Fewer young people choosing serve-and-protect professions

If you watch the television “reality shows” featuring law enforcement personnel (I did, once), you may come to the conclusion that being a cop is one long, exciting adrenaline rush.

It isn’t. But one has to wonder how many officers, deputies and troopers are in the profession for the excitement. Some are, no doubt.

But most are in law enforcement for a different reason, two Wheeling police officers told me last weekend. We were at the Heritage Port for the Wellness Weekend event, and I asked if the department was having trouble finding new recruits. Yes, they responded. “No one wants to be a cop anymore,” one said.

Because of all the pressure — some generated by the news media — on law enforcement these days?

No, he said. It’s a tough, sometimes dangerous job, and there are other less difficult professions that pay more.

So why does he like it?

Because of the good he can do for people. Regularly, years after he’s helped a person — sometimes by arresting him or her — people seek him out to thank him, he told me.

That makes his day.

As a member of the “make a difference” generation of the ’60s, that struck a chord with me.

Later, I talked with a Wheeling firefighter. His attitude is much the same. He compared his reason for liking the profession to that voiced often by nurses and school teachers. I would add ministers to the list.

It’s a shame some of the serve-and-protect professions — all of the above, in different ways — are finding it difficult to attract young people.

But good for those who, sometimes with their hands on their pistols or axes in their hands, take satisfaction in making a difference.

They do.

***

“You know, strange as it may sound, I hope council keeps Bob on,” my caller told me.

It certainly did sound strange. The man on the other end of the line had crossed swords with Wheeling City Manager Bob Herron several times, over a period of years.

Yet, talking to me about a month after Herron had been arrested on a DUI charge and suspended by council, the caller thought council ought to reinstate him.

Two other people said much the same thing to me. “We’ve had our disagreements,” one explained, “but overall, I think he’s done a good job for the city.”

He has. He will.

Herron made a serious mistake in drinking, then driving. It was compounded by the fact that he was arrested after, while driving a city-owned car, he caused a minor accident.

On May 20, after hearing his apology and pledge not to repeat the misbehavior, Herron was returned to the city manager’s job. That came in a 5-2 vote by city council. It also came with multiple strings attached, including random alcohol testing and no access to a city vehicle.

I know one of Herron’s friends, who tells me the city manager is serious about getting back on the straight and narrow. I wish him luck — for starters, because I think he’s a good man. And I’ve watched his work as city manager for many years, and think he still can do a lot of good for Wheeling.

Council, as a whole, made the right decision.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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