Words of Wisdom
“Walking the Point” (Lt. John Morrison, 1981)
Summary By Joseph R. Uliano, M.A., Ed.S.
Following the June 6, 1981, murders of San Diego Police Officers Harry Tiffany and Ron Ebeltoft, Lt. John Morrison wrote a letter to his officers, who were struggling with the loss of their two brothers. In the beginning of his letter, Morrison wrote about the conscious risks that people take in life, citing, “You can’t race cars without crashes and you can’t dig mines without cave-ins.” After speaking of these risks, he wrote, “You sure as hell can’t send cops out into the streets of a violent society without violent deaths,” and both Tiffany and Ebeltoft knew the risks and accepted them, as each and every cop does.
Morrison went on to write, “At least they died doing what the loved to do, and that can never be explained to those outside of our profession.” Morrison then pointed out three rules he learned while serving in the military and facing his enemy:
Rule 1: Young men die
Rule 2: You can’t change Rule 1
Rule 3: Somebody’s got to “Walk the Point”
Following these three rules, Morrison explained that in combative situations, someone must take the lead, fire the first shot, and warn the men behind him that danger is ahead, so that they can seek cover. The point man, if you will, saves lives even if it means losing his own.
Morrison insinuated that police officers act as the point man every time they put on the uniform, walk a beat, or answer a call for service, leading the way often as the first on scene confronting a combative situation – And the reality is, Rule 1 can’t be changed, and someone must always be the point man in the noble profession of law enforcement.
Closing out his letter, Morrison addressed the citizens of his community by reminding them that Tiffany and Ebeltoft volunteered to walk the point on June 6, 1981, and as a result, these brave men should be forever honored, not for what they did during their last street encounter, that loss is unfortunately expected, but for what they did; “Day after day, in darkness and light, rain or shine, and they did it without ever expecting a thank you.”
Finally,Lastly Morrison wrote, “Honor them. Remember them. And in the quiet peace of your home, get down on your knees and thank God—that they volunteered to take your turn WALKING THE POINT!” This is a sobering reminder to those who wear the uniform that tomorrow may be their turn taking the point, a position that may elicit one’s greatest strength and courage when called upon in the face of danger, so that others may live. A reminder that also involves living an honorable life supported by a sacred oath that all law enforcement officers take, defend and when necessary, die for, while belonging to a brotherhood that holds the line day in and day out.
Other inspiring law enforcement stories and quotes like Morrison’s can be found in “The Nobility of Policing: Guardians of Democracy” by Michael J. Nila (Blue Courage) - Foreword by Stephen R. Covey.