Sunday, November 12, 2006

Just being there.

This has been one long week. We started the week with election day, which was a normal eight hour shift. Then, I was tasked with escorting a football team to the bi-regional playoff's. Not a hard detail, just gather up fifty players and the coaching staff, load them on buses and move them 100 miles, play a football game and bring them home safely. After a normal eight hour shift. That turned into a nineteen hour day.

Then yesterday, Saturday, the local high school had a couple of events occuring simultaneously, so I was tasked again with providing a law enforcement presence for multiple events that became a 14 hour day. I'm off today and have to be back at work Monday morning.

As I was working the extra details I was listening to the police radio on my shoulder, hearing my brethren all over the parish, working extra details like mine. Providing a presence. When we work those details, we are the Po-Leese, and field all manner of requests that have nothing to do with police work.

Do you have a key to that gate over there?
Where are the restrooms?
Is there a concession stand on this side of the field?
Have you seen a white purse laying around here?
Where's the Coach?
Could you watch my bicycle for me?
What were all those ambulances and first trucks doing in front of (obscure place name) last night?

It's called Protecting and Serving and it takes many talents, not the least of which is tact and diplomacy. Folks come to an event and the first thing they see, the first thing they truly see, is the cop standing out front. They expect us to know all the answers and to immediately serve whatever role they have come to expect of us. Few of those roles have anything to do with Enforcing the Laws of the State. The fans come out to have a good time and a police presence reassures them that order will be maintained.

For all you rookies out there, listen up. Police work isn't about kicking in doors, or solving homicides, or dramatic car chases. You'll get a chance to do all that, but those are very rare occurances. Mostly it's about being there. Trouble doesn't start when the police are present. After a long day when most of the population is playing, you still have to look sharp, be alert, have your gear polished and your boots laced. You will help old folks walk across a bad stretch of pavement, you'll point to concession stands, you'll answer bone-headed questions and you better, By God, be polite and courteous to everyone. You are expected to know everyone and see everything.

It's called Protecting and Serving.


Anonymous said...

Yep, Protecting. Serving.

Immediately after 9-11, I started doing the 15-mile each way daily comute from my home in the Portland, OR 'burbs to downtown to my post at the County Courthouse in uniform.

On the light-rail train.

Standing behind the motorman's cab, facing back towards the riders. The trains are two cars, carrying 120+ passengers sitting and standing in each car during rush hour.

Except that when I rode those two trains per day, most of the passengers were in the front car. The ends of the cars are elevated, with a low-floor middle section, and as I stood there, every one on the station platforms could see me as the trains pulled into the stations enroute. They got on that lead car, even when it began to look like a Tokyo subway, and even to the point of leaving empty seats in the car behind.

I guess people just find comfort in a uniformed cop being nearby.

That was one of my contributions to the post 9-11 era, and I commuted that way, four days a week, from 9-11 to when I retired in May '03.


Anonymous said...


You need to go teach at the police academy. Too many of today's young LEOs are Seal Team Six wannabes(or at least SWAT wannabes).

The Termite

Matt G said...

Small-town law enforcement is the greatest gig there is, IMHO. You do everything. EVERYTHING. I've caught lost dogs, found errant children, calmed grieving mothers and wives and husbands and children. I've stopped guarenteed-to-cause-a-fatality DWIs. I've given talks in schools. I've caught burglars.

But you know what makes the big difference? Rolling around with the window down, getting out, howdying, and making contacts that don't end in the issuance of a summons or a trip to the jail. Officer Friendly is a nice guy to have around. The townspeople know that Officer Friendly jealously guards their safety without him having to show bristles and quills every minute of the day.

When I've got the close patrols done and there aren't any calls for service, I like to make stop-'n'-talks. Just pull over who-ever's in the gray zone for tolerance on speed or whatnot, and just chat. No tickets, except perhaps a warning scrip. Discuss the issues involved, and leave with a smile. The message gets passed on, with a nice little bonus: we really ARE here to assist. In my patrol bag is a scraper that I use to replace the registration tags that little old ladies seem incapable of replacing themselves. In my trunk is an X wrench and a good jack and a pair of gloves, to change the inevitable tires that citizens sometimes can't get changed. And in my trunk are rope and some range cubes, and some chigger spray, to help bring in the loose livestock that inevitably needs rounding up.

Being there means all kinds of things.