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Servant’s Heart: A life helping others

May 17, 2023  By Tom Wetzel

In 2022, a police officer I used to work with died after a battle with cancer. He was a good man and his wife asked me to deliver a eulogy for him, which was indeed a special privilege. The central theme that I used to describe his life as a public servant guardian were the eight Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus gave over two thousand years ago. In fact, it can be applied to all police officers throughout North America, as cops truly have the chance to live out the Beatitudes through their service to others.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. The poor in spirit can be seen as those who are spiritually destitute and truly down on their luck. Police officers encounter them on a nearly daily basis and have a wonderful opportunity to provide simple acts of support or just say a kind word to them.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Cops routinely respond to calls involving loss of life or intense suffering where people are really hurting. As first responders, officers have the chance to offer immediate solace and compassion and help them through their pain and struggle.

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. Police officers run into many people who are simple and humble but need assistance, such as a homeless person or someone suffering from a horrible drug addiction. Cops can point them in the right direction to get the help they need or just offer them a pair of gloves on a cold night along with a show of respect and dignity.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Too often, good people are victims of crimes and deserve justice. Police officers have the unique opportunity to investigate those crimes, arrest bad guys and try to make things right for the victims.

Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy. Police officers often encounter people who make mistakes, listen to the wrong people, or just make poor decisions that could result in minor criminal charges. Cops have the chance to apply empathetic discretion and clemency and cut them some slack where they can. In lieu of a ticket or an arrest, they can give a warning or forego a formal charge. The person instead may be referred to a first offender type program or get a little lecture on doing the right thing. Even for more serious crimes, officers can still treat the arrested suspects with dignity which is a form of mercy.

As first responders, officers have the chance to offer immediate solace and compassion and help people through their pain and struggle.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Policework involves people risking their lives to stop evil and protect the lives of others. You must have a good and brave heart to do this special work and the majority of cops do.

Blessed are the peacemaker for they shall be called Children of God. Cops routinely have to respond to very tense and highly charged situations in need of a peaceful resolution. Police officers are in fact peacemakers and when they do their jobs well, they will bring peace wherever they go.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Most police officers are righteous men and women who do honorable work. In recent years, they have been persecuted for simply doing their jobs. Despite that they continue to do yeoman’s work to make our communities safer places to live and thrive.

My friend was a kind and gentle hearted man who served with distinction. His life, like that of police officers throughout North America, can be defined in two words: serving others. And when we do that, we actually have the beautiful opportunity to live out the Beatitudes in our honorable profession and make a difference in the lives of so many we serve.

Tom Wetzel is the recently retired chief of police in Richmond Heights, Ohio, and a former SWAT commander. He is also a certified law enforcement executive, adjunct professor in community policing and internationally published author on police topics.

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