For six years, I was a police officer. And my impressions of police officers all over has now been altered dramatically.
During my early 20’s, I worked at an answering service that just happened to be the dispatch station of the little one-horse town I lived in. We were also the dispatch station for the neighboring, smaller half-horse town. So, I came into contact with police officers on a daily basis. Sure, the police officers more like Barney Fife than Joe Friday, but they were still police officers and they had sworn to uphold the law. But, living in such a small town, really not much action. In fact, there was only one police officer per town on duty at any one time.
So, I decided that I wanted to be a police officer. Actually, I had always wanted to be a police officer but that desire was cemented after working there. And the main reason I did was because of the “celebrity” factor. I haven’t lived in that small town in a dozen years, but I image it is still mostly the same. The general population of the town treated all the police officers with extreme respect and adoration. Like local celebrities. You could see it if you happened to encounter one of the guys (there were no women on the force while I was there) in the store. And if you were a friend, that celebrity status was extended toward you. For someone who has always been a shy, introverted wallflower, that feeling was very heady.
Then I moved to Brownwood, which is a much larger town than the one I had left. After a few years living here, I saw in the paper where the City of Brownwood was hiring four people to attend the police academy and join the force with a contract of two years. I never in a million years thought that I had a chance of being one of the four, but my wife, Angela (we were not married at that time), strongly encouraged me. Well, she more than encouraged me, she all but forced me to do it. And amazingly, I got the position. So, I began my journey as a police officer.
During the police academy, I still retained much of my naivete that I had. That is one of the drawbacks of growing up in such a small town. I believed that people were mostly good and the majority of people respected police officers and obeyed the law. I could not have been more wrong.
I no longer believe that people are mostly good. But on the same token, I don’t believe people are mostly bad. Being a police officer taught me that people are just people. Sure, some are worse than others. And some are nicer than others. But people are just people.
When I graduated from the police academy, I began training on the streets as a police officer. That was an eye-opening experience. I was still very naive, even though I was 28 years old and a mother of two kids. I would never have imagined the things that people are capable of doing to each other or even to themselves. To see a man beat the crap out of his wife/girlfriend and then she defend him when the police show up. Or to see a mother too busy getting drunk/high to feed her children. And the teenage boy who thinks it a good idea to beat up on his entire family just because he was told no about something. I knew all of these things, and worse, occurred in a scholarly sense, but I had never experienced any of it.
The longer I was a police officer, the more of the senseless violence of humanity. And the longer I witnessed all of this, the more embittered and cold I became. I began to expect the worst of everyone I came into contact with. And we didn’t deal with really horrible atrocities that exist in bigger places. It began to surprise me when someone w0uld do something nice for someone else. I would always look for the ulterior motive of every deed. I forgot that hatred doesn’t rule everyone.
Another thing that was an eye-opener for me was how police officers are treated. I was used to police officers being treated like hometown celebrities. I then was able to witness how a great many people treat police officers like the enemy. Even some law-abiding citizens acted like any time they came in contact with the police, it was because the police were doing something wrong. And that surprised the heck out of me. I did not expect to be treated like the enemy as often as I was. When I had to arrest someone, sure I expected it then. But when I did a traffic stop because someone sped through a school zone, was not expecting that. That is when I realized that the respect for police officers has gone down way too far.
But, fortunately, there are still many people who respect the police. There were many times that I was surprised by someone who didn’t know me in a store just thanking me for what I did. I received an award at one point in my career and the overwhelming support that I received blew me away.
There are corrupt police officers. There are the ones that are a disgrace to the badge and the oath that they took. But, there also corrupt dentists, lawyers, preachers, school teachers, and every other profession you can imagine. The media likes to play up all the stories of the corrupt police officers to make it seem like the whole system is corrupt. And that is not the case. There are far more good, honest police officers than there are corrupt ones. The men and women that I worked with, I would trust with my life and the lives of my children in a heartbeat. They uphold the law, and they do so with fairness. But, you won’t see any of their stories on the evening news.
Even though I am no longer a police officer and will never be one again, I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to be one. I feel very blessed to have worked with the men and women that I have and I will always have the upmost respect for them.