A sacred promise E-mail
Written by Sean Smoot   

Events of the past year, perhaps unlike any other in recent history, has given us all cause to reflect on promises. We have seen a nation fulfill its promise to bring justice to a terrorist. and we will witness promises constantly kept by the brave police officers and firefighters who can be seen running toward the explosions, smoke, gunfire, screams, cries and destruction as others run away. People who work in public safety take an oath - they make a promise - to serve and protect. This promise is universal. It is the same oath, the same promise, made and kept every day in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Springfield, Cairo and in your hometown.

Whether it's in response to a terrorist attack, a tornado, a felony or a flood, police officers, firefighters and other first responders run toward danger and often into disaster. Instead of running away from the promise they made, some of them are catastrophically injured. And some of them die.

Promises made and promises kept - that's what makes everything else in America possible. We are free because others took an oath, promising to be there when we need them - to pull us from a burning car or out of the rubble, to pursue those who would steal or damage our property, to keep our streets safe and criminals incarcerated, to save our lives.

In May we honored police and correctional officers who paid the ultimate price in keeping the promises they made. Promises made, promises kept. In exchange for their devotion to all of us, we have promised to provide public safety workers with fair pay and benefits.

Benefits promised include security for those fortunate enough to retire and security for the survivors of those who don't survive the perils of the job. Here in Illinois. the pension system that provides this security also prevents police officers and firefighters from getting Social Security benefits.

Instead, they pay nearly 10 percent of their salary into their own pension systems. Their employers - local governments and the state of Illinois - are supposed to pay their fair share, too. Some have failed to keep that promise, causing a shortfall to many pension systems. Now, instead of paying their share they want to run away.

They want to break the pension promise that they made with police officers and firefighters - along with teachers, nurses and every other public employee in the state. What makes our country work is the value we place on public service. After all, the core responsibility of government is to safeguard the lives and liberty of the people.

The promises made and kept by police officers and firefighters are often venerated, especially in times of crisis or tragedy. But our promise to public safety workers goes beyond memorial ceremonies.

Sadly, state and local elected officials need to be reminded that not just during times of tragedy and disaster, but at all times, for America to work and for our communities to thrive, promises made must be kept. Don't cut the modest pensions these quiet heroes earn, pay into and depend on.

Sean Smoot is director of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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