Are You Curious? 6 Things About Law Enforcement You Might Find Interesting
Once you become a law enforcement officer (LEO) and you have immersed yourself in the police culture, the daily challenges, and the dynamic adventures-does the lust for the career ever wear off? Sure. There are times when you question yourself and your choices of profession. Lucky for me, those times were few and far between. I relished being a cop. It was what I was meant to do at the time I did it. What did I see out there? Well, a lot. Most of it I won’t reveal because of its graphic nature and confidentiality. However, I can share some secrets from behind the scenes that might interest the general public and future police officers.
Are we winning the battle against crime? Not really. I think the criminal justice system is tasked with frequently putting a Band-Aid on things out there in the real world. We are often just considered professional arbitrators making house calls. Law enforcement is necessary and we all know why. There are rules and there are rule breakers. Police can make three great strides forward, and criminals might push the nation four steps back. The police keep forging ahead and respond to the needs for law and order, however, it really is a collaborative effort. The famous cliche, “it takes a village” does apply. For all of us to combat crime, we have to start at home. We have to fix society, ourselves. Right now we are at all-time high for disconnect.
Are the numbers telling the whole story? The numbers show a fragmented picture of crime statistics. In general, the numbers reported to the FBI are used to track what is rising, falling, and what police actions might affect the crime categories. Essentially, they are just hash marks recorded by each organization. Yes, there are parameters, but no system is perfect. It is paramount we learn from history in order to generate solutions for the future. But what if I told you our statistics have issues? The statistics are helpful, but not completely accurate and the nation does not have full reporting participation with all agencies. Additionally, crimes are not categorized consistently and the coding is sometimes subjective. I could go on and on about how that works. When you use qualitative analysis from officers on the streets…listen. They will tell you what your community looks like. Combining the two study methods is most effective in getting the real picture. And one might contradict the other. Which one is true? I would put more weight in what the officers tell you.
Do officers really care about people? Absolutely. I’ve seen them cry on a call. It wasn’t because they had dust in their eyes. Emotions could be affected by something big or something small. Even though the most gut-wrenching crime scene will eat at a person’s soul and stay with them, little things tug at a police officer’s heart strings as well. Many officers reach out to those in need when they come across their paths. Maybe they buy them a hot meal or replace their stolen Christmas presents. Love for humanity is one reason why officers become so involved in volunteer services. They truly are concerned about people and that should be one of the checkpoints why a person becomes a law enforcement officer.
Is fitness and physical skills that important to being a cop? No matter how we all try to downplay the physical side of law enforcement, we cannot. The profession is physically and emotionally draining at times. It is vital for public safety and the well-being of an officer and his or her peers to be physically fit for duty. Does this mean you have to be fit like an Olympian? No. But eating several pastries does have adverse effects. Some benefits of a healthy lifestyle include flexibility, strength, power, and mental wellness. Officers are expected to exhibit a certain level of physical fitness because the career itself is so physically demanding in nature. Fitness also blends into decision making and mental clarity. Sound body. Sound mind. We can all slip and fall into unhealthy eating habits, but the pressures of the job require internal and external strength. And who wants to explain to the captain that you lost the bad guy because you were too slow?
Are crimes scenes as gruesome as television portrays? This is a question everyone wants to know. I believe real life scenes are more so because you have the smells, the sounds, and the textures. My opinion might not be the consensus in Hollywood. However, television is only visual. You can look away or change the channel. This is real life. It takes some getting used to. Every day LEOs are in the muck of it all and they don’t get to choose which scenes they want to process. Each officer has coping mechanisms which help to compartmentalize these images, thoughts, smells, and feelings in order to depersonalize the event so an objective investigation can be conducted. Over time, we still get surprised by something new. But generally, law enforcement officers become desensitized from the continual cannonade of human misery. The puzzles and mysteries fascinate us and continue to be a draw to the profession, but the gruesome rating and impact these crime scenes have to one’s psyche is situational. What is gross? It all depends on how long you have been a cop.
What do we want for future generations taking the oath after us? Emotional intelligence in every officer. Active listeners who are effective communicators. Self-awareness and cultural sensitivity are paramount. We want a certain calmness about the person which reflects in sound decision making. We need officers who will enforce the law fairly and without bias. It sounds like a pretty simple list, but not always simply found in each recruit. Not everyone is suited for the profession.
Police officers strive to give the best service and protection to their community in many active directions. Because of the dynamic aspect of the career, monotony levels for LEOs are low. They have a physical career which takes them to the forefront of disasters, crashes, fights, and other personal crises. Officers are often motivated by being a part of something greater than themselves and becoming involved by first hand participation. It is no easy task. Sure, everyone wants to be a hero and save a life. Those opportunities come once in a while. But as a cop, you will more than likely mediate a fight or an argument. It is at these moments, you can show people a better way and possibly make a difference. Are you up for the challenge?