Presented by Springer Harris, President of the Burlington Rotary Club, On May 23, 2016 at the Queen City Police Foundation Awards Luncheon.

On behalf of the Burlington Rotary Club, I am honored to host the fine men and women of the Burlington Police Department. Hosting the annual awards ceremony has been a tradition of our club for over 20 years; when I became president just under a year ago, I immediately started looking forward to this event.

When I started thinking about what I wanted to say today, I knew I wanted to learn more about what it was like to be a police officer. Someone on NPR told me to read “The Job” by retired NYPD officer Steve Osborne so, I did, and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I decided to ask the Chief for permission to do a ride along, to which he obliged. Before I knew it, I found myself sitting in the bullpen on a dreary Saturday evening waiting to be picked up by my officer for the night. I had no idea what to expect; I was nervous and excited to say the least.

The five hours that I was able to spend with Officer Darren Kennedy were the most interesting and thought-provoking five hours I have ever had in this city. We raced up Pearl St. with the lights and sirens blaring. We transported a prisoner to the jail. We arrested an individual on an outstanding warrant. We patrolled the city and we talked A LOT! But, the most important thing I did was get a glimpse of what being an officer was like at a very personal level. I already knew Burlington was one of best cities in America but what I didn’t know was that we were protected by what must be one of the finest police forces in the United States. We are truly blessed.

This is not an easy time in our country’s history to be a police officer. Cameras are everywhere and the court of public opinion carries more weight than it should. Our own community has criticized the fact that we have an overwhelming young police force. I on the other hand think that is an amazing statistic that should be celebrated. I am the youngest ever president of a 93 year old organization.I know there are many more men and women my age who plan to join me in leading this city into the future and our young officers are key components of this. We, as young men and women, are no longer the future of Burlington- in fact, we are Burlington.

So back to my mission of learning what it was like to be a police officer. What did I learn? What I really learned was that I have no idea what it is like to be “on the job” and I never will. I have no idea what it is like to pack on 25 pounds of gear of and hit the street on foot for eight to ten hours. I have no idea what it feels like to kiss my family goodbye after only seeing them for 15 minutes, not knowing if it is going to be the last time. I have no idea what it is like to wrestle with someone on the street. I have no idea what it is like to run into a building while everyone else is running out. I have no idea what it is like to bring someone back to life using Narcan. I have no idea what it is like to see the tragedies that you see every day and night just to start over again tomorrow. I have no idea what it is like to make split second, life and death decisions, that will ultimately be judged by our entire community. And I have no idea how you courageous men and women do it every day.

What I do know is I am so thankful that you do it. I am so thankful that when you were young kids and you said you wanted to be police officers that you actually did it. I am so thankful that you continue to come to work every day and night to protect us at your own sacrifice. Today is your day to celebrate your fellow officers and for us to give you thanks. On behalf of the Burlington Rotary Club, and from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! Thank you so very much. Please enjoy the ceremony and stay safe out there.