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Lazy. Power hungry. Corrupt. Overweight. These are the words most people think of when asked to describe a police officer. But who really are these people behind the uniform? First of all, that is exactly what they are; people. Police officers are people. They have families, friends, and lives. They get up every morning, drink some coffee, read the newspaper, and go to work, just the same as any other person.
What I do not understand is why people attach a negative stereotype with police officers. People verbally attack these men and women on a daily basis, when all they are trying to do is their job. I, for one, know from personal experience what it is like to have a father as a law enforcement official. On a weekly basis, I would go to school to have my friends or acquaintances inform me that "Sadie, your dad is an asshole. He busted up our party last night." Eventually, I became tired of hearing people degrade my father and his job. I would ask them, "So you are saying my father is an asshole because he is doing his job?" Quickly the smart remarks ended.
The point I am trying to make is this, people do not understand that these men and women put their life on the line everyday for the good of humanity. Police officers stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. But who stands up for police officers? I will. I'm sure this paper will not stop anyone considering robbing a bank, nor make a wanted murderer hand himself in. However, I do hope to open reader's minds, and give them a change of heart.
To help counteract these common stereotypes I listed above. I interviewed two local police officers who have over fifteen years of experience in the field. The first officer I interviewed was Ben Rand. Officer Rand has a total of twenty five years of experience. He first served at Johnson Police department for a total of two years, and then he was at the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office for a year. The next thirteen years he served at Bazetta Police Department, and he now currently works at Howland Police Department. The second officer I interviewed was Jeff Lane. Sergeant Lane has served almost sixteen years at our local Bazetta Police Department where he held the position of detective, and is now the Sergeant.
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"Interview With Two Police Officers." 123HelpMe.com. 15 Aug 2018
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When asked what kind of impact this prevailing viewpoint makes on society and individuals, both Officer Rand and Sergeant Lane had similar perspectives. "People think that we are high on authority," explains Officer Rand, "the viewpoint of police officers being bullies often puts a wall between the police and citizens." He simply stated that "people already have an opinion of you before you even arrive at the situation. People think that just because you're wearing that same uniform as other police officers, that you are power hungry and abusive." People believe that police officers think they are above the law because of the title you hold. People see the uniform and badge and assume that the police officer is an alpha male or female that believes they better than everyone else. When in reality, police officers are forced to act that way. No one would listen to a police officer if they were a push-over or showed any sign of weakness. Just because police officers look that way, does not mean that is how they truly are outside of work. I mean has anyone heard the phrase, don't judge a book by its cover? Well, don't judge a police officer by his uniform. Every person is different, just as every police officer.
Officer Rand alleges that "people would rather see a society without rules." Truthfully, people hate being told what to do, and some take pride in defying the law. Some people believe rules are pointless, and made to be broken. However, if there were no laws, and no rules. What would stop someone from murder, or robbing a house? The answer is nothing. Laws are not made to be broken. Laws are made to keep stability and maintain as safe place for people to live. The same goes for the occupation of police officers. What would the point of having laws and rules, if there was no one to enforce them? That is the exact reason we have police officers, to prevent and stop crime, not to make a person's lifemore chaotic. Police officers do not make the laws, they simply just enforce them. That is why they are called Law Enforcement Officials.As Sergeant Lane says, "If people just followed the law, then there would not be a problem. We are forced to take action when people break the law and don't follow our instructions. Somehow that is when we become the bad guys, not them."
Officer Rand describes his job as "keeping everything check and in balance." He believes that without police officers, the world would be filled with crime and danger. When in reality the world is already filled with danger as it is. I could not imagine what life would be like if there were no consequences for one's actions. Police officer's job not only entails stopping crime, but also preventing it. When people know there are consequences for their actions, they are less subject to acting upon them.
'Lazy" is the first word that comes to Sergeant Lane' mind when asked what most people think of police officers. However, last winter Sergeant Lane was involved in a foot chase with three men who were caught breaking into resident's homes and stealing four-wheelers. Sergeant Lane lead this six hour foot chase in the middle of the woods, in the dead winter, with snow on the ground up to his ankles, at one o'clock in the morning. He ended up catching one of men, and as it turned out he was part of a tri-county wide four wheel theft ring, in which they found hundreds of missing four wheelers. What most people do not understand is that police officers have to be in great shape. They go through physical training every year to be sure they are in a well enough physical shape, in case they become involved in a chase. Every year the state of Ohio holds what is called the Police and Fire Olympics. Here police officers and fire fighters from all over Ohio come together to compete in weightlifting, swimming, archery, wrestling, and shooting competitions. Sergeant Lane has a box in his basement full of medals he has earned at the Police and Fire Olympics, while Officer Rand trains in M.M.A. (Mixed Martial Arts) and Jiu Jitsu. Overall, there are some police officers who are overweight, but most of them are in well enough shape to chase you for hours. So if you're a criminal on the run, I hope you can run fast.
