My name is Mark Langford, and my seventeen years in law enforcement span three separate agencies, starting in 1990 with the police department for the small city of Trinidad, Colorado. I moved on to the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Department, which surrounds Trinidad with 4,775 square miles of land. In 2007 I ended my career in law enforcement, retiring as a Sergeant for the police department in the Town of Basalt, Colorado.
I started before there were cell phones or personal computers. While attending the police academy, Rodney King was abused in Los Angeles. I was taught to be a cop in an era when revolvers were common, PR24 batons were everywhere and the ‘plastic gun’ Glock was just making its debut in cop holsters. It was before the first terror attack on the World Trade Center or the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma.
The technological changes in equipment, tactics, training, and communications I have witnessed in law enforcement have been remarkable. Those things, along with the scientific capabilities of DNA and the vast databases of information and research available on the internet, amaze me with what the modern capabilities of law enforcement have become, things that weren’t even science fiction when I started.
But throughout my life, inside and out of law enforcement, I have come to the firm rationale that what makes a competent and professional law enforcement officer is not the myriad technological capabilities surrounding the profession, but it’s what the individual officer does with themselves while on the job. It is the attitude, caring, temperament, and maturity that the officer brings to the job day-to-day that makes all the difference. Arrogance, anger, and cynicism are the enemy of the law enforcement professional and the Golden Rule of “treat others as you would be treated” is the safeguard of them.
I have observed people with rich professional pedigrees and extensive training and education display the most malfeasant and unprofessional of activities. I have seen LEOs from administration to street cop show far more interest in the politics of policing dog poop at the park than performing a proper investigation into the murder of citizens of their jurisdiction. I have witnessed federal officers show less concern for the competence of their job than a crossing guard on a quiet street.
I wish to humbly ask those good people of this great nation to come into law enforcement and do good work. Brave the dangers and face the fears that are ever present and very real. Let the abuse that will be hurled at you wash off your heart like rain off the feathers of a duck. Leave each shift with a clean conscious even if your muscles ache and are bruised. Stand for the nameless of the community while the politics of the named roar in the headlines. Stay humble in the face of praise and temper your judgement of your fellows with the knowledge that you weren’t in their shoes and remember that harsh judgement of your actions may be just one call for service away.
I pray that you stay whole and safe, both in body and soul. It truly was an honor to serve and I am eternally thankful I had the opportunity.
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