How much do you know about the man in uniform that patrols your neighborhood each day, keeping you and your family safe, preventing break-ins and responding to emergency calls? If you’re like most people, not a whole lot.
Do you realize that they respond to all calls, even ones that involve people who aren’t doing anything illegal? Or that the police department is responsible for issuing temporary parking permits? Most importantly, do you realize that they have to be polite and accommodating to everyone, no matter how ridiculous the request may be?
From the moment I walked through the door that beeps every time it opens, I felt a sense of kindness. As I waited for my officer to arrive, I watched a myriad of people come up to the bulletproof glass requesting temporary parking permits or to know the status of their case. Shortly after, Officer Givens arrived to show me what it’s like to work in a “big Pepsi can with stripes on the side.” Upon entering car 2022, I noted the computer with multiple lists on it describing the location of calls and what offenses had occurred.
Officer Givens taught me that the most important thing for cops, and civilians, is to know where you are at all times. If an issue arises, one needs to be able to call for help and tell the dispatcher exactly what their location is. Although cop cars and radios are equipped with GPS systems, they take time to find a person’s location. Even then the location is only an approximation, meaning back up has to search for the officer in distress, wasting precious time.
For Givens, the hardest part of being a cop is reminding himself that people aren’t always lying to you. “You can’t let the job tarnish your view of people as a whole,” he said. For him, creating a balance between the job and a home life is crucial. According to Givens, “it’s the only way to keep yourself from burning out.”
Recently there has been a rise in police brutality cases in the media, which has made the job for officers, like Givens, harder. “The times we get it right aren’t being reported,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean abuses of power are okay.” It’s hard for people to understand what it means to make an immediate decision until they’re placed in a situation requiring them to do so.
Furthermore, Givens believes that one of the crucial aspects of the job is to understand and be humbled by the amount of power one holds as a police officer. As an officer, you have the ability to take someone’s freedom, or even someone’s life, based on the word of another. “It’s important not to become apathetic or forget the long-term impacts we can have on someone’s life,” Givens said.
Throughout this experience, I couldn’t help but think about all of these instances of police brutality that have become so visible in the news. It is hard to comprehend these isolated incidences with people like Officer Givens in the police force. But it reminded me of a quote I saw online once:
“Don’t judge people for the choices they make when you don’t know the options they had to choose from.”
While outright abuses of power should be sanctioned, genuine mistakes need to be met with understanding and support. It’s difficult to pass judgement without having stood in their position, but it’s important we take time to understand each case.
Finally, if you’re interested in making this your career path, here are some tips for joining the police force:
- Get in shape now
- Read the Legal Briefs of the Criminal Justice System
- Research the department that you want to work for
- Talk to officers that work there
- Make sure to have a life outside of the department