The words are dedicated to “the modern-day guardians dressed in blue”: the law enforcement officers who’ve chosen to serve the public, to be apart from their families, to risk their own safety to protect a stranger’s.
The words were written when the author, a man with more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, was feeling frustrated and misunderstood.
While he never intended for his poem, “If You Could See,” to be published when he wrote it three years ago, Chief Michael Cloutier hoped that by putting his thoughts down, he could personally begin to process the growing divide he was seeing between officers and the public.
“If you could see what I have seen, maybe you’d understand, it takes a special kind of person, who opts to make a stand,” the first line of the poem reads.
Now, those words are public, appearing on PoliceOne, a website catering to law enforcement.
And Cloutier – now the chief of police at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts – is embracing the chance to talk about what he wrote – and why.
“My hope,” Cloutier said, “is that people might see things through a different lens, and perhaps it helps breach a little bit of that gap with our police and community relations.”
Cloutier is also using the poem as a teaching aide for students enrolled in Fitchburg State’s police program, a five-year course of study.
Graduates finish with their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and are also certified to work full time in municipal police departments across the state.
Those discussions include the importance of self-care, a focus he said is becoming more widely accepted.
“There has been a little bit of a shift in society, in policing, to be more mindful about the things that impact us,” he said. “So, having this opportunity to chat with them and share these experiences, and by sharing personal and professional experiences, I think it strengthened the message.”
Beyond the Call of Duty
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Moving forward, Cloutier is hopeful – for these students, for his fellow officers, and for the communities they serve.
“I think there’s a lot more common ground that people have these days than perhaps what people recognize,” the police chief said.
“Public service is a wonderful thing. When you boil it down to why we do what we do with what the calling was, it’s incredibly simple: It’s just in service of others.”