Corporal Blaine Cornelius #204
A concerned citizen recently posed a question to our department inquiring how finding marijuana and a handgun during a search warrant was a success. While we are proud of the work we do to counter criminal activity in Galena, the word “success” has not been a part of any of our vocabulary, and it is merely just a step in the right direction. The gravity of the drug problem and socioeconomic stress on our community is not lost on us.
Citizens of our town, our neighbors, our friends, and our families, are being jailed and prosecuted for breaking laws subsequent to their pursuit of that next “bump” or “high”. Citizens of our community, outlying communities, other states, regions and even other countries are exploiting our populace in an effort to make their selves rich or at least a little better off.
Our demographic, unfortunately, is ripe for the picking. There are very few of us who can honestly say, we haven’t in some way been personally affected by the abuse of illicit substances. Unfortunately, even knowing this, very few of us will ever feel the call to combat the problem. “Those aren’t my kids”, “It’s none of my business”, and “I’m scared of retribution”, are all common themes which prevail in the vocabulary of far too many of us.
Investigations in to all sorts of crimes metabolize in just as many different ways. Leads and cooperation from the community are our biggest asset. We can’t be everywhere at the same time. This is my 13th year in Law Enforcement and my fifth year serving the citizenry of Galena. I have spent the majority of my shifts on patrol as the sole “protector” of roughly 3,000 citizens. Daytime, nighttime, dawn or dusk, it was just me, or one of my brothers or sisters on your beat much of the time. I once had a former council member approach me in public and tell me, a lowly patrolman at the time, if I didn’t do something about the thefts; he was going to “cut my funding”.
My reply, not so elegant at the time, was basically, “how can you make it any worse?” Because, let me tell you, my stories are plenty and by no means unique. I have been in fights with no backup for miles in any direction; I have done CPR on one of our citizens for so long, I could barely lift my arms the next day; I have held guys twice my size at gun-point begging them to not make me kill them, because I knew if I didn’t they could kill me; I have disarmed a meth raging lunatic on the side of the highway armed with an AK-47; I’ve gone forward when everything in me said run away. I have, more than one time, stripped my uniform off in the garage for fear of contaminating my own home and children with the toxicity of the scene I had just left. I have shed tears with you, shed tears for you, and prayed with, and for, a lot of you and I will do it *all* again tomorrow and so will every one of the people who dress just like me every day.
Every once in a while, the stars align and we do something big, the right pieces of the puzzle fall into place at the right time and we manage a substantial seizure or we solve a big case and there are many of you, who still can’t be satisfied or choose not to be satisfied. That’s ok, neither are we; while we may have won a small battle, the war rages on. There is no success in that. There is no success when our investigations lead to a small child screaming at us to not “kill their parents”. You can’t seize enough drugs, cash or guns, to ever take the sting out of that!
The focus of the Galena Police Department, no matter our manpower, is protection of life and property, service to the public, and the suppression of criminal activity. While we hold a certain amount of discretion, Illegal drug activity will not be tolerated. One day, the prohibition of marijuana may be repealed in the State of Kansas. That day has not yet come however, and until it does, the possession, use, cultivation and distribution of such will not be permitted. Just the same as speeding in school zones and running stop signs or red-lights are not allowed, neither are any illegal substances, no matter the popular opinion of them. We don’t always agree with the laws. We sure don’t make the laws. We will however, enforce the laws to the best of our ability with the utmost respect toward the constitution.
Some lingering questions remain which were also posed to me today. Inquiring minds are curious about our turnover rate and what they can do for us to assist in the retention of our ranks. Truthfully, not much; people are going to come and go. Certain individuals come here merely for experience and certification, then move on where they feel the grass will be greener. Others will come to the conclusion police work is not for them and will leave the field completely. Some make mistakes to a degree their continued employment would be a liability to the city.
This is a stress realized by every department, large and small. We do our best to select the best candidates for open positions. Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are struggling to fill their empty patrol positions it’s not just us. The benefits must reward the position. I have never heard a cop in our area talk about how rich they were so the benefits must lie somewhere else. What you can do as a community is simply give us your support. Cookies and pies are a nice touch, but please, only in moderation. We can’t afford to keep buying larger gun belts. Fruit baskets people! Please! Best of all, smile and wave, take the time to get to know us personally. We can prove to you, the disconnect you feel with our position is irrational once you get to know the person who holds it.
I think I have hit all the high points of the discussion at hand and if you have stuck with me this long, I applaud you. You are obviously concerned about our community enough to listen to me ramble. Therefore, I would like to invite you in to a partnership with us to assist in our endeavor to curb criminal activity within your neighborhoods. There is no person, more intimately familiar, who has any greater investment to do so than you the citizen. Take ownership of your security back. When you see something, say something without hesitation. Let us know when you feel criminal activity is afoot immediately. Gather intelligence for us and be our eyes and ears when our eyes and ears are occupied somewhere else.
When the citizenry realizes its potential as a force multiplier to its police force, the criminal element will be put on notice. Until then, we will just keep doing the best we can.
Corporal Blaine Cornelius