Book Review: 'It's Not About the Badge' Shines the Spotlight on the Uniqueness of Small-Town Policing

Screenshot from, "It's Not About the Badge." Credit: John DiGirolamo, used with permission.

Author John DiGirolamo wrote It’s Not About The Badge: Real Cops. Real Stories. Their Journey as a tribute to the work that his daughter and small-town police officers do on a daily basis. DiGirolamo also wrote it in response to the riots, unrest, and general melee of the Summer of 2020, with the horrific treatment of law enforcement, coupled with cries to “Defund the Police.”

“I think we’re definitely seeing the effects of the ‘defund the police’ movement. Crime is up in in just about every major city in the country. But my book really tries to focus on the human side of policing, especially with small-town police officers. I think they have the least amount of a voice.”

DiGirolamo offers that voice, documenting the personal and professional stories of his daughter and six other peace officers, and the unique role they play in their rural communities.

DiGirolamo’s daughter Megan is a peace officer in the mountain community of Buena Vista, CO, and during the school year, Megan is the resource officer for the three town schools, elementary, junior high, and high school. Four other officers profiled: Jesse Cortese, Dean Morgan, Mohamed Lamine Mullenax, and Jesse Mitchell are also part of small, Colorado communities. Officer Jamey Murray serves in the community of Bellevue, Nebraska.

Though not written in the first person, DiGirolamo allows the officers to really tell their own stories, so the accounts read as a window into their individual lives, days, and offers vignettes into significant moments in their lives. Officer Jesse Mitchell’s story begins with him asking his girlfriend to be his wife. Deputy Sgt. Mohamed Lamine Mullenax adopts his nephew into his own family unit, and part of Officer Megan DiGirolamo’s story involves a friend’s depression and suicide. It makes for a surprisingly fluid telling, as well as a cinematic layering of the officer’s personal and professional worlds.

From the book, it is clear that a rural peace officer’s day can go from assessing a local who is mounting a scratch business on the sidewalk, to assisting a troubled teenager, to a dangerous shootout. As Officer DiGirolamo’s training officer told her, “you won’t be bored.”

Unless you are a real crime junkie, you don’t hear much about the lives of small-town law enforcement. Legacy media often ignores this specialized aspect of policing, and sometimes treats the local LEOs either as a side note, or “Barney Fife”. DiGirolamo seeks to humanize as well as elevate these officers, and give the reader a lens onto the uniqueness of their training, backgrounds, and how they navigate being individuals within the community, as well as being the law outside of it.

From reading the work, you become convinced that the desire to pursue law enforcement is not simply a career choice, it is a calling. This is even more pronounced with those who do the work in small towns. Each officer approached their path as a driving, conscious, and deliberate decision to move in that direction. The calling to serve the communities that many of them grew up in, and love, also factors, making the title, It’s Not About The Badge, a ringing truth.

At 285 pages, It’s Not About The Badge makes for an enjoyable, and compact read. The book is filled with fun facts about each officer, and about Chaffee County, CO, where the author and some of the officers reside. Officer DiGirolamo serves up a meatballs and sauce recipe as part of her story, which I, personally, am more than excited to test drive.

You can purchase It’s Not About the Badge on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle. You can also purchase a signed copy of the work at the book’s website.