National Police Week: The Words of a Detective Sergeant

I work for the Bloomington, Indiana Police Department as a Detective Sergeant. Being a police officer for nearly 19 years, I have seen a lot. I started like most rookies do — on the overnight shift and then worked as a uniformed patrol officer for nearly 11 years.  I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in May of 2000 and served as a uniform supervisor working every shift as a sergeant for 6 years. In January of 2007, I switched divisions and started in our detective division as a Detective Sergeant, where I currently rank.

I came from a lower-middle class family where my dad worked in a factory for 30 years.  I didn’t want that for myself and in the neighborhood I grew up in, cops were respected.  I still remember being in the first grade, when an officer came to our school with his police car. We got to talk to him and see the inside of his car. Like many little boys, that that’s where the dream began. I majored in criminal justice in college, followed by an internship at a small sheriff’s office in southern Indiana. There, I fell totally in love with police work.  The internship was exciting, scary and educational. I had never known how much police officers did until I saw it first hand. 

Once I was hired by BPD,  I attended the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.  Three months of learning the basic knowledge, skill, and tactic proved a great experience to look back on. Once graduated, I completed the BPD’s Field Training Officer Program.  Here, senior officers were the "training officers,”  and new officers were graded according to different categories of law enforcement.  It was a stressful change from the academy but it was an important learning experience.

Individuals in my position are often asked, "Why do you want to be a police officer?” Usual responses are about helping others and I couldn’t agree more that most cops entered the field for this reason. But it’s more than most people understand. Officers don’t just help little old ladies crossing the street — they make a real difference in society. They rescue the battered woman and her children, helping them find shelter — and arresting the man responsible for battering. Police officers track down criminals who have broken into citizen’s homes, stealing not only possessions but a priceless sense of security as well. We keep our communities safe by making traffic stops searching for intoxicated drivers and upholding that laws that make society civil and safe.

If people would stop and think what the community would be like if there were no police officers, they might not be so critical of law enforcement when they realized how important officers are for everyone’s lives.

Several years ago, I was able to arrest a thief who had stolen jewelry from someone’s car. It was a satisfying experience, as I incorporated dedication in getting back all of the jewelry to the victim through contracting three search warrants and investigations. These kinds of events occurs on a regular basis and they make my job worth it.

A case of domestic violence stands out in my memory. After working the same district for several years, I was very familiar local people. In fact, I knew them by their full names, birthdates, addresses and phone numbers.  One particular couple had had several domestic calls to their residence. But one night, he stomped on her face — leaving a perfect bruise of the bottom of his shoe on her chin. I ended up meeting this woman’s family and was able to get her some help through them.  I located her husband eventually and arrested him.  After that, I would sometimes see the woman and her family. They would always tell the people with them that I was a "good cop” and that really made me feel good.

Dealing with family problems is always difficult. A family was being bullied by their very large 13-year-old son and one night, the parents called the police. They were obviously intimidated by their son because of his size (about 6’2 and 220 pounds) — and he knew it. He then tried bullying me but I laid into him fast, reading him the Riot Act in such a way he’d never forget. I told him what he would and would not do and that he was now on “Officer Canada’s Probation” so he’d better play by the rules. After checking on him every night that week, contacting his principal and staying on the case for a couple of months, that family never had to call again. 

The biggest motivating factor in doing police working comes from community and leadership support. Without the family’s support to subdue the bully, it wouldn’t have worked. There are highs and lows in police work, but when you’re at the local convenience store and a citizen comes up and tells you how much they appreciate the work you do, you know the community you serve truly cares.

Right after September 11, people often came to me to express gratitude for what I do. Now, I think people have forgotten. The public often doesn’t realize that police officers are also people just like them – with families and all the responsibility that goes with that. We have feelings, stress, pain, anger, laughter, excitement — we are human too. There are birthday parties to plan, holidays to celebrate, and graduations to attend, but for most of us, work comes first and sacrifices must be made. 

Each generation of cops has it tougher and there are always new challenges to conquer. Being an officer can be a lot of fun — exciting at times and mundane at others. Most don’t like to discuss the danger involved but it is an everyday reality to the street cop.  In fact, officer safety is number one in every cop’s book. Going home to your family every night is the goal at the end of the day. The “Officer Down Memorial Web Site” chronicles officers that have been killed in the line of duty. Go to the site to read about their sacrifice. The “reflections” left by friends, family and strangers can make even the hardest man tear up.

People always ask why we do this job with so much danger. But that is a question that may never be answered.