by Paul Harvey
A policeman is a composite of what all men are I guess, a mingling of saint and sinner, dust and diety. Culled statistics wave the banners over stinkers, underscore instances of dishonesty and brutality because they are news. What that really means is that they are exceptional, they are unusual, they are not commonplace. Buried under the froth are the facts and the fact is less that one-half of one percent misfit that uniform and that is a better percentage than what you'd find among clergymen.
What is a policeman? He of all me is at once the most needed and the most wanted; a strangely nameless creature who is "Sir" to his face, "pig" or worse behind his back. He must be such a diplomat that he can settle differences among individuals so that each will think he won. If a policeman is neat, he's conceited. If he's careless, he's a bum. If he's pleasant, he's a flirt. If he's not, he's a grouch. He must make instant decisions that would require months for a lawyer. But if he hurries, he's careless -if he's deliberate, he's lazy. He must be first to an accident and infallible with a diagnosis. He must be able to start breathing, stop bleeding, tie splints and, above all, be sure the victim goes home without a limp. Or, he must expect to be sued. The police officer must know every gun, draw on the run and hit where it doesn't hurt.
He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without soiling his uniform and without being "brutal". If you hit him, he's a coward - if he hits you, he's a bully. A policeman must know everything and not tell. He must know where all the sin is and not partake. The policeman must, from a single human hair, be able to describe the crime, the weapon, the criminal, and tell you where the criminal is hiding. But if he catches the criminal, he's lucky; if he doesn't, he's a dunce.
If he gets promoted, he has political pull. If he doesn't, he's a dullard. The policeman must chase bum leads to dead ends, stakeout 10 nights to tag one witness who saw it happen but refuses to remember. He runs files and writes reports until his eyes ache to build a case against some felon who'd get dealed out by a shameless shamus or an honorable who isn't honorable. The policeman must be a minister, a social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy, and, of course, a genius, for he has to feed a family on a policeman's salary.
(Paul Harvey's own father was a policeman, who was killed by a bootlegger on Christmas Eve when Paul was a little boy.)