It seldom occurs that you hear a presentation or speech that leaves you wanting to hear more. It is even more rare that you hear two such speeches in less than one week. Mr. Sonny Cleere gave an outstanding presentation at the monthly Pachyderm meeting and Chief Tim Vasquez presented a compelling commissioning to the graduating SAPD Cadets. Both gentlemen, at my request, allowed me to publish their presentations.
Mr. Sonny Cleere
Rekindling the American Spirit
You be Remembered?
Chief Tim Vasquez
On July 4th, two hundred thirty-six years ago, as a result of a resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia to the Continental Congress, that “these Colonies of right and ought to be free and independent States,” a document penned principally by the 33 year old Thomas Jefferson was adopted at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The forceful words of this great document known as the Declaration of Independence have continued to reverberate throughout the succeeding generations….
“When in the course of human events, it becomes
necessary for one people to dissolve the political
bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station which the laws of
nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent
respect to the opinions of mankind requires that
they should declare the causes which impel them
to the separation…we hold these truths to be self -
evident that all men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights…and for the support of this
Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection
of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each
other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred
When President Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the Brightest Minds in the nation at the time, he made this statement, “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligent minds gathered at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone.”
Thomas Jefferson died in 1826 at the age of 83 on the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This Declaration was more than just a political event. It was an act of faith. The 56 signers of the Declaration realized that if they failed in their quest for freedom, that each would be found guilty of treason and hanged. It was Ben Franklin who stated to John Hancock that “we must hang together or hang separately.”
The Founders and Developers of our Great Nation were God honoring men and women. The very foundation upon which this Republic was founded was on the underlying faith in the Providence of God. The 56 men who signed the Declaration by their own statements and writings, reveal that they asked for God’s guidance in their deliberations. Many of these same men returned to Philadelphia in 1787 to draft the Constitution of the United States of America constructing it in such a manner where there was a separation of Church and State, making it possible for man to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience, an innate desire of man so strong that freedom of religion was one of the motivating factors which drove the early settlers of this country to face death to achieve this privilege which we so often take for granted today.
This inscription on Plymouth Rock is a fitting epitaph to our Founding Fathers’ convictions:
“This spot marks the final resting place of the Pilgrims
of the Mayflower, who in weariness and hunger and in
cold, fighting the wilderness and burying their dead in
common graves that the Indians should not know how
many perished, they have laid the foundations of a
State in which all men for countless ages should have
the liberty of worshiping God in their own way.”
Our leaders today could well benefit from the example of faith and conviction which was so vital in the lives of our Founding Fathers. During the Constitutional Convention which convened in Philadelphia on May 25th, 1787, there was a fierce debate which lasted some three and one half months. At times it appeared that the convention and all hopes of a unified country would be dissolved and the states go their separate, independent way, until Ben Franklin, who was 81 at the time, made the following statement:
“Mr. Chairman, if a sparrow cannot fall to the earth
without God’s notice how can a Nation arise without
His guidance? I move that these proceedings begin
and end with a prayer.”
By today’s standards, the framers of the Constitution were not a highly educated group, but each was well educated in another sense, they were deeply endued with moral values, their minds drew a clear distinction between principle and expediency, they were not uncertain of the values their believed in and were determined to uphold – and they realized the power of prayer.
In George Washington’s first inaugural address, he stated:
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore
the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of man,
more than the people of the United States. Every step
by which they have advanced to the character of an
independent Nation seems to have been
distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
In every inaugural address since Washington, every President has taken note of the Almighty. There is every proof for us to see that America’s greatness was built on faith. “In God We Trust” is our motto, to the wonderful influence we owe that degree of civil freedom and much of our political and social happiness that we today enjoy in this great land of ours. Our nation, which has been an experiment in self government, a nation which constitutes only six per cent of the world’s population, but enjoys thirty-six percent of the world’s material blessings.
The great seal of the United States which was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1782, displays on the reverse side of the seal a pyramid of 13 courses of stone, representing the union being watched over by the eye of Divine Providence. The upper motto, Annuit Coeptis, means “God has favored our undertaking.” The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia was named because it was rung on July 8th 1776, to call citizens together to announce the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Its inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto The Inhabitants Thereof” is from Leviticus 25:10. The bell was rung at every anniversary of the Declaration until it was broken during the funeral service of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.
I’m sure that all of us cherish many childhood memories, some memories which remain indelibly imprinted on my mind are the songs we sang in elementary school. They were patriotic in nature, such as “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and even in this decade Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” But today, we cannot have prayer in public schools or school functions because a small group of non-believers have convinced our courts that this was threatening individual rights, it would offend the non-Christian and non-believers.
Take a look in your telephone directory. Look at the number of churches which are listed, different denominations, but all Christian churches, not Muslin, not Buddhist, or a list of Atheist organizations. If I attended a soccer match in Bagdad, I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer, in China if I attended a ping-pong tournament, I would expect to hear a prayer to Buddah, it would not offend me – it is their country. What about the atheists who oppose signs of the cross, Nativity Scenes? The answer is we are not trying to convert them with a 30 second prayer, let them go to the restroom, or stick their fingers in their ears. Christians are tired of the courts stripping us of our rights. The Silent Majority has been silent long enough. It’s time to tell them you do not have to pray or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but by golly, you are no longer taking away our rights.
I believe that you and I have rights also. I believe that we have the right and duty to organize support for our school teachers, return to them the authority to dispense discipline when necessary without fear of reprisal or being hauled into court because they have violated someone’s individual liberty. We have the right and duty to support our law enforcement agencies and our court system and return to them the authority needed to administer justice.
Last Monday, I read an article which disturbed me greatly. You recall the incident at Ft Hood in 2009, where Maj. Midal Hassan, a Muslim, killed 13 fellow soldiers and wounded some 24 others. A military judge who was presiding in this case has been removed from the case as a Court of Appeals has found that his treatment of the suspect, including an order to have the man forcibly shaved, indicated a lack of impartiality. Something is wrong with our system.
History repeats itself. There is no reason to repeat bad history. If we have learned anything from past history, it is that in proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief or neglect, in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom.
The foundation which supports the interest of Christianity is also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own. In all those countries where there is little or no religion, there you will find with scarcely a single exception arbitrary, tyrannical governments. It was William Penn who observed, “A people will either be governed by God or ruled by a tyrant.” America’s past is a halo of glory, America’s present is the wonder of the rest of the world, freedom under God is the priceless gift that has come to us as part of our heritage and is destined through us to the future. This heritage has made the US the land of opportunity for the aspirations of the individuals.
We are today living in one of the most critical periods in our history. Scandals have rocked our government. Immorality is running rampant. In some cities in our country, individual safety is being threatened, our very foundation of freedom is being threatened. The words of Thomas Paine in his book, “The Crises,” which was published during the critical time while Washington and his troops were at Valley Forge are apropos for us today. “These are times that try men’s souls. The sunshine patriot will in the crisis shrink from the services of his country, but he that stands, now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Freedom is not free. Since the foundation of our nation, forty-five million Americans have served proudly in the Armed Forces. Over one million have given their lives in the defense of our country and an unknown number have been wounded. American warriors have never lost faith in their mission. They face danger daily that we as protected citizens cannot imagine. Yet, in all the wars in which we have fought, the only territory we as a people have ever asked from any nation we have fought alongside of or against, is a few hundred acres of land for 24 cemeteries around the world. We owe apologies to no one!
In 1940 the undermanned British Air Force fought a desperate battle against the superior German Lufwaffe Air Force for control of British air space to prevent a Nazi invasion. After many days and nights of continuous bombing, the Lufwaffe was repulsed, saving Great Britain from invasion. Sir Winston Churchill in a radio address to the nation stated, “Never in the history of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” I find this statement to be just as appropriate today when referring to the young men and women who serve proudly in our armed forces as it was in 1940.
It is my hope and prayer that in this coming year, that through a rekindling of the American spirit, we can echo Lincoln’s affirmation in the concluding words of his Gettysburg Address, “That we here do highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain and that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
May God Bless America – and to our Marines, Semper Fidelis.
On behalf of the San Angelo Police Department, and these graduating cadets, I want to thank everyone for attending this morning. When I graduated from the academy several years ago I remember the feeling of accomplishment and nervousness I had at our graduation. It meant a lot to me to be able to celebrate my graduation with my family and friends. I am honored to be speaking at your graduation.
You have joined a tradition that is like no other. The tradition began in 1631. 1631 was the year the City of Boston established the first system of law enforcement in America. It was called the “night watch,” where officers served part-time, without pay, which is similar to today when it comes to pay. You joined a profession that has been around for almost three hundred years. 300 hundred years later policing and crimes have changed dramatically.
I want to briefly share with you the future of law enforcement and the issues we face today. The future is often regarded as the realm of visionaries, prophets, and science fiction writers.
It is also the province of planners, those who understand how the threads of the past have woven the future, and the foresight to see the possible ways those patterns may continue beyond the present day. There are many possible futures, and we can never know which one will be until it emerges. This is both troubling and empowering.
However, this future uncertainty gives us opportunity. In the words of noted computer scientist Alan Kay, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
And as a leader in the law enforcement community I must confront some key challenges to the future of policing. This involves a transformation and the opportunity to shape the future of policing in our community and quite possibly influence change throughout our State and Country.
Let me tell you how policing in San Angelo has evolved. In the early years police patrolled on foot and on horse back. Our first Officer killed in the line of duty was Charles Anderson. Charles Anderson died October 26th, 1919 while trying to get an arch light in the downtown area to come back on and was electrocuted. Later, after the Cactus Hotel was built and prior to radios, Officers were issued coins at the beginning of their shift. If they had a pending call a light would come on at the Top of the Cactus indicating which officer to call in. The officer would then either find a call-box or a pay phone and call in to dispatch of the call. Later the vehicles were equipped with a mobile radio. It was the 70’s before hand held portables even became available.
Today, we have digital hand held and mobile radios. Our cars are equipped with digital recording devices, in car computers, radar units, and plenty of fire power.
Not only has equipment changed but so has our style of policing. Law enforcement, by its very nature, is reactive. Through the years we have found successful ways to become proactive. I am excited, as you should be, about the future of policing in our country.
The future of policing is an exciting one. Today, all law enforcement agencies face a time of great challenge and opportunity. If the law enforcement profession fails to enhance its services today, it risks crippling them tomorrow. This daunting task will take hard work, patience, and unwavering dedication. Everyone in law enforcement must accept this challenge for the well-being of the profession we love and the citizens we are sworn to protect and serve.
The result can only be better, safer communities in which we live, work, and play. The future for the San Angelo Police Department encompasses a three pronged approach that has made our department one of the visionary departments we strive to be, and one that others want to be like. Our style of policing has brought together Community Oriented Policing, Problem Oriented Policing, and Intelligence Led Policing where we take our data, analyze it, and focus our resources in areas that the data recommends. We are well on our way to becoming great at this style of policing but we must continue to challenge ourselves to constantly improve. I want you to know that I don’t demand perfection but I do demand excellence. Furthermore, if we ever become satisfied with the way we are policing, we will open a door for crime to increase and take the lead.
The profession you are joining is a job of little respect or pay. We do this job not for the appreciation or the pay but rather because we want to make things better for our friends, families, and communities. It’s a calling or a destiny. And we do this job with the authority of God. Romans, chapter 13, tells us that God has given us the right, and the authority to do the job we do. But we must do the job as He prescribes. Romans says that the authorities are God’s servant. We must be servants. Will you become angry because someone interfered with your lunch break, or you had to take an extra report because someone’s dog ran away? Is that a sign of servant hood? Is that using God’s authority the way He wants us to?
Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacekeepers for they will be called sons of God.” Let me read that again. “Blessed are the peacekeepers for they will be called the sons of God.” Today, you become the peacekeepers. You will be blessed if you do this job properly. You may not become rich with money but you will become rich in life. Stay focused on your mission. Be the officer everyone remembers as the one who loved to serve others. Be the officer who understood what being a peace officer really meant. Being a peace officer does not mean you will be given a lot of appreciation, or even a lot of respect. Being a police officer means being a peace keeper, being a servant, being a positive person, being someone people will remember as a hero, a person of integrity, focus, faith and a person of nobility.
With this job comes responsibility and accountability like no other. Police officers are held at a higher standard than all others. You are given a level of authority that can change a person’s life, and you cannot take that responsibility lightly. When I attended this same academy in the early 90’s our country had just sustained the Rodney King incident and riots. I was new and did not understand what I was viewing when I watched the video. And in recent years, we viewed the footage of New Orleans Police officers looting and heard the stories of hundreds leaving their posts and abandoning the people they swore to protect during Hurricane Katrina. I hope you find this as disturbing and saddening as me. Those acts do not reflect the behavior of a true peace officer, the majority of all officers, and certainly not the behavior of San Angelo Police officers. It’s almost daily that the media highlights the wrongs of a few but not the good of the many. And almost every other day in this country an officer gives his life in the line of duty serving the others he is sworn to protect.
Last night, I heard a story about some officers involved in the Sandy Hooks Elementary School shooting. This job requires sacrifice. Often, that sacrifice means sacrificing time with family, friends, sometimes our life, and a lot of times going into situations that others not dare, seeing things that others should not. It’s through those situations where your servant hood will shine through.
The responding officers to Sandy Hook witnessed a horrific scene that I pray none of us will ever have to witness. Those officers realized the evilness in what they were observing. As those officers cleared the building they advised the survivors to close their eyes as the passed through the scene and out the door. Those officers recognized the magnitude of the horror that could be witnessed by the survivors and with their compassion and their servant leadership abilities, became the eyes for those survivors. Not just once, but multiple times and they escorted numerous survivors multiple times through the scene, being their eyes and absorbing the horror for them. Today, those victims, those survivors, that community, this nation, and those first responders are in our thoughts. Those officers are heroes to me and they should be to you as well.
I know your minds are filled of dreams and thoughts of police chases, lights and sirens, and throwing bad guys in jail. But I want you to remember this, that there is so much more to being a police officer than just throwing bad guys in jail. The best officers, and we have many, know that the gun, badge, and handcuffs are secondary to community spirit, community interaction and community service.
All of you chose this career because you wanted to make a difference. None of you chose this career because of the money. Remember this, your employers are the citizens of this city, the ones you will swear to protect and serve. You are here for them and not them here for you.
Edmund Burke once said, “All it takes for evil to conquer is for good men to do nothing.” You have made the choice to do something. And if you do this job properly, there is nothing more noble you will ever do.
In closing, I would like to address the graduates who are beginning their Law Enforcement careers with the San Angelo Police Department. Welcome to the SAPD. You are being given the opportunity to join a group of men and women who, as a whole, have come together and are working together to improve the quality of life in San Angelo.
Remember this question I pose to you today. How will you be remembered? Will you be remembered as an officer who used your discretion wisely and showed a compassionate heart, never treating others as though you were better than them? Or will you be remembered as the officer who should have joined another profession?
When you are out there trying to make a tough decision ask yourself this question: Am I doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason?
I want to welcome you to a police department that has chosen to prevent crime instead of reacting to it, and to a police department that has been revitalized and is taking pride in doing that together. Welcome to law enforcement, welcome to our family, and welcome to our department.
Congratulations and Godspeed.