Public Safety Appreciation Week: A moment to pause and reflect
This week in Cobb County, Georgia, the Chamber of Commerce kicked off the 13th Annual Public Safety Appreciation Week. I stood as a proud sponsor for that event. I was also asked to speak at the 3rd Annual Paulding County Public Safety and Family Appreciation Festival on Saturday October 8, 2011. These events are amazing opportunities for the public to meet the people who protect them day and night. I would like to share the text of the speech I gave on Saturday. The words are from the heart and apply to all of our public safety heroes in every city, county and state in our country. Stay safe.
I want to thank everyone for giving me the honor of speaking to you today. It is truly comforting to be in the presence of so many public safety professionals. We are here today for you just as you are all here for us, every day. Day and night, bitter cold or August heat, you answer the call of duty for strangers.
In January 2008, I started a law firm dedicated to helping public safety personnel. My team looks out for you when you need protection, we advocate for you when your rights are threatened and we help you when you are injured on and off duty. We are committed to you because of who you are and what you do.
Public safety. That is quite an interesting choice of words to describe EMS, fire and law enforcement officers. What are we to expect of “public safety” officials? Are they expected to prevent crime? Are they expected to eradicate fire risks? Are they expected to prevent anyone from choking? The United States Supreme Court in Deshaney v. Winnebago held that government officials are not insurers of public safety. However, public safety officials make the effort to educate and train the public to prevent the tragedies that are so devastating to our “public safety.”
So if the law does not require these efforts, why do it? Why exert resources reaching out to the public you serve? If the law allows the fire department to stay in the station and wait for the next fire why teach fire prevention to school children? If the law allows EMS to wait to respond to the next person down, why teach CPR and first aid? If the law allows law enforcement officers to show up as soon as possible and investigate crime scenes, why work with businesses and schools to develop plans to keep adults and children safe? The answer is simple: you work to protect the public any way you can because you are driven to do so. Driven by a deep-seated belief that this is your community and the citizens of Paulding County deserve the best you have. You believe they deserve your “A game”; every shift, every day. For that, your community is truly grateful.
As certain as the sun comes up tomorrow, the people of Paulding County will live their lives and go about their business. They will go to church, school and work. They will return each evening and rest comfortably in their beds secure in their belief that when their lives turn upside down, when their children are in danger, when their safety is threatened by those who wish them harm, you will respond. You will respond quickly and bring to bear the skills and dedication you carry with you. We are here today because we understand that skill and dedication is only part of the equation. For in the heart of every one of you is a commitment to service above self that drives you to perform your assigned duties with honor and courage, even when in doing so you put your life on the line.
Enjoy your day. Accept the well wishes of those in attendance today. Take a deep breath and take in the gratitude and community support you see all around you. Know that each and every day, as you fulfill your sworn duties, you are not alone. Behind you are the men, women and children of Paulding County. Look around you and you will know, without hesitation, that while you have their backs, they have yours.
Thank you for inviting me here today. May God embrace each of you in His protective arms and keep you safe today and every day.