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Growing up N.O.B.L.E.

Kellie Carle

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In a room upstairs, the walls are covered with gold badges, each marked with an eagle profile posing in the center. People witness these badges when being pulled over, arrested or seeking a special clearance. However, gold and silver badges have always been a part of my life. Law enforcement is my family’s first choice when it comes to careers. Growing up, the discussions of government benefits, salaries and driving an undercover car were a big part of my parents’ conversation. At the conclusion of these exchanges, everyone would turn to me grinning and confronts me with the same statement, “So, looks like you’ll be following in your parents’ footsteps.” “No” never seemed to be an option but was the first answer that came to mind.
I have always known my parents were considered executives in the law enforcement community. When attending N.O.B.L.E. (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives) conferences throughout the country, those with lesser rank would flock to them, complimenting their success and questioning their plans for the future. I attended for the free stuff, my favorite being the free black bags, in different shapes and sizes with every coming year. Growing older, I learned what it took to become a part of this community. The ability to scale a six foot wall, run a mile in a matter of minutes and the threat of having to shoot someone made my “no” a clear answer.
My father, assigned to an office in Philadelphia, was the man at the end of the long conference table surrounded by leather chairs that reclined with wheels. He had a receptionist in the lobby and a flat screen television located by the windows that surrounded the outer walls of his office. To me, he was God, a figure I would always talk to my friends about while poking out my chest with pride. My mother worked in the field, the images of her carrying a weapon, receiving awards decked out in full uniform, her shoes letting off a shine that matched the flash of the camera. These two were my heroes, my parents who encircled themselves with others that matched their credentials.
All children of N.O.B.L.E. were expected to follow in their parents’ footsteps. At conferences, children were separated from the adults, taken into rooms to watch the crime dog, McGruff, stop criminals on the screen, given booklets about right and wrong while plastic police hats and handcuffs were our play things. During one conference, McGruff warned N.O.B.L.E children about guns, shooting the weapon to show us how dangerous they can be, I squealed and ran out of the room, searching for my mother.
In 2010, I accompanied my father to a firearm training facility in Delaware. While there, he encouraged me to try a training simulation in which I would be placed in front of a screen, a common scenario would appear that young agents encounter. I was expected to know whether to “shoot or don’t shoot” with my fake gun. I agreed, it’s not every day you have an opportunity to participate in a simulation with a gun. The room goes black, on the screen a message appears advising me that I must respond because a woman is complaining about her abusive spouse. Pointing my gun towards the screen, a woman in a pink top, breasts dangling by her belly button appears, cursing and drunk. I yell, calm down but in her drunken rage she reaches for an empty bottle which happens to be lying on the porch. This threat cannot go unnoticed and I tell her to put her weapon down. She reaches back, my finger rests on the trigger ready to shoot. When she arches her back, my finger flinches, her arm extends towards me attempting to release the bottle in my direction but instead it flies to the side. The simulation ends and my father asks, “Why didn’t you shoot?” I point the fake gun towards the ground, showing him that I am not strong enough to pull the trigger.
While the badges, pictures of my parents in full uniform, life achievements and the golden emblem of N.O.B.L.E still adorn the walls of our home, they no longer faze me. My parents still surround themselves with friends who, at one point of their lives, were members of N.O.B.L.E. (two became my adopted grandfathers, one goes by the name Top Sarge and another was the first black supervisor for the Drug Enforcement Agents (DEA) in the Nation) I am glad they were able to use their strong influences on my cousins, two successful DEA agents. However, after many years of being in law enforcement, they have not given up on me but maybe having four representatives at N.O.B.L.E conferences is enough for one family.
Kellie Carle is a graduate student studing English creative writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The Student News Service of West Chester University
Growing up N.O.B.L.E.