Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson offered a topical commencement address to the newest class of coppers to graduate from the police academy.
There were only seven recruits in the class — the last one before Masterson retires,– but he emphasized the duty for coppers to protect human rights, citing a visit to the Anne Frank Memorial.
Here is the Text of Masterson’s address:
“A Heart to Heart Talk”
Yesterday, September 11th marked an important anniversary in our nation’s History. On Sept 11, 2001 a small group of terrorists attacked structures – the twin towers, the Pentagon, commercial airliners. The terrorists were actually attacking our way of life- American freedoms and liberties.
As we all know – it didn’t work. What we saw from the events of 9- 11 was the extraordinary courage of ordinary citizens and dedicated first responders who entered burning buildings to save others and passengers aboard Flight 93 who joined together saying “let’s roll” to prevent the terrorists from taking countless other lives.
These heroes had courage and the willingness to act. The heroes of 9-11 leave a legacy for us today. It won’t likely be an event as significant as 9-11 but you too, will be faced with situations throughout your policing career when you will call upon your personal courage, both physical and moral, to guide you in important decisions you must make.
Over the past six months you’ve learned much about enforcing laws which protect society from harm. You’ve been well trained and I’m sure eager to begin practicing your skills. Today, I’d now like to talk about the other aspect of our work as police officers – protecting the individual freedoms and the rights of others.
Two days ago, I brought you to a very special place in Boise, Idaho and the world, The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. On the eve of the 9-11 anniversary and at this sacred place, the value of protecting human rights serves as a fitting reminder for all of us.
I have had the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial many times during my tenure as Boise’s Police Chief . This memorial is one of just a few locations in the WORLD where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on public display in its entirety.
The declaration consists of 30 articles all having a nexus to human rights. It was published in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The UN called upon all member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and to – quote “Cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally into schools and other institutions without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”
Why is it important? Alongside the six million Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, hundreds of thousands of others were targeted by Hitler’s regime – including union members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the disabled, and those attacked simply for their race and religion. These are special communities within OUR community, sadly still sometimes vulnerable to hatred and discrimination and denial of rights simply because of who they are or what they believe. It is a particularly important message to those in policing.
For those of you just starting your policing career, always remember: policing in a free society begins with the police protecting and respecting our freedoms to practice the religion we choose, to speak freely, to protest government, and to peaceably assemble for whatever cause, gun rights to gay rights.
Respect must be given to all individuals at all times. We believe we can best earn that respect by first respecting the rights of others.
We respect rights by valuing people’s differences. Police officers must be at the front line of serving our most vulnerable populations – with justice, respect, and dignity.
And of course…courage. It takes courage to enter a burning building to rescue an individual; it takes courage to confront a person you witness commit a serious crime ; it takes courage to restrain ourselves in using only that amount of force necessary to control the situation.
But it also takes courage to protect a person who spews hatred toward others in the community; it takes courage to resist responding in kind when a citizen is despicable in his/her conduct toward you and spits, curses and calls you names; it takes courage to contact a homeless man whom you have watched over time begin suffering from dementia to the point he is medically endangered and you connect him with VA benefits; and it takes courage to end a high speed chase when it endangers others.
The message I want you to carry with you from today is the courage you will need in policing is not only physical – about risking your life for another – it is also courage in the form of restraint and providing protection to others.
At the Memorial, I introduced you to three special people, I’ve met while police chief who I’ve asked to share their stories- personal stories of discrimination in the areas of race, religion, sexual identity. Their courage comes from san obligation to see that injustice done to them and their communities ends and is not done to others.
All of us have a role in speaking out, particularly on behalf of others- for social justice, anti-discrimination, and equal rights. The speakers you heard made a choice not to remain quietly submissive. That’s courage. You heard from people who feel so strongly about these issues they have been arrested for civil disobedience or as you heard Rabbi Fink describe it “ I was exercising the moral obligation of my civic responsibility”.
I’m reminded of the importance of our guests words and actions and their courage to speak out by the inscription on the Idaho Human Rights Memorial wall:
In Germany, they came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews; and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Those words are credited to Martin Niemoeller, a German Protestant minister who was leader of the Church’s opposition to Hitler. He was interned in Nazi Concentration camps from 1937-1945.
Robert F Kennedy said: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
The three speakers you heard from Wednesday, plus hundreds even thousands more are the tiny ripples of hope in our community. And we protect their rights to speak out.
Remember the tree being plated at the Memorial – the symbolism that Anne Frank references in her diary as representing her longing for freedom. Boise is the City of Trees so the symbolism will be with you daily on patrol. Above all, remember the message of the Memorial; to recommit to the importance of a community that embraces, protects, and recognizes the rights of all its communities.
When you return to the Boise Police Department and walk along our honors hallway, you will see the words of C.S. Lewis,
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
You are now at the front line of our mission: protecting, serving and leading your community to a safer tomorrow.
Protect others not only from crime but safeguard their rights by your actions.
Provide the highest level of customer service. We work for the greater good of the community and to serve others. Be a part of your community. Be intimately connected to the community you police and by all means, give back to the community in the many ways other members of the Boise Police Department has so proudly have done in the past.
And finally, have the courage to do what is right for others. Our emphasis on courage should not come as a surprise to you. It was one of the important questions we asked in our employment interview and one of the main reasons you are here today. Courage is a Latin term that is translated “from the heart” and speaks of the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face adversity without fear.
Members of the Boise Police Department are committed to achieving our city’s vision of making Boise the most livable city in the country by working in partnership with our community to prevent and solve crime; address perceptions of safety and to solve problems. Our work matters.
My challenge and my hope for you is to spend your career protecting the safety of others and make a difference in the lives of those we serve, perhaps in small but meaningful ways, and change things for the better. My advice- start now as you will soon learn, as I have , that your career in policing will be over before you know it and you will look back asking yourself – did I make a difference? Did I matter? And the answer should be an unequivocal YES.
If you don’t remember my remarks then remember this: the Spiderman poster Rabbi Fink showed you which reads “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our citizens, our customers, those we serve entrust us with great power and the expectation to use it morally and responsibly to protect and to preserve human dignity and life.
I, my colleagues who wear the same badge and the people of this city trust you to perform those duties – with honor, respect, integrity and courage.
Welcome to the Boise Police Department and a noble profession.
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