There is no question that the American flag is intrinsically linked to the men and women who make up the various police forces sprinkled across the United States.
Seems only natural, right? Well, consider this. The United States does not have a national police force, which was intentional because the Founding Fathers made sure that our national government did not control a law enforcement agency that had such widespread power. The Founding Fathers wanted to be sure that police officers would enforce local- and state-enacted laws.
And yet, right there on the shoulder or chest of so many officers, are patches or decals of Old Glory. Some departments do issue medals that end up on an officer’s uniform, but those instances are pretty rare, and often are only worn in official settings, not while out working the streets.
Some agencies do have a flag or patch from their own agency, but those are of course found underneath the American Flag, which is following the U.S. Flag Code that states that Old Glory must be above all others.
Of course, many law enforcement officers previously served in the military, perhaps even giving them a feeling of a stronger bond with the flag. Over the decades, that belief of fighting for the flag has likely set in and taken a firmer hold in policing agencies nationally.
But at its core, the reason for the flag is to symbolize their civic role and responsibility – not just as lawmen and women – but as citizens of the United States. Of course, they are also charged with upholding the rights defined by the U.S. Constitution.
Combined, these roles construct a sense of deeper connection to country, often which is borne out of the affinity for the American flag.
Officers of course carry with them a civic pride not only for their jurisdiction but for their country. These days, you see it come true every July 4th as law enforcement officers participate in parades while others work the holiday to keep Americans safe. Just take a look at most any officer’s social media feeds where you see our Independence Day commemorated with posts about honor, conviction, and love for the nation they have pledged to protect.
That is what it comes down to – honor. It is an honor to enforce the laws of our land and keep citizens safe. It is an honor to ensure the rights covered by the Constitution. And it is an honor to put one’s life on the line to do both of those.
Quite tragically, more than 20,000 men and women of law enforcement have sacrificed their lives doing just that, while more than 900,000 of them are out there today working to protect the citizens of the United States.
Here at the National Law Enforcement Officers Fund, we are greatly in tune with this belief of honor. It’s why we started the Stand With Honor program to ensure as many officers’ stories as possible are told. As we say on our website, “Behind every soul in law enforcement is an untold story of honor.”
Standing firmly behind this honor is a love for the flag that is shared by every officer who acts as a champion for his or her community. It’s why Independence Day has such meaning for so many lawmen and women. And it’s why they all feel such pride providing a shield of protection for this great nation.
Craig W. Floyd is the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization established in 1984 to honor the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. Floyd helped form the Memorial Fund and has served from the outset as the organization’s chief executive officer. Under his leadership, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was built and dedicated in October 1991. Today, that monument stands proudly in our nation’s capital as a richly deserved tribute to America’s peace officers. More than 20,000 fallen law enforcement officers have their names inscribed on that Memorial, dating back to the first documented fatality in 1791.