This post is part of our ongoing #WhyIWearTheBadge Wednesday blog series.
The IACP is fortunate to have several staff members who served their communities and their country as law enforcement officers. While they no longer wear a badge, their dedication and commitment to law enforcement still remains. Today’s post is from Jim Baker, IACP Director of Law Enforcement Operation and Support.
I served in active law enforcement for 40 years, starting as a young public housing officer with the Troy Housing Authority in Troy, New York, in the mid-1970s. I then went to work for the Vermont State Police (VSP) where I served for nearly 31 years. I worked a variety of jobs at the agency until I was given the opportunity of a lifetime: to serve as the Colonel/Director of the VSP. I got to lead a great group of professionals who made it their job to provide the best public safety they could. Upon retirement from the VSP, I was asked to lead the Vermont Police Academy and the Rutland, Vermont, Police Department.
Over the years, especially during difficult times, I often reflected on “why” it was that I choose to be a police officer and wear the badge. It allowed me the opportunity to reconnect to my roots and refocus on why I served. The answer was always that being a police officer and wearing the badge affords you no better opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. For me that started with a childhood where my role model was my dad. He served in many positions of public service, from being a trustee of a small village we lived in to volunteering on the local rescue squad as an EMT. I clearly remember my dad, who never had a driver’s license, running three-quarters of a mile in the middle of the night to get to the rescue squad building to respond to an emergency. It demonstrated to me that public service is a noble profession and that everyone has the opportunity to make a difference in the community they live in by being a public servant.
Once I became a police officer, I stayed motivated by reflecting at the end of each day about what lives I touched during that particular day. It could have been as simple as a young child smiling when I bent down to shake their hand or the more complicated process of comforting a family who just lost their teenage daughter in a fatal car crash. It was those victims, children, and people who kept me focused and motivated in order to do better each day.
As my career in active public service slowed down, another fantastic opportunity came my way—the opportunity to serve in my current role as the Director of Law Enforcement Operations and Support at the IACP. After all the years of active public service as a police officer, police executive, and active community member, I now have the chance to work on policies, programming, and advocacy that has a broader effect on the fine men and women who put themselves in harm’s way every day to make a difference. In my current role, I now get to pay forward all the support I received in my career. As one example, I now have a direct impact on programming and policy through our Officer Safety and Wellness Center that helps keep officers out of harm’s way. It does not get much better than that.
I look back on my career and know that I was so blessed to have been able to wear the badge and serve those who needed someone to make a difference in their lives. Those folks that I had the honor of serving often were at the lowest points in their lives. What a great feeling to look back and know that by wearing the badge I made their life a little bit better on that day.