Mills column: A thin blue line
From the unfortunate events that transpired last month on the Colorado River Bridge, we too often forget our local law enforcement are people just like us, put in stressful situations and charged with making split-second decisions to make sure the community they serve is safe.
When I moved to Colorado two years ago, I was looking to start a new career. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Taking pictures is all I have ever known.
But there was one other career many dream about as children — being a police officer.
For me, it goes back to when I was 5 or 6 years old. My dad was driving my brothers and I home from a baseball game when a vehicle ran a stop sign and collided with my dad’s old Ford pickup.
Luckily, we were all uninjured in the crash, but my dad’s truck was totaled.
The first responder to the scene was an Idaho State Patrolman, named Brent Reed, who comforted my brothers and I and as darkness fell on that old country road just outside of my hometown.
To help distract four boys, Trooper Reed let us sit in his patrol vehicle and told all about what each button and knob did. When everything was over, he ended up giving us a ride home that night.
Something about the way that trooper treated my family and me in our time of need stuck.
Fast forward more than three decades later, I felt the calling to see if I had what it takes to wear the badge.
As many of you know, job interviews are stressful enough, but testing to become an officer of the law goes to another level.
For many agencies it is different, but they all usually involve a written and physical test, followed by multiple rounds of interviews.
I thought I went into the first day knowing what I was getting into. I studied countless hours and picked the brains of family and friends who have worn, or still wear the badge. But I had no idea how intense it would be.
The interview processes was a two-day event for me, with each step of the process pass and move on, or fail and go home.
The written test assessed my abilities in reading comprehension, math, grammar and spelling — things I used everyday, but something I hadn’t been tested on in years. And, add that you were on a timer, and I was definitely sweating it.
After making it through round one, the physical test was next.
An officer walked us through an agility course, of which each candidate was required to complete in under a required time.
I was far from the best shape of my life, and to this day could probably lose a few pounds.
After watching the first runner crush the course it was my turn. I huffed and puffed my way through the obstacles and challenges of the test and just made it under the required time to move on.
To be honest, I had barely recovered from the physical portion of the test, and my face was beet red when I headed into the first round of interviews.
I was led into an office with three officers asking questions and gauging my response. I thought the interview went well, and after a wait I was asked back for the next day of testing.
Day two was the big day; the oral board interview.
Wearing a wool suit that my dad wore when my parents were married, I was clearly feeling the heat as I sat at the end of a large board room table and was surrounded by a selection committee, who asked me question after question for what seemed like two hours in a furnace room.
I could feel the job slipping away; I wasn’t as comfortable during this interview process and got hung up on a few questions that showed some apprehension in my decision-making.
After the interview and a few minutes if deliberation, I was taken into a small office and informed I wouldn’t be moving on to the next step.
I was crushed. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I realize you have to make decisions in a split-second decision when upholding the law, and any hesitation could cost you or an innocent bystander their life.
The whole process made my wife relive the worrying of growing up watching her dad, who retired after a 30-plus years career in law enforcement, leave for his night shifts as a violent crimes and gang suppression officer in the California, not knowing whether he would come home.
After some soul searching and a serious family conversation with both my wife and father-in-law, I decided to stick with journalism for now.
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