patrol and protect the Capital City.

As our officers frequently do, those who responded to the Cathedral went further than necessary to show care and compassion. They visited the baby in the hospital, bearing gifts and wishes for a bright future. Our officers know all too well how difficult life can be; it’s their reality, assisting people in the throes of life’s worst moments.

After leaving the baby in the caring hands of nurses and doctors, the officers went back to work. Night had fallen and other people needed their help.

There were several domestics, including the one where an 11-year-old girl was punched in the face by her father. There was the drunken driver who careened his way through the city’s streets with a 0.252 blood-alcohol concentration. There was the aggravated assault that left a man with a knife protruding from his head.

Sadly, other than the abandoned baby, it was a night like most others experienced by officers responsible for the safety and security of urban environments across the country.

Transitioning from the miracle of life to a near-death experience isn’t easy. It requires a caring nature, confidence, the ability to compartmentalize and a guardian mentality. But the ability to switch gears between caring for the most vulnerable among us and tracking down someone willing to attack another with sheer brutality is something our officers do on a daily basis. I feel like it’s easy for the public to forget that officers are human, that they care about people and that they want the best for those they serve.

Police officers go where others won’t. It isn’t easy, especially these days when much is asked of our cops and every action seems to come under the microscope of public scrutiny. Our cops don’t do it for the glory or the money, and they certainly don’t seek out the bright lights of fame. They do it because they care about St. Paul. They want newborn babies, 11-year-olds, people driving home from work and everyday people to have a safe place to live, work and play.

I admire our cops, because they put so much into making St. Paul a safer place — and they’re succeeding.

The St. Paul Police Department recently released its preliminary year-end crime statistics from 2016. I’m happy to share with you that violent crime was down in the city last year:

  • The overall Crime Index, which measures Part I crimes, is down 2.4 percent
  • Aggravated assaults are down 8.4 percent
  • Thefts are down 7.4 percent
  • Robberies are down 2.2 percent
  • Homicides are down 4.5 percent
  • Rapes are down 13.6 percent.

It is important to note that these percentages are preliminary (based on initial incident data that do not include a final analysis of victims or unfounded reports of crimes). And while the data won’t be finalized until the end of February, it is encouraging — and a testament to the work of our officers.

I know that many variables play a role in whether crime goes up or down, but the exceptional work being done by our officers is an unquestionable factor that should not be overlooked.

As a society, we expect our cops to prevent crime, help hold criminals accountable, give voices to victims and mediate disputes. But that’s not all society asks of them. We’ve slowly changed the role of officers to include social work, mental health, education and more.

In today’s world, society asks cops to help solve its myriad challenges — and in St. Paul our cops are rising to the occasion with professionalism and grace. I am incredibly proud of their willingness and ability to step up and do what is necessary for the people they serve. I am also cognizant of the mental, physical and emotional toll it can take on them.

That’s why we celebrate victories, from newborns being saved to lower violent-crime rates.

The story about the baby abandoned at the Cathedral made headlines, and I’m thankful our officers were recognized for the care and compassion they displayed on that cold January night. But please remember that St. Paul’s cops are out there around the clock, putting themselves in harm’s way during incredibly tense, dangerous and sometimes surreal situations.

Yes, they signed up for the job, but we can’t lose sight of all that our officers see. Some of it is tragic, but thankfully there are those magical moments that remind officers why they do the job.

They do it because it’s their calling and their duty. They do it to keep us all safe, and everyone needs a beacon of hope in the darkness of night.


[Published by The Pioneer Press, St. Paul’s daily newspaper]




As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis


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