Ben Thomas Jr.
Mayor of Greencastle
Ben Thomas Jr.

I was so pleased to receive a phone call last week from a friend who had just read my virtual walk around a portion of downtown Greencastle. He’s been spending months doing research about our beautiful community and is very well versed on past businesses. He reminded me that when the Western Auto store moved from South Washington Street the Carbaugh family moved the business to South Carlisle Street where Ed Zarger had his plumbing business downstairs. Western Auto was on the first floor for a few years until it moved to Center Square. What a great place to visit over several decades with Mr. Carbaugh greeting as we entered with “hello handsome!”

OK ... sit with me now for this porch side chat. I must impart my experience as a police officer and emergency medical technician having served for a portion of five decades. I reluctantly provide you with my experiences because every man and woman who choses this profession could most likely relate with this writing, whether serving in Greencastle, or any other part of the country. As a young administration of justice major, I studied the history of law enforcement and the challenges faced at the turn of the 20th century. I enjoy occasionally speaking about this subject in public settings and am happy to attend your group, organization or church to provide a presentation ... yes, even faith based as well.

So two-thirds of the time I worked nights, weekends and holidays. This is what public safety personnel do. We knew it when we raised our right hand and took an oath to protect and defend the law. Training was number one; from Pennsylvania’s mandatory police academy training (known as Act 120) to the specialized courses that were mandated every year to maintain my commission. Over these years I worked with hundreds of men and women at the municipal, state and federal level with training in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. This bond gave me faith that these men and women of all races would lay down their lives to protect citizens and support their fellow law enforcement officers. What about our families? Just ask the spouse and children of a law enforcement officer. Their sacrifices are sometimes overwhelming.

I protected first responders being the first in the door on serious and unknown calls; had guns directed (pointed) at me; did CPR and other life-saving skills on citizens in need from seniors to babies in cardiac arrest; and worked unsuccessfully to save the life of a traumatically injured police officer. I provided trauma care and comfort to those in motor vehicle crashes; victims of shootings (by others or self-inflicted); notified and provided comfort to family members whose loved ones had just been tragically killed; cried with citizens; prayed with citizens; and took weapons away from those who wanted to commit suicide as we would talk (and I would listen) for as long as it would take. I participated in criminal investigations involving suspects in highly professional positions who would ultimately be arrested. I didn’t label all persons in those professions as bad. I separated many couples during domestic disputes. Observed the dramatic and traumatic effects of drug use and alcohol abuse which generates the most serious police calls. I spent a decade teaching school children regarding Drug Abuse Resistance Education in the G-A School District.

Why is this message so personal to me? I respect every law enforcement officer for what they do under very harsh and challenging conditions that you rarely hear about. A bullet-proof vest is part of the uniform. I attended too many police funerals over the years. One negative, criminal action by a police officer should not reflect at all on this noble profession. I am very concerned that applications for police employment are down significantly across this nation. When I took civil service exams decades ago large rooms would be full of applicants testing for a handful of positions. What followed would be physical exams, psychological exams, oral interviews, then the academy and basic training.

God bless our young people, men and women of all races, who pursue a career in public safety and military service. They are our future for protection of our liberties, freedom and enforcing the rule of law. Government’s first duty is to provide protection and safety to our citizens. If our public safety and military personnel were told to stand down for just one week, what would this nation and the world be like? Enough said.