I yelled “Hi-yo Silver Away!” dozens of times on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. I was glued to the TV watching the black and white reruns of The Lone Ranger. He was the masked Texas Ranger who, along with Tonto (his Native American partner), fought injustice in the American Old West. The character became an icon of American culture starting with the radio show in 1933. The television series ran from 1949 to 1957, and there were also novels, comic books, and movies. The Lone Ranger was such a great influence on me as a child that I grew up to become a police officer, hoping to live up to his code of ethics. Yes, that’s right. I became a cop to be like The Lone Ranger. And if they would have let me wear a mask on duty and use silver bullets – I would have!
He was always portrayed as the law officer who was willing to make whatever sacrifice that was necessary to protect the frontier that he loved. He refused to compromise on the moral code that he lived by, teaching me and millions of others indelible values – character and integrity. The ends never justified the means, if it meant that he had to violate his code of honor. Tonto referred to The Lone Ranger as “Ke-mo sah-bee”, meaning “trusty scout” or “trusted friend.”
The Lone Ranger’s silver bullets acted as a symbol of justice as well as his credentials to others, and they served as a reminder, that life is precious and like his silver bullets, not to be wasted or thrown away. The mask used to conceal his identity was made by Tonto, from the vest of Captain Daniel Reid, the Ranger’s brother who was killed in the ambush that he barely survived. He sacrificed his very identity as a person to protect the weak and needy of the frontier.
Everything about him served as a symbol of justice, honor, integrity, and sacrifice. He no longer needed to wear his badge, and like the Ranger, everything about you serves as a symbol of justice and a reminder of faithful protection to your community. The badge will always be a symbol of trusted authority, but only you can symbolize the rest.
Actors Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto), both took their positions as role models to children very seriously and tried their best to live up to the high standards of the legend. Criminals were never shown in enviable positions of wealth or power, and they never appeared as successful or glamorous. The Lone Ranger never drank alcohol or smoked, and he always used perfect grammar completely devoid of slang and profanity, at all times. He didn’t try to talk like a gang banger (not that there were that many Bloods and Crypts in the old west), but instead represented the noble profession of law enforcement well – a model we should all try our best to follow.
I failed my masked mentor during my rookie year. I found myself following the cop culture of believing “Profanity is the only language some of these people understand.” Looking back, it should have made as much sense as a helicopter with ejector seats, but I bought into it because I wanted to. Profanity can serve as an effective attention getter, in a dangerous encounter, but it isn’t necessary to actually communicate with anyone. It was simply a way for me to justify being belligerent to idiots I didn’t like, and there were plenty of them in the Cincinnati area.
I was blessed to serve in several different environments as a cop: from the inner city to the suburbs, investigating street gangs, sexual predators, and murderers. Profanity was not necessary to communicate with any of them, and I should not have used it as a professional police officer without a purpose – and I rarely had one.
I would likely have carried on using profanity had it not been for the day my daughter, Nadia, repeated something I had said. I would like to say my Christian faith did it for me, but it was a three-year-old. It was an embarrassing way to be reminded that I served as an example for her as well as the community, and it was not the example I wanted coming to mind when others thought of me or the profession I loved. That decision has never hindered me as a cop or as a police instructor.
The Creed of “The Lone Ranger”
The Lone Ranger conducted himself by a strict moral code that was put in place at the inception of his character by author, Fran Striker. It still rings true today for those who are serving as the guardians of justice.
- I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one.
- I believe that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
- I believe that God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
- I believe in being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
- I believe that a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
- I believe that ‘this government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ shall live always.
- I believe that men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
- I believe that sooner or later…somewhere…somehow…we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
- I believe that all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
- I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
“Give us clear vision, that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” ~ Peter Marshall, US Senate Chaplain 1947
Like The Lone Ranger, Peter Marshall understood the need for a clear vision, or a creed to live by. We should look to ourselves and ensure that we still know where to stand. We should strive to be the noble role models and wise mentors that the children in our society not only deserve, but need. You don’t have to give each one a silver bullet (as The Lone Ranger did), to make a meaningful impact on their life – your courageous example and friendship will last far longer.
The Lone Ranger was able to mold me from afar, decades after his show was off the air. In a similar fashion, you have a unique opportunity to mentor young people each day you serve society as a noble law officer – but you can do it up close and in color.
Richard H. Neil Sr. is the author of “Police Instructor: Deliver Dynamic Presentations, Create Engaging Slides, & Increase Active Learning.” He is a retired city cop, and instructs for several of Ohio’s criminal justice training academies. He can be contacted through his website that is dedicated to free resources for law enforcement educators and trainers – www.LEO-Trainer.com.