By Clyde Davis
In the office of one of our police officers hangs a pencil sketch, depicting an officer in uniform advancing with a drawn sidearm. Underneath the framed piece of artwork is written, “I fight what you fear.” It takes a few minutes to sink in and to figure out, at least for my sometimes dense brain — it’s like one of those verbal puzzles. However, when you have figured it out, it sinks in how true this statement is. Police officers fight what we fear — drug dealers, domestic abusers, those who would take by stealth or intimidation …
In our Portales National Guard office is another illustration, taken from Soldiers magazine, showing an American soldier in camouflage and paint, moving through the brush. Underneath this illustration is an George Orwell quote: “We sleep in peace at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.”
Considering that Orwell used the word “rough” in its 1940s sense of physically capable, not our current sense of uncouth, this is also true — true of soldiers, but could also be applied to police officers.
It is National Police Officer Recognition Week, and I have just had the privilege of being a part of the Civilian Police Academy, a 12-week experience giving a taste of what is involved in the life of a police officer. It’s a cooperative venture between the city police, the sheriff’s department and the New Mexico State Police. Last year when I was nominated, I had to turn it down because I was sick. This year I almost did the same thing because our Guard unit had been told we were going to be deployed any day. Good thing I didn’t, because as you see, we never did get deployed and I would have missed a great experience.
The class spends some time on nearly every, or perhaps every aspect of what a police officer is expected to know and do. Crime scene investigation, use of dogs, special units like bomb squads and the special tactics unit, these things are all covered as well as the daily issues such as traffic control, interdepartmental cooperation and the ongoing training that is part of an officer’s life. In every way possible our instructors tried to give us a hands-on experience, including visits to the district attorney’s office, the city jail and presentations by officers involved in really unusual areas such as diving, helicopters or hostage operations.
For many people, their contact with police work is limited to what happens when you see that red light flashing in your rear view mirror and try to figure out how to explain why you were doing 65 in a 45-mph zone. There is far more to the awareness of what goes on, as we remember that these are men and women who put their lives on the line so that we can live in minimal fear of those without morals or standards who would not hesitate to harm us to get what they want. If you think we have a crime problem in our society, think how much worse it would be without officers.
I’d be remiss to close this article without mentioning there is a shortage of police officers in all local areas, and that there are positions available for those who are qualified or are willing to become qualified. I was surprised to learn that there is no maximum age. If you are 35 years old and reading this thinking, “I wish I was a cop but I’m too old to try,” rethink it. But for all of us, by supporting our officers, we can be part of the solution instead of the problem.