This post is part of our ongoing #WhyIWearTheBadge Wednesday blog series.
Guest blogger: Officer Johnny Vande Brake, Tualatin, Oregon, Police Department
Who am I? I have learned the public sees me in a variety of ways; the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet, I am a person who was molded, created and guided by two outstanding people who have instilled a wide variety of valuable layers. My parents didn’t know at the time, but they were teaching and preparing a young boy for a profession that is fun, exciting, challenging, dangerous and essential for this evil yet wonderful world we live in today.
My layers go deep, yet are simple expressions of who I am as a person, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a daddy, and a police officer. I was given an opportunity to express, “Why I Wear The Badge” and give the reader an insight of who I am when I put on the uniform and pin a piece of metal over my heart that I have raised my right hand to and sworn I would give my all, my sweat and tears and possibly my life, to the community I serve.
The public we have sworn to protect and serve doesn’t see these layers of who I am. They only see a uniform and badge. But I am a loving and spirited person who dresses each work day hoping to make a difference in someone’s life. That life could be a child, a suicidal subject, a thief, a drug addict, a family who lost a loved one, or “you” who has called 911 praying we arrive as soon as possible as you hear glass breaking and foot steps coming down your hallway. As I go “lights and sirens” to your house a swarm of thoughts and feelings go rushing through my body and mind. I tell myself, I am trained and equipped to handle this situation. This person in need expects me who wears this badge of honor to protect them and bring them back to their safety and security. I do this willingly. I do this because “it’s the right thing to do” no matter how you feel about me and my profession. I pray each day before I hit the streets and say, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” Our communities need men and women who are willing to wear the badge and protect anyone who calls. I am here to answer your calls.
We call this piece of metal we so proudly wear a “shield”, a “badge”, and a symbol that we will protect and serve the people of our communities. I wear it proudly. But what the community might not understand, each man and woman serve and wear the badge pledging to do their very best and not falter when we are needed most. I take this responsibility with open arms. I love my job, the profession and its purpose. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that fills me with such joy.
Throughout my work day, I can be contacted by all sorts of people I serve. It could be someone who ran a red light, an angry and intoxicated transient who calls me names and wants to do me harm, or a young boy who just wants a closer look at my uniform, equipment, and badge. I’ve had several opportunities throughout my career where I have looked down and was met by young innocent eyes whose only goal was to meet me and ask for a badge sticker. It’s amazing how a child’s eyes light up when they place their badge sticker onto their chest. I want to say I do the same thing every time I wear my badge and go to work. I wear the badge for them. I wear the badge for you.
Recently, I was working a special event where a local community church was helping a low income neighborhood. Kids of all ages were lined up patiently as I helped each one to sit on my police motorcycle, turn on the lights and play with the siren. So many smiles. So many questions. As the day went on, I saw the same kids pushing one another down the sidewalk on a toy motorcycle. Being a motor officer, I thought to myself this would be an excellent opportunity to share, “Why I Wear The Badge.” The kids laughed. I laughed. And by the end of the day, an impact was made and a community was formed.
So who am I and why do I wear the badge? It’s a profound question, but I keep it simple. I am your officer and I serve you. I’m drawn to this profession, it’s purpose and the desire to help those in need. So I want to thank you for allowing me this opportunity and honor to wear a badge.