There are many myths surrounding the work and life of police officers. In most of the cases, they are feared, respected, and in some instances demonized. There is this perception that being a police officer is something out of ordinary hence they should be able to answer to all our needs and problems. But as the interview with the officers’ show the police are quite human. They chose to serve the community which may not necessarily pay them according to the sacrifice and service that they offer. The service is more of a calling than a mere profession whereby anyone who has attained some academic qualifications can join.
Nevertheless there need to be highly qualified persons in the service. This is because in the world of science and technology, crime is getting more sophisticated. In order to be able to tackle this crime then the police should undergo the relevant training enabling them to tame the problem. The service requires trainable personnel that would in turn be the best to serve the community.
The interview was carried out on 23/4/2009 at Charlotte, North Carolina. The two State officers interviewed were Marie Wenger and Peter Roberts (not real names). The former belongs to North Carolina State Police Capital Police Section while the later is in Highway Patrol Section. Marie Wenger is a white female aged 26. She is a college graduate and has served in the force for four years. At the moment she holds the rank of a corporal in the police service. On the other hand Peter Roberts is a male white aged 45 years. He has served in the police for 15 years. He is a corporal and a high school graduate.
Peter Roberts ventured into the police force with one motive; to serve the community. This follows an experience he had in his childhood whereby a neighbor was attacked by thugs but his attempt to call for help were in vain. He pondered on the issue for a long time; if only he was a policeman with a gun he would have helped. The dream was to be realized two decades later when he was recruited in the police service. This however did not come that easily. He had to make a lot of effort to enhance his chances of getting employed.
There are many areas in his resume in which he had to work dedicatedly to improve. In brief he was in a mission to aspire for being the best. Since he joined the police force his mission has been fulfilled. He has ably been able to tackle the day to day challenges. There are many ways in which he has helped the community to deal with crime. On the other hand Constable Marie Wenger developed the passion for becoming a police officer since her days in High school. She took the quiz on occupation from the school career counselors that confirmed his interest. From then onwards she did everything that would better herself hence make her the best candidate for the job. These include doing voluntary service with various organizations, and courses in conflict management. Her willingness to learn came to be an asset as she undertook lots of training since joining the service.
The police are always perceived in a certain way by the public. This comes from the images that are being portrayed by the media, movies and some unpleasant personal experiences (Engel 2000). According to Wenger the worst moment in the job is the training which can be intimidating. The process is slow thus the candidate has to show lots of dedication in order to be successful. On the hand Roberts pinpoints patrols as the nastiest moments in the service. The process, he explains is very challenging, calling for total commitment of the recruits. This is to ensure that one gives the service his or her entire life.
The best moment in the service for Roberts is the deployment to assist the causalities of the 9/11 bombing in the US. The experience was quite memorable as it gave him the opportunity to serve the people through counseling (Daniel 2009). Roberts together with colleagues provided first hand assistance in areas to do with Critical Incident Stress. There were many officers who had lost their friends; family members and colleagues thus were in dire need for counseling. The best moment in the service according to Marie Wenger was taking care of an infant that was abandoned by her mother. She was the youngest officer and so when the infant was brought in the station there were no second thoughts. The infant was later reunited to her teenage mother after the investigations by the police proved successful.
The police force if more of a calling than some profession whereby someone is trained and qualifies. Both Wenger and Roberts agree there are characteristics that one brings to the job while there are those that one acquires as he or she performs the daily duties. The service is therefore ideal for those who are willing to learn, assertive, accountable and with a sense of duty. One must have the passion to serve the community and show the willingness to work with the colleagues as a team. Similarly challenges are expected on a daily basis. It is from these challenges that one learns to be initiative, gain self-confidence and to attain self control. In consideration of the above qualities and many more that are required by the police officers, the two recommend the service for those that are willing to live by those standards.
The police service does not necessarily require the most highly educated recruits. According to both Wenger and Roberts it is the motivation and the willingness to learn. As long as the applicants have good communication skills i.e. listening, writing, and speaking then one can always count on becoming a good officer. This however does not mean the force is meant only for those with elementary skills. Each day crime and criminal activities are getting sophisticated, the police have to carryout investigations, testify in courts of law thus the need for specialists. The society is full of well educated individuals who cannot be easily tamed with police officers of a lower educational level. For this reason the forces require well educated persons.
The salary of the officers does not match the amount of work done. This though does not deter the officers from carrying out their duties with dedication. Sometimes in the police force it is a matter of life and death. Then one should really ponder and ask himself how much anyone will be willing to be paid if a particular task may claim his or her life. According to the officers they should be among the well paid persons in the country, i.e. if there are well equipped, properly trained educated and carrying out their duties total commitment.
Just like other professional jobs there are those that are dissatisfied with the service and leave. There are few similar cases in the police service (Mastrofski and Snipes 2004). This normally comes during the training period but rarely after the initial stages have been successfully completed. Nevertheless there are many officers who have served successfully till retirement. These ones are celebrated and held in high esteem. For committed police officer like Wenger and Roberts nothing whatsoever can make them quit the service.
Today with the work that the police are doing it is not impractical to find an alternative work. It is simply a reflection of all the needs of the society beginning from caring for the children, the sick, and the less fortunate (Langworthy 1999). As much as the counselors, doctors, lawyers and nurses do specialize in their service; the police officers attend to all the cases without discrimination. Wenger has always thought of being a nurse which to her is quite natural and also provides service to the community. On the other hand Roberts seem to see no other alternative to the police service.
The two interviews show the fact that the service is more of a calling than anything else. The police officers meet a lot of challenges on a daily basis and even face the threat of death. This cannot be done dedicatedly by someone who is doing the job simply from the lack of a better thing to do. It is through intensive training that one emerges as the best police officer. The recruits therefore do not necessarily have to be highly skilled and educated. There only need to be some basic requirements which are essential for further training.
Daniel S. (2009). Interview with Marie Wenger, Corporal North Carolina State Police Capital Police Section. Charlotte, North Carolina.
Daniel S. (2009). Interview with Peter Roberts, Corporal North Carolina State Police Highway Patrol Section. Charlotte, North Carolina
Engel S. (2000). The Effects of Supervisory Styles on Patrol Officer Behavior. Police Quarterly 3 (3): pp.262–293.
Langworthy H. (1999). "Wilson's Theory of Police Behavior: A Replication of the Constraint Theory." Justice Quarterly 3:pp. 89–98.
Mastrofski, D. Ritti, R & Snipes, B. (2004). Expectancy Theory and Police Productivity in DUI Enforcement. Law & Society Review 28, no. 1: pp.113–148.