An appreciation of law enforcement

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

A number of years ago one of my daughters had car trouble in front of a convenience store. It was a convenience store I’d driven past hundreds of times. I drove over and we waited for the tow truck. I was struck by how unsafe it felt, watching the people who came and went, and watching them sizing us up. I realized that by becoming vulnerable in front of this very familiar landmark, we had somehow stepped into a “parallel universe.” A definitely uncomfortable one.

I had the same type of feeling after having served on a grand jury earlier this year. A number of the cases we reviewed involved places I was very familiar with — but now I was seeing them in a very different light. They were no longer just happy-go-lucky places I had been — now they were also places where something dangerous or troubling had happened. Just two weeks of grand jury duty has permanently changed how I look at those places.

I have come to realize that what I experienced in those two weeks is just a regular shift for anyone working in law enforcement. On a daily basis, police deal with the worst people — or regular people at their worst. They don’t just have two weeks of hearing about incidents, or a single incident that colors their world. For law enforcement, they have those kinds of experiences every day. They don’t just get rare glimpses into the “parallel universe,” they have to live in it.

And then they have to go home and be regular husbands and wives, dads and moms, neighbors and little league coaches. They have to be around people all the time who have no concept of the “parallel universe.”  It has to be incredibly isolating.

On top of that isolation, they have to deal with the stress and very real danger of everything they do. Every car they approach. Every door they knock on. They can’t even let down their guard when they’re eating. And then there’s the media and all the armchair quarterbacks to second guess everything they do.

The Curry County sheriff was recently interviewed in The Oregonian. He said “My deputies see the worst that mankind has to offer, but they still run to the calls, they still knock on the front doors in the middle of the night to tell parents their child has died.  They still investigate traffic accidents and homicides. They see human bodies in conditions that no person should have to see. And they serve our communities with pride and honor, and commitment. Most all of, deputies do this because of their commitment to the communities in which they live and raise their families.”

It reminded me of another one of my rare glimpses into that “parallel universe.” My wife and I were helping a girl many years ago who was being abused. She sat in our kitchen and poured her heart out to a child services worker and a police officer. It was heart breaking, horrifying stuff. It was very hard to hear. I realized later that that horrific afternoon and life altering experience for my wife and me was just another hour in the shift of the child services worker and the police officer.

I am so grateful for all the men and women who put on the uniform every day and for ALL of the sacrifices they make on our behalf.

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  • Bob Clark

    Right on!

  • Max

    I certainly believe that law enforcement officers do more for people than our blue-jeaned governor…we should pay him what they get and pay them what he gets….right???
    YES, absolutely!!!!!
    No further discussion needed. None whatsoever.

    • guest

      Except the fact the blue- jeaned governor receives OSP protection.“`To wit, before the ‘daze’ of Clyvia, John had ‘ayes’ for Sharon – and, during one happy hour occasion, patrons @ L’auberge observed the ‘gov birds’ enter replete with a bodies-guard in tow. Of course, the pit pull did not heel at their fete, he just settled for a tableau closer to the bar and with a K9 cheery face sipped coffee, making sure the judging panel seated at the bar didn’t make any half fast moves!“` BTW, howls well that ends well, no fuss just us entertained and an OSPcifer getting some proprietary treat while perhaps a Run for Logan discoursed in another part of the room. And at least on this day, a policeman’s lot a happier-hour one. Oui?

    • guest

      Unless you ‘wink’ Cylvia deserves more attention, Max.
      Oops, Willamette Week reveals so much more, know attending the dotty gov’s Achilles spiel.

  • Jack Lord God

    Here is the thing I don’t get – on some level all of us are aware of this: police officers deal with the worst situations and examples that humanity has to offer. At the same time we seem able to realize that a vet coming back from a conflict, with a claim of PTSD as distinctly possible, yet seem to have no comprehension that the same might be applicable to police officers.

    I think we really need to re evaluate the situation we put police officers in. Should day in and day out on patrol be the model? Sure it takes real skill not to escalate a drunken marital dispute into a shooting match, but I have a hard time believing this takes any less of a toll on an officer than serving in a war.

    The divorce rate, substance abuse etc. of police officers is fairly legendary. DO they get the same treatment as a returning soldier with PTSD? I sure don’t think so. We really need to evaluate how we handle a lot of careers in government. Should an officer do patrol duty for years? Is the toll on his life worth it for the experience he then brings to the job? Or should officers be rotated frequently through different types of police duty in an effort to alleviate this toll?

    People, conservatives especially, always seem ready to evaluate governments roll in our lives on a macro basis. I think we also need to look at it on an individual basis. A police officer is a career, it takes real skill and experience to do the job. However the pressure cooker of how that experience is gained is something I think needs to be reevaluated. A postal clerk or a DMV clerk is not a career, it’s an entry level job essentially on the level of a bank teller. Nobody should retire in their 50’s after handing out stamps for 30 years. In turn, police officers should be paid higher than they are. More resources should be devoted to avoiding the trials of the job that, in my opinion, damage their lives for the reasons mentioned above.

    • Sally


  • zanzara2041

    I have relatives in “law enforcement” and it is comparable to a war zone experience, however policing is often done by individuals who have no idea of the law being acted upon. They act out upon assumptions of power, expecting ignorance/compliance from the victim/perp and in direct violation of the law. I think policing activities that sully the law for expeditious convenience or out of laziness as, at least, policing for profit and, at worst, tyranny. The whole system needs re-thought and re-structured.