Taking a Knee

Every once in a while, something extraordinary appears on Facebook. Take, for example, the powerful and eloquent post from a New York State Trooper who, ten years ago, was shot while at the scene of a domestic disturbance. In her post, she recounted the details of that awful day, and expressed her gratitude to the three officers who responded to back her up and who, after the shooter was neutralized, worked to save her life.

In this age of hyper-charged debate about what it means for an athlete to take a knee before a game, this Trooper’s post reminded me of a simple but absolute truth: police officers kneel all the time. And when they do, it is not to register their views on some social or political issue. Instead, cops take a knee because that is what the job calls for, and they do it without hesitation.

In the case of the seriously wounded Trooper, this was exactly what happened. Once the scene was stabilized, the three other officers (from two different agencies) who were there, immediately took a knee by her side, cared for her, and remained with her until she was evacuated.

As the recent tragedy in Las Vegas unfolded, pictures of the scene showed numerous police officers taking a knee next to patrol vehicles and, while under fire, scanning their surroundings to determine the location of the shooter.

Police officers responding to the scene of a serious auto accident sometimes find that they are unable to reach a trapped individual in a wrecked car until they take a knee on the pavement. Only then are they able to reach in through the twisted metal to render assistance.

Family disturbances are among the most emotional and dangerous calls for police officers. In the aftermath of those events, though, it is not uncommon for cops to take a knee to comfort a distraught young child watching a parent being led away in handcuffs.

And, far too often, police officers find themselves taking a knee at funerals, wakes and memorial ceremonies as they pay their respects to fallen brothers and sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Next weekend, the networks will gear up for the usual schedule of athletic events and much attention will be paid to whether athletes knelt or did not kneel during pre-game ceremonies. And though it will go unnoticed, this is one of those times when cops will not take a knee. Instead, with the first stirring notes of the National Anthem, every uniformed police officer in the arena will stand at attention and render a crisp hand salute.

As Americans, we do not rise and show respect for the flag and the National Anthem as a way of aggrandizing ourselves. Instead, we do so to honor, in some small way, those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Police officers, who place themselves in harms way every day on our behalf, understand this better than most.