First, I was to meet a local police officer in the lobby at the department to fill out my form then, I was escorted back to a room there under the counter there lay a box with blue vests inside. I was handed one and looked like a monkey trying to figure out how this went on. Where did the Velcro go and where exactly should it fit?
After my officer left the roll call room, we were off. I was sure this would be the most exciting day of my entire life. I have heard the stories of racial profiling and stopping the fishy looking car. I was ready to rock and roll. But before we left the parking lot, my officer gave me a few rules to follow ad they have been basically the same with every officer I have ridden with since. Then he asked me the question that made me chuckle. “Did you use the restroom before you came?” Well, this was an odd question. I am an adult; I think I can control my bladder. I said, “Yes, I went a while ago. I am ok.” Little did I know, we would soon be called to a domestic violence call where my officer and his partner would remain for nearly half an hour. Immediately after that, we were called to another house, where we stood and visited with an elderly woman who left her wallet on the bus. Neither of these calls were high stress, but the officers involved were very good about making sure these two calls were handled appropriately. An hour later, I giggled a little. “Sir, are you going back to the office to write these reports?” “No, he answered, I don’t do that while there are calls waiting. We are headed to another call. You have to use the restroom don’t you?” Yes, yes I did. I haven’t ever passed up the opportunity again to use the restroom.
The next call we went to was in the lobby of the department. A gentleman, who was very hard to understand, was upset that his caregiver hadn’t allowed him to bathe in 3 weeks. To be honest, I am not sure how the officer got that much information. I was amazed at his patience and determination to help this gentleman out. Thankfully, this gentleman carried the card of his Advocate in his pocket. The officer informed the gentleman that he would look into this, drive to his house and figure out what was going on. And he did just that. What he later found out, was this gentleman would leave the house early in the morning, come home late at night and be gone during his bath time. The officer didn’t blow this gentleman off, even though it’s not really his job to help him out. He did.
I waited all morning for a chance to ask him the questions that I had come loaded with. And finally, my opportunity arose. He knew I was there were as an assignment from school. I also know him on a personal level. I have known most of the guys at this department for about 10 years, so I knew he was just going to do his job as usual. There was no changing it up, because he had a rider. He was just doing what he does every day with the utmost pride. He obviously loves what he does so I couldn’t wait to ask the questions.
“What do you think is a large misconception about your job?” I asked. After a few moments, he looked at me with sincerity in his eyes and replied, “I think that people assume we can access things that we can’t.” He then went on to explain that just because you’re sure your neighbors are doing drugs doesn’t mean he can just bust down the door of the house and make it stop. He also mentioned that he wished his department had more officers. More officers equal more time to assist people. There are several types of calls that don’t get the attention he’d love to give them, because there just isn’t enough time.
He also pointed me to a Brutality Statistic YouTube Video that I have honestly watched several times over. We discussed hot topics like Fergusson, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown/Darren Wilson and the article written by USATODAY about the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This article says, “A black male is 60 times more likely to die at the hands of another black male than to perish through actions of a white cop.” That was an interesting fact for me, since I have been swamped in news stories, personal stories and media for the past several months.
We discussed other professions who have high rates of abuse but little media. I found an interesting article about teachers. According to an article written, “the seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct.” The point that we eventually got to was there are bad people in every field; some companies have bad training and/or policy. We don’t hold all teachers accountable for the sadistic behavior of another teacher. We don’t protest outside of one Portland school because another Portland schoolteacher has allegations being investigated. They are dealt on a case-by-case basis. We don’t use a broad brush to paint them with, nor does the media hang on to it for weeks. I use teachers as an example, because like police, they hold a position of authority and respect.
I wish I could convey how much I loved my experience with the police department. If you can, I highly suggest you take the time to go. See with your own eyes; ask your own hard questions. Each cop I have ridden with has a passion for his/her community and a desire to make it a better place to live.
How to Get Involved
Ways to get involved are vast! If you have a teenager, some departments have a “Cadet” program. Young adults (16-20yrs old) who help out where they can. Often you’ll find Cadets answering questions at National Night Out, guarding parade routes or directing event traffic. Cadets have to put in so many volunteer hours at the department learning how to do the job. Several of the Cadets I have known have moved on to apply for an Entry Level Officer position within the department.
My favorite way to get involved is go on a Ride Along. I was raised with a different view of what police officers did until I had this opportunity. Spend some time on the road with an officer getting some first hand experience.
Some departments even have a Citizen Volunteers in Policing Program (CVPP), the requirements for Gresham are that you are 21yrs or older, live within or own a business within Gresham City limits, attend an orientation meeting, attend a 9 week academy and meet with the Chief of Police. It’s pretty extensive, but my father in law loved being part of the program for several years. He was retired and found it to be a great way to keep busy as well as serving his community.
How to Become Informed: The Research Collection
- USTODAY (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/08/21/police-militarization-ferguson-crime-violence-justice-bureau-column/14307505/)
- BJS.Org http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=71