Several years ago, I was sitting in a classroom of detectives while a friend of mine spoke about decorum, behavior, and professional expectations of police officers in a court of law. As a district court judge and experienced prosecutor, he commanded everyone’s attention and respect. He led with a simple comment that immediately went to the top of my list of “things to never forget.”
“When you take the witness stand and are asked to identify yourself,” he started, “you need to begin with your name and then your title and not the other way around. Your name is who you are; your title is what you do. I want to know who you are before I care about what you do.”
I honestly can’t think of a simpler life lesson that had a bigger impact or was more important in my career than that down-to-earth comment. It was one of those “Aha” moments of enlightenment that I now follow every day and inject into every class I teach.
My name is Bill Powers and I have spent the past fifty years working in one capacity or another in the criminal justice system. I spent thirty-three years as a sworn police officer with a majority of that time working as both an investigator and an academy instructor. I “retired” to take a position as an assistant professor teaching classes on investigation and courtroom testimony to students in a forensic science program at a Boston medical school. Seven years later, I “retired” again to become the Director of Public Safety at a college in the heart of Boston. Now, with decades of experience, an overflowing satchel of institutional knowledge and formal education behind me, I have turned my attention to writing, teaching and hopefully, showing the human side of policing.
Television, movies, and books project an unrealistic and often tainted image of who we are, what we do, and why we do it. I, like most of my peers, pay little attention to those stereotypes, because they do not represent the reality of police work or the people who do the job. We don’t recognize those fictional characters as our contemporaries. We are human beings, not actors following a script. We have hearts, souls, and families. We are educated, trained, and experienced, and we think for ourselves. We come from all walks of life with family backgrounds as diverse as the people we swear to serve and protect. We don’t want to be pigeonholed, defined, or lumped into a simple category of “cop,” or worse. We are members of the community, we are your neighbors and friends, we coach your kids in sports and sit next to you in church, and we are a voice at town meetings and work with you to organize charity events.
We are you, but with a different set of professional goals and responsibilities. We were attracted to policing because we wanted to make a difference and protect our communities. The overwhelming majority of us follow a moral and ethical compass that always points due North. As a group though, we are not perfect and don’t pretend to be, and, like you, we want to eliminate or separate the “bad apples” because they taint all of us.
My intent in creating and growing this website is to emphasize and focus on the good in people; to highlight what can happen when we all, police and citizens, work together to help others, particularly victims and their families. I want to write and read comments and stories from others that feature ordinary people stepping up to do extraordinary things on behalf of their fellow man
Like all police officers, I have vivid, enduring memories of cases that I worked. People are always saying, “You should write a book about your career.” For years, I balked at the thought, but I have come to realize that in those stories are important life lessons that need sharing. Tales about the extraordinary things that ordinary people achieved when faced with the challenge “to do the right thing.” The stories don’t dwell on or focus on the shock and awe. They highlight the good in people and the often-excruciating decisions they made to stand up for what is right and to do their part to right a wrong.
People aren’t “heroes” because of their profession or the uniform they wear. A hero is a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character. As William Wallace famously said in the movie Braveheart, “Men (and women) don’t follow titles, they follow courage.” One caveat however, this website will be free of personal politics and judgements. So, please write about the people and not your political insights.
I encourage you to read the different sections of this website. Go to the stories and commentary section as well as the page introducing my upcoming book about a homicide investigation and prosecution of a ruthless predator. Then please offer your comments and thoughts in the section set aside for them. Thank you!