Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon held in Brownwood
Speaking from the vantage point of a 43-year career, retired law enforcement officer Tim Braaten said it is a profession of highs and lows.
“The highs you get to live with, and the lows you get to live with," Braaten said at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon, held Friday at Victory Life Church.
“Generally, the highs you can share with other people," Braaten said. (Officers) own those lows. They own them inside. They eat at them. They eat at me. The lows, you just don’t get rid of.”
Braaten, a Minnesota native, began his law enforcement career after graduating from the Detroit Police Academy in 1968. Braaten held posts including police chief in Texas and other states. He retired from law enforcement in 2011 after serving as executive director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Education, and continues to serve as a consultant and instructor to law enforcement.
Braaten brought a thoughtful and often poignant message to a large audience that included dozens of officers from local jurisdiction in the Victory Life Church sanctuary.
He began by speaking of “a very divisive debate” about policing that has occurred in the United States and Europe since 2019.
“I think that there’s something that’s being forgotten in this debate,” Braaten said. “Oftentimes people try to solve long-term social and political (issues) with short-term solutions. It’s been my experience that usually, short-term solutions create long-term problems. And I think we’re seeing that in the debate that’s happening about law enforcement.”
Braaten said he uses the text abbreviation LOL for “lack of leadership."
"We’re seeing lack of leadership in many of the decisions that are being made. And I think that we’re ignoring history. When we ignore history we’re destined to repeat that history,” Braaten said.
“I think you’re seeing it in Minneapolis and Portland right now, particularly when they push so hard for defunding law enforcement. Now there’s an uprising in both cities to refund the police department. So they’ve reacted to a short-term knee-jerk situation and they’ve created themselves a long-term problem.”
Braaten said people have “forgotten to understand what democracies and bureaucracies are all about and how they operate. Democracies and bureaucracies move slowly and they move slowly for many reasons. One of the benefits of slow-moving democracies and bureaucracies is the fact that major mistakes are usually not made.”
Braaten referred to a statement by automobile pioneer Henry Ford, who noted an airplane takes off into the wind.
“When things get tough, that’s when we get ready,” Braaten said. “That’s what I see in the greatness of law enforcement. I’ve witnessed the greatness. I’ve witnessed courage.”
First responders run into danger while others run away, Braaten said.
“John Wayne said it best: ‘courage is when you’re scared to death, but you’re still saddling up,’” Braaten said. “And that’s what I see in law enforcement.”
Courage can sometimes mean inaction, Braaten said, noting the scenario of police waiting out a barricaded hostage taker to achieve a peaceful resolution.
“The reality of it is, I want to get past 2 1/2 hours,” Braaten said. “Just give me 2 1/2 hours that nothing happens to that hostage, because it’s exponentially more safe after 2 1/2 hours.”
Braaten said he’s heard it said that law enforcement officers “are often calloused and unfeeling. But I know different.”
Law enforcement, Braaten said, “has a front-row seat to the greatest show on earth. It’s a profession where there’s a tremendous amount of highs and a lot of lows.”
Law enforcement changed greatly during his 43-year career, Braaten said, noting that not all of the changes were good.
“Sometimes when the bad changes happened, I really, really thought, did I pick the wrong career?” Braaten said.
“And I’m thinking some of you probably out there thought maybe you picked the wrong career also. But what kept me going, whenever I thought about quitting, was (remembering) why I started this profession in the first place. And I think that that’s one of the encouraging words I can give to you. If you ever think about quitting our profession, just think about why you started it in the first place.”