Opinion: A police officer has many jobs

Daily Post Editor

I hate it when we run stories about police officers being sued or accused of wrongdoing. We publish those stories because you have a right to know who is suing to get a piece of the city’s coffers, and whether the police were out of line. 

It’s our job as a community newspaper to print the good and the bad. But printing such stories doesn’t give me any pleasure. 

What do I really think about the police? Paul Harvey was a national radio commentator who delivered the following commentary in the early 1970s. He said:

“A policeman is a composite of what all men are, mingling of a saint and sinner, dust and deity. What that really means is that they are exceptional, they are unusual, they are not commonplace. Buried under the froth is the fact that less than one-half of 1% of policemen misfit the uniform. And that is a better average than you would find among clergymen!

What is a policeman?

“What is a policeman? He, of all men, is at once the most needed and the most wanted. A strangely nameless creature who is ‘sir’ to his face and ‘pig’ or worse to his back.

“He must be such a diplomat that he can settle differences between individuals so that each will think he won.

“But, if the policeman is neat, he is conceited; If he’s careless, he’s a bum. If he’s pleasant, he’s a flirt; If he’s not, he’s a grouch.

“He must make instant decisions which would require months for a lawyer.

“But, if he hurries, he’s careless; If he’s deliberate, he’s lazy. He must be first to an accident, infallible with a diagnosis. He must be able to start breathing, stop bleeding, tie splints and above all, be sure the victim goes home without a limp.

Not a bully or a coward

“The police officer must know every gun, draw on the run, and hit where it doesn’t hurt. He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without damaging his uniform and without being ‘brutal.’ If you hit him, he’s a coward. If he hits you, he’s a bully.

“The policeman, from a single human hair, must be able to describe the crime, the weapon, the criminal and tell you where the criminal is hiding. But, if he catches the criminal, he’s lucky; if he doesn’t, he is a dunce.

“He runs, files and writes reports until his eyes ache, to build a case against some felon who will get ‘dealed out’ by a shameless shamus.

“The policeman must be a minister, a social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy and a gentleman.

“And of course, he’ll have to be a genius, for he will have to feed a family on a policeman’s salary.”

• • •

Of course the newspaper should report on the misconduct by police, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the majority of officers serve honorably and professionally, embodying the characteristics described here by Paul Harvey. I’ve always railed against high salaries at city hall, but I think we can pay the police more in order to attract the best officers to our city. 

Post Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays.


  1. Great article, so well said and so true!
    Yes, we should sincerely appreciate and respect our police and its members.

  2. These are important thoughts to remember at a time when so many people are running around saying “defund the police.”

  3. Recently murdered in the line of duty, the young NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller’s tombstone has “End of Service” for his “Date of Death”. That says it all.

  4. This is so funny to me. Policing is actually a less dangerous job than being a pizza delivery driver. Look it up. They don’t stop much crime, they don’t solve much crime, they rarely found stolen property, and cost our city tons in settlements and overtime. No thanks!

    • When I hear somebody putting down the police, I wonder how many times they’ve been arrested. Or handcuffed and taken to the hospital on a 5150.

  5. If Howard is threatened by a man with a gun, or a burglar who has broken into his home, I’m betting he’ll call 911 and demand a swift response from the police. What a joke!

    • Howard is actually right. He would die waiting if he called 911 and expected the police to arrive in time to save his life. They show up afterwards and ask questions.

      While I agree most cops are good people trying to do the right thing, my attitude towards police generally changed after 2020. When I saw them take a knee to the rioters during the George Floyd protests and let the thugs take down our statues and monuments without arresting any of them. That kind of stuff occurs during communist revolutions. It was an awful time and the police let us down. Now I see their overly aggressive tactics towards peaceful campus protests against Israel genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza. I was also disappointed that they went along with masking. Are cops sheep?

  6. Any profession committed to serving others must be respected and celebrated. Law enforcement officers serve and keep people safe. We need law enforcement, otherwise our world will turn into an animal like kingdom where the powerful will eat the weak alive. We need caring, compassionate, hero like police officers who make their community feel safe and protected. Thank you Dave Price for humanizing law enforcement officers, and I agree the good ones are the majority!! At the same time, there is no room for tolerating any abuse of powers by the few bad officers. This positive, uplifting opinion is timely. It is time to rebuild trust and strengthen the relationships between communities and their law enforcement officers. This opinion is a good start!!

  7. Thanks Dave for this article. Paul Harvey sums it up so well, his voice and pictures do paint a more emotional picture. I sent a video of Paul Harvey’s commentary to several friends and relatives after the George Floyd incident, when many politicians made it the flavor of the day to defund the police and turned their backs on our officers. And we all know how the defund movement turned out in many major U.S. cities…some are still reeling from it.

  8. I am personally grateful to Palo Alto police who showed up and helped clear out a homeless man causing a nuisance and mess in the back of our store. Thankful Palo Alto police are still working. It is so important to have law and order.

  9. Howard is dismissive of the sacrifice police officers make. According to the DOJ, a total of 331 law enforcement officers were shot in the line of duty during calendar year 2022 in 267 separate shooting incidents, including 42 incidents where multiple officers were shot. A total of 62 law enforcement officers died in 2022 as a result of being shot in the line of duty.

  10. Police stop crime in obvious and less than obvious ways. A police car parked in front of a store reduces shoplifting. A police officer walking though a school strikes fear in the minds of evil actors. Drug dealers move along when a police car rolls up. Those of us who obey the law welcome the police in our community. For people like Howard, you’ve got to wonder why they’re so afraid.

  11. I appreciate this attitude shown by local newspaper. I’m glad to see, as Paul Harvey would put it, the rest of the story.

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