Strength, Resiliency and Love: A Speech By Sergeant Tim Cornelius, Collier County Sheriff’s Office & MADD Advisory Board Member

This speech was given during our annual Tribute event for victims, survivors as well as their family members and friends, and law enforcement and all first responders.

Today, we meet in this beautiful venue to share some fellowship during this holiday time to honor the victims and families who have suffered the loss of a love one due to an impaired driver.  

I am extremely honored to be able to speak to you today as a representative for local law enforcement.

Our keywords for today’s tribute are Strength, Resilience, and Love. 

When reflecting on how to talk about these from a law enforcement perspective, I was initially at a bit of a loss.  

Those of you who know me know that I am seldom at a loss for words. 

I kept asking how I, someone who has never been a direct victim of an impaired driver, could talk about these three words to those who have endured so much with the loss of your loved ones. 

From the very moment  that you received word that your loved one was killed or injured by an impaired driver, each one of you has demonstrated a million times over the strength you have to simply waking up each day and stepping out of bed. 

Each of you has had strength for the other members of your family to get through the constant issues faced each and every day. 

Surprisingly, during my many years with MADD, I have even seen the strength many victims have to support those of us in law enforcement who have felt some of your pain alongside you as you fought for justice for your loved ones.

Who is better able to understand resilience than someone who must wake every day, knowing that things will never be what they were before, yet knowing that life must go on? 

Certainly, there are low days, but each day comes another day closer to justice and a bit of peace for each of you. 

Being resilient is so often simply described as getting back up when you are knocked down… No one can ever say that the victims of the terrible decisions made by others and their families are not resilient.

Finally, Love.  Well, what can I say about love to you who have suffered so much from the loss of loved ones?

So, I’ve painted a bit of a picture for you of how each of you demonstrates each of these keywords.  I would like to end by making some comments relative to law enforcement and each of these.

Strength.  Certainly, everyone expects law enforcement officers to be strong, that is a given. 

But this is not just in the physical sense, and not just in the ability to handle the most horrific of crimes with compassion.  

I believe that all of us in law enforcement must also have strength in our convictions to stop the one-hundred percent preventable crime of impaired driving.  

Too often, cops choose, and I can use no other word, it is a choice on their part; they choose to simply not charge a driver with the DUI when there are other crimes committed at the same time. 

Worse yet, it still happens that law enforcement professionals send impaired drivers home with family or in a taxi. 

We must strengthen ourselves and change our mindset, resolving to aggressively enforce impaired driving laws to demonstrate that impaired driving will not be tolerated in our communities. 

Resilience.  Our law enforcement professionals must continue to show the same level of resilience that each of the victims and families show every single day. 

When faced with the seemingly insurmountable obstacles these complex investigations present, we must continually dig down deeper and keep getting back up and fighting to get past that next hurdle.  

Many become discouraged when they testify in trials and are questioned on the stand by a courtroom-saavy attorney. 

We must also demonstrate our resilience by not letting that case turn us from staying in the fight, but rather learning from it and vowing to try to never make the same mistakes in a future case.

Finally, back to love.  When conducting a research project for my Master’s degree, I surveyed law enforcement professionals from our region relative to their satisfaction with their chosen career. 

Through that research, I found that the vast majority of these officers chose public service generally, and law enforcement specifically, due to a desire to help others. 

It is this continuing desire and other intrinsic rewards that keep them in this profession. 

While the level of commitment to the citizens they protect may not rise in most people’s mind to love of all they serve; I submit that it is that love of helping others that makes them do what they do, from shift work, to dealing with complex investigations, cases with devastating losses, and often the worst society has to offer.

I think this is even truer with those who actively seek out these deadly drivers.

I believe that as law enforcement professionals, we owe it to you, the victims that have come before to fight so that there will no longer be victims who need to be strong, or resilient, or long for the love one they lost due to someone’s senseless act of driving while impaired. 

I vow that I will remain committed to these goals and continue to teach and encourage those I work with to remain committed as well.

I thank you again for your time and thanks to those of you who continue to be supporters of MADD and our mission of creating a future of NO MORE VICTIMS.