Appreciation for local law enforcement
I try to abide by the “walk a mile in their shoes” mantra — emphasis on “try.”
The idea is an effort in avoiding labels, the topic discussed in last week’s column, but it is a challenge. Sometimes people are difficult or frustrating, and patience is a rare commodity for some of us. Other times the gap between our path and another person’s path is so great that an attempt at adopting a more understanding mindset is simply not enough. Sometimes we really have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes.
I found myself in that situation Saturday night when I spent nine hours riding around with Rifle Police Officer Garrett Duncan. Although my motive for joining him on his patrol was for a different reason — you’ll see it in the paper in the coming weeks — the experience was enlightening, to say the least.
Most of the few people we came across that evening were respectful and appreciative. One woman, who was arrested for a warrant, thanked officer Duncan for “being so cool.” Listening to the two interact, you’d think they were old acquaintances — which I guess they technically were.
It was not the stereotypical image that comes to mind when I think about how the police and public interact. After the woman paid her bond and left the police station, we continued on patrol … well officer Duncan continued on his patrol; I just sat in the passenger seat.
As he drove through downtown people waived, some pretty enthusiastically.
It’s fairly simple, Duncan said. “I treat you the way you treat me.”
I later learned that is not entirely accurate. Toward the end of the patrol, officer Duncan responded to a fight in the parking lot by Farm Fresh Cafe. The one man who allegedly started the fight was going to get off with a ticket, and officer Duncan originally offered to give him a ride home. But the man, who admitted to drinking “a lot” became more and more unruly. After multiple requests for the man to calm down, officer Duncan arrested him.
As the man continued to hurl insults and curse in the back of the patrol vehicle, officer Duncan remained calm. He did not treat the man the way he was being treated.
People, he explained, expect law enforcement to be almost superhuman. But at the end of the day, they’re people just like you and me.
Those words stuck with me. We have to hold law enforcement officers to a higher standard because of the power and responsibility they possess. But that doesn’t mean we should not appreciate our officers who do their job day in and day out, because after nine hours in officer Duncan’s shoes I learned that I could not do his job.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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