Sergeant Lane emphasizes that, "Communication is significant in police work. We want people to know we are here to help. We are here to be problem solvers not problem starters." "People don't understand that we don't come to their house by choice," declares Officer Rand. "I tell them, I'm not here to cause problems; I'm here to help, and find the root of the problem." Police officers do not want to cause a person more problems, that is just more work for them. They want to arrive at the scene of the crime, resolve the situation, fill out the paper work, then leave.
What I believe most people do not understand is that, being a police officer is their job. It is the same as being a teacher, or a doctor. When you go to school you expect your teacher to teach. When you go to the doctors, you expect your doctor to determine your sickness, and prescribe your medicine. Just as if you call the police, you expect them to help you, and put an end to crime. Officer Rand explained to me, that it is very clear to him that people already preconceived judgments about officers. I asked Officer Rand, "Why you think people have such an extreme dislike for police officers?" Officer Rand explained to me that, "People constantly see negative views in the press, for example Pete Pizzullo"(Pete Pizzullo was a Trumbull County Sheriff Sergeant who was recently fired for embezzling money from the anti-drug charity he founded). "They read the newspaper and see the occasion corrupt police officers, and they think all police officers must be like that.However, people never see the daily things police officers go through, and they take what we do for granted."
Another important subject Officer Rand discussed was "the extreme physical and emotion toll" his job takes on his life. "I have seen a lot of things that just won't leave my mind, for example kids that were beaten and abused. I don't talk about those things a lot." One thing that I believe people often forget is that police officers are usually the first ones to arrive to the scene. They are the ones who break into a home to find someone murdered. They are the ones who arrive to a crash to find someone is trapped in their car. They are the ones who arrive at someone's house to find a child abused by his mother's boyfriend. While the rest of us read about it in the newspaper or watch it on the news, they experience it firsthand. I never use to understand why my father would come home from work in terrible mood. Then one day I heard my father telling my mother a story about a girl my own age, from our city, that was involve in a car crash. I heard him tell my mother the girl had died because the driver was speeding and the girl did not have her seatbelt on. Needless to say, for a whole week my father did not let me drive in a car with my friends. At that moment, I truly began to understand and realize how hard police work really is.
In the winter of 1996, Sergeant Lane was involved in a high-speed chase when a car pulled out in front of him. The speed at which he was traveling was so fast that his car went soaring into the air. Next, the car landed in a ditch, then flipped several times until stopping upside down. Sergeant Lane was rushed to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with having ruptured a disc in his back. Surgery was inevitable. Sergeant Lane describes that day as "the most depressing day of my life." He used to be an avid weightlifter, receiving gold medals in the Police and Fire Olympics. Now, he could not lift his five-year-old daughter. Still to this day, Sergeant Lane visits a chiropractor at least once a week. He still cannot lift anything remotely heavy, and he must ice his back almost every night. To his own dismay, he is reminded daily of the night that changed his life forever. Sure, the accident was a fluke, a one in a million chance, but that is the risk police officers take. I amabsolutely positive that if he could go back to that day, and change everything he would. However, that is the chance someone takes when they become a police officer. Police officers put themselves in harm's way every day. They can never predict what is behind that door they have to bust in, or if the man that broke into a house has a gun. The point I am trying to prove is that being a police officer is not just hard, but mentally and emotionally too.
What I hope readers take away from this essay is that police officers are people too. They get up and go to work every day like any other person. The only difference is these men and women put their lives at risk every day, and receive very little credit. Therefore, next time someone picks up a paper and reads about a corrupt police officer, I hope they think about the millions of other police officers who are saving children from abusive parents, or the police officers who are the first ones to arrive to a crime in progress or an accident scene. I also hope they are able to understand the lives of those who have fathers, mother, children, and loved ones as police officers. They too are affected by people's opinions and their actions toward police officers. Most people judge police officers before they even get to know them. I hope readers take away not only facts but also that this essay touches their hearts. I hope next time they come across a police officer, they look them in the eye and say Thank you, because that is all they really want to hear.
Rand, Ben. Telephone inteview. 17 November, 2009.
Lane, Jeff. Personal interview. 17 November 2009.