I have not previously heard of the use of the phrase “Walking the Point” in the context of law enforcement. We do use “point” as in “I’ve got the point” during surveillance work to signify that the officer is taking primary responsibility in the reporting on the status of a surveillance target.
The original derivation of the phrase undoubtedly hails from the military. Daryl S. Paulson wrote the book, Walking the Point: Male Initiation and the Vietnam Experience, in 2005.
The quote below is listed on several websites, but I could not find an attribution to the original author. The point of the piece is well made and worth repeating often to remind us that we all owe a deep gratitude to others. I salute the unknown author.
Walking the Point
There are some things that you just can't do without suffering - very literally and profoundly - casualties; and our job is one of them.
You can't race cars without crashes, you can't dig mines without cave-ins, and you sure as hell can't send cops out into the streets of a violent society without violent deaths.
Our fallen brothers knew that and did it anyway--as we all do or have done. ........Their friends will tell you they did the job because they loved it, and any of us who can't say that should envy them for it. At least they died as rare and precious people: doing what they loved to do, and doing it for the noblest of reasons.
That is something we can never explain outside of our profession.
You see, you can't be a good cop simply because you couldn't get another job.
You can only be a good cop because you want it. And there is an answer as to why they died, something I learned half a world away many years ago as a young Marine, preparing to face an enemy in combat for the first time. It was then that my sergeant explained that, like it or not, there are only three rules in war:
Rule Number One is "YOUNG MEN DIE"
Rule Number Two is "YOU CAN'T CHANGE RULE #1"
Rule Number Three is "SOMEBODY HAS TO WALK THE POINT"
You see, when soldiers advance, knowing the enemy is near, there is always one man way out in front of everyone else. His duty is to look and listen and sense that first contact; to spot the enemy, pinpoint the ambush, fire that first shot, and as a consequence, take those first shots.
It offends the logical mind and denies the instinct for survival. It ages and saddens and wizens, and frequently kills those who take their turn "Walking the Point." But it must be done, or there would be no protection for the rest, just more bloodshed, and more grief. For the "Point Man" is there to save lives, even if he gives his own in the process.
Society may not be a company of soldiers, but it certainly has (and needs) somebody walking the point.
Every time you go out the station door, every time you answer the radio call, every time you stop to check out something suspicious, and remember... YOU CAN'T CHANGE RULE #1.
If I could say something directly to the people in our society, it would be this. I know some of you will remember our brothers, but that's not good enough. I want you to honor them for what they did for you-that which they needn't have done. I'm not just talking about what they did on the day that "routine" call or stop went horribly bad. I mean what they did for you day after day, in darkness and light, rain or shine, on holidays and on their loved ones' birthdays, without ever expecting even a "thank you" in return. They volunteered to "Walk the Point.”
Link in this Blog:
Walking the Point: Male Initiation and the Vietnam Experience
Uu-ah Sheepdog! Hunt the Wolf and the Jackal!