Citizen encounter

Recently, a traffic signal at a major intersection was malfunctioning and I was assigned to manually operate the light to keep traffic flowing. (Due to the shape of the remote switch, it is sometimes known as “running the pickle.”)

A pedestrian on his way to the store stopped and we had a short conversation about traffic and new construction and the weather. It was nothing major, just a pleasant exchange between two people.

The day was windy and warm, and on his way back from the store, that same pedestrian dug into his shopping bag and pulled out an ice-cold bottle of water, handed it to me and said, “Here, you must be sweltering.” I was glad to take it and thanked the man, who went on his way.

My story isn’t so much about his kindness as it was about common ground. It was just a brief chat, but in the exchange, we both saw each other as people, just regular human beings. He remembered that there was a person under that uniform, and I was reminded that not everyone we meet is up to no good.

The water was great.

Police Involvement in Charitable Causes: Ohio Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics

Having recently completed our annual Torch Run for Special Olympics in Solon, I was excited to see the enthusiasm and support for the program.  We had a beautiful day, citizens and coworkers came out to support us, and I was able to raise a fair amount of donations for my participation.  It also became apparent through some of the social media feedback that there are still many who do not know what this program is, or how it works.

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The Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) for Special Olympics is a fundraising arm and awareness vehicle specifically for the Special Olympics, that was created and is maintained by police officers.  Every state has an LETR counterpart to their Special Olympics program, as do many countries around the world.  Every year each state has a Torch Run in the days leading up to their Special Olympic Games to raise money and awareness about their program.  These events involve officers and their families and friends, as well as Special Olympic athletes and their family and friends, to create a group of very passionate individuals with a great cause.  The Torch Run culminates at the opening ceremonies where the torch, having been ushered around the state for a week or more, is brought to the ceremony in the “Final Leg Run” and used to light the cauldron, signifying the official beginning of the games.

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The idea of the Torch Run dates back to 1981 in Wichita, Kansas, where five officers approached their then-chief, Richard La Munyon, with an idea to raise money for some of the families in the local Special Olympics.  Chief La Munyon loved the idea and the Law Enforcement Torch Run was born, raising about $300 that first year.  After three successful years, Chief La Munyon approached the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and convinced them to endorse the Torch Run nationally.  Today all 50 states and more than 26 countries participate involving more than 97,000 police officers. Various fundraising platforms have been created under the umbrella of LETR including Polar Bear Plunges, Tip-a-Cop events, and Cop on Rooftop events.  Since its inception, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics has raised over $600 million dollars.

So if you ever find yourself behind a slow moving procession of police officers carrying a torch, know that they are working to provide for the many people with intellectual disabilities.  Together with the athletes, family, and friends, they are making a statement for inclusion the whole world can hear.

Traffic stops

“Why does more than one police officer show up on traffic stops? It made me feel like a criminal.”

Our goal is never to make somebody feel like a criminal: Our goal is to do everything we can to make sure that traffic enforcement is conducted as safely as possible for our officers and the public. It has long been standard procedure for our officers to back each other up on traffic stops after dark. Statistically, the danger to officers rises as the sun sets. That second officer represents an extra set of eyes and ears, and lets the primary officer focus more on interacting with the driver. The officer may need to explain the violation or enforcement action, or the driver may have questions or concerns. Nobody expects a traffic stop to be a pleasant event, but when the officer no longer has to divide attention between the motorist, traffic and pedestrians, the encounter will likely go more smoothly for everybody.

A good backup officer will likely sweep the inside of your car with a flashlight beam. Again, that officer is not trying to intimidate you, he is trying to insure the safety of the primary officer and the motorist, and can alert his partner to threats or concