By Beth Winze
The past few days have been heavy , actually the past few months. Unfortunately, the world we are living in now is rocked by tragedy what feels like on a daily basis and it becomes emotionally taxing. It’s not hard to open up any form of social media and see pictures and videos of disturbing footage of violent protests, people dying of gunshot wounds from an officer’s gun and mothers and fathers mourning the loss of their children. It’s heavy stuff.
I recently returned from a summer internship with the Wichita Police Department. I participated in 120+ hours of ride alongs, detective interviews, dispatch, and observing the majority of every moving part of an active police department. 80+ of those hours were spent in the passenger seat of a cop car. I spent my summer watching and seeing firsthand what police work truly looks like. And what I experienced in contrast to what people are saying about law enforcement is heartbreaking.
I witnessed a lot out there. Some of which I am still processing and chewing on. These officers see daily, the ugliest parts of human nature. They see the violence, the bloodshed, the wounds, and the blatant disrespect people have for human lives. Yet they continue to do their job to protect and serve their community. Not once did I hear a single officer complain about their job. In fact, when I asked them what encouraged them to become an officer, they informed me they had a deep desire to help others and this was the best way they knew how. They loved to engage with the community and on several occasions stopped what they were doing to engage in a real and personal conversation with the people they were interacting with.
The part that hurts me the most in all of this massive uproar on social media is the fact that we are forgetting those people in blue. It’s easy for us to sit at home behind our computers and rationally think of better ways that they should be doing their jobs. But it is incredibly easy to forget that we think we are looking at the bigger picture. We are looking at these situations after they have happened, and we are condemning them for decisions that had to be made in milliseconds. We forget that we were not there, we did not hear words exchanged before a video was thrown up on Facebook, and we forget that we are listening to only one side of the story and making our judgments, but we comment as if we were firsthand witnesses to a blatant violation of human life.
I urge you, if you are outraged with thoughts of police brutality and the belief that cops are out to disregard human life, that you spend some time in the passenger seat of a cop car. When you watch a cop stand in a room with grieving parents who lost a child in the night and realize that they are the only one who can help, you will begin to understand. When you watch them do traffic stops and stand behind the driver’s window because of the amount of opportunity someone might take in hurting the officer, you will begin to understand. When you see them arrest a known drug abuser so they stop hurting themselves and jail is the only form of help, you will begin to understand. When you hear officers yelling at people because it’s all they can do to take control of the dangerous situation, you will begin to understand. When you hear the radio beep for and officer in trouble and watch as they drive to help their brother, you will begin to understand.
I am a Criminal Justice major, I have spent 120 hours doing an internship where I saw police work firsthand, and I only saw a portion of what they do and I feel as if I have a deeply rooted amount of respect for the amount of danger officers put themselves in everyday, because they have a desire to help others.
If you are angry at police departments, I beg you to walk a day in their boots. It’s easy to condemn them for what they do, but when you see even a sliver of the calls they take and the amount of unknown factors, I think you will find it harder to be so harsh to judge them when it comes to situations like we see on Facebook.
Just some food for thought.