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A Basic Guide to Weapons

Chat with a Cop

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Have Your Back

In the past a statement of “I have your back” was usually uttered by comrade in arms right before they ran head long into battle. Can’t you just picture two warriors, back to back, surrounded and fighting off a stubborn enemy? Neither hero willing to stop because doing so would mean death to the person who’s back they were covering. Warriors expect to die, hell some even look forward to it during battle. But nothing inspires or encourages a warrior to unbelievable accomplishments like a cause.   

“I have your back” is a declaration of the highest order. It means no matter what happens, what comes down the pipes, I will be there for you.  Today, it is seen as a promise of total, unflinching, unquestioning physical/mental/financial and emotional support.

In my other life as a police officer, that's how most of us interpreted the underlying meaning of that particular phrase. Those words are neither spoken lightly nor are they accepted lightly. Think of it this way: If you were about to go into battle, who would you rather have telling you “I have your back” – John Wayne? Rambo? Or Barney Fife?     

Those four words are among the most powerful words in a Law Enforcement Officer’s (LEO) vocabulary.  Of course the power of the words are directly proportional to the strength and depth of the person’s character who speaks them. In-other words, when someone I trust tells me “I have your back”, my reaction is relief with a dash of pride I would receive such a gesture of total support.

It’s funny how cops doubt most of what they hear except it comes from a person they have anointed/dubbed/certified as trust worthy and true. Anyone who makes it into the close circle of people that a LEO designates as ‘having their back’ is considered completely trustworthy.

I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to explain this. It’s a weird, paradoxical type thingy. Those people who ‘have my back’ would do anything I needed If I went to them for help. However, those people know my personal moral code, so they know helping me would never be anything illegal, immoral or underhanded. The same goes for me ‘backing their play.’
In fact if a ‘friend’ came to me for help and asked me to do something illegal, my first response would be to talk them out of it. If that didn’t work, I would tell them no and remind them they were making me a party to a crime and I might have to turn myself in. The bottom line is anyone trying to get underhanded help is not the person I thought they were and therefore not entitled to my unwavering support.

Okay, here’s the reason for my waxing poetical about cops and their phrases. In early July, I was fortunate enough to present a workshop for Romance Writers of America (RWA) at the National Conference in New York City. My workshop Beyond the Uniform: What Makes Your Cop Tick, was given the last day of the conference at 8:00am. I’m used to having props (digital presentations, visual aids, weapons etc.) when I speak, something in my hands or to refer to. For this presentation it was me, my outline, and a couple of books.

I’m not saying I was exactly what you might call nervous – tense – yes, that is a much better word. Anyway, as I was speaking I ended up off topic and said so out loud to the class. Several of the attendees began prompting me about what I had been talking about before I went off topic. I was amazed at the help I received and thanked the class. One woman in the audience responded, “It's okay Margaret. We’ve got your back.”  

I was completely caught by surprise and could not help but stare at the woman who uttered those words. I hadn’t heard that phrase in so long I had a flash back. Yeppers, right in the middle of teaching I remembered how important those words were and how it made me feel when they were directed towards me. As I stared at this wonderful  woman, I wondered if she had any clue - other than my staring - just how deeply her words touched me and the underlying power behind them. As I studied her face, I could see nothing but sincerity and the conviction of what she said.

The time of my internal review was probably no more than ten seconds, but as with most public speaking, ten seconds seems a whole lot longer when fifty sets of eyes are focused on you. Her words went a long way into helping me feel as though I was chatting with friends. From that point forward, my class flowed effortlessly and I easily settled into my speaking rhythm.  

So, who has your LEO character's back? How hard won was that support?

If you want to twist it, who says they have your LEO's back? Are they telling the truth?


  1. Great blog Margaret!!!

    I think people sometimes forget the power and commitment behind "I've got your back"

    THanks for the reminder! :)


  2. Margaret,
    Great post and great blog! My first visit, but not my last.
    Question: A new member of my veggie CSA is a city cop. Before I knew he was a cop, he questioned and doubted every "promise" we made for his season of veggies. He lied to get more convenient (for him) delivery arrangements. I felt bullied. Now that we've had many weeks of contact, he's mellowed--and paid in full-- and I'm no longer thinking I should tell him to take a hike.
    Are cops more prone to be suspicious?

  3. Great blog!

    It's very easy to toss off words (I promise... Trust me... etc.) but we need the occasional reminder these aren't just words, they are bonds - and how you treat them says a lot about you!

  4. My first time here, too, Margaret. Great blog. I loved the example from the RWA confernece. I've been in RWA now for almost 4 years--started writing the year before, coming from an educators/PTA background. I've never met a more supportive group than romance writers. It's almost counter intuitive--you'd expect we'd all be fighting over the readers out there. Maybe all writers aren't as generous, but romance writers set the standard on how to operate--kind of like your cop phrase--we're there for each other--cheering for the sales or contest wins, uplifting when those rejections come.

  5. Ana, the short answer for your question is yes.

    As I started to type out an in-depth answer, I realized what a great topic for a blog. So thank-you for the inspiration. Your expanded answer will be a posted as a blog in a couple of days.

  6. Wow, Danielle your comment reminded me how my career in law enforcement solidified the concept - say what you mean and mean what you say - that my parents tried to instill in me at a young age.

    In the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Academy I remember instructors hammering into us (cadets) never, never promise or threaten something you have no intention following through on. Because someday someone will challenge you on what you say and then what will you do?

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Marsha, I couldn't agree with you more a romance writers. Yes, there are exceptions but on the whole no other group mentors writers to the extent RWA does.

    Thank-you for your comment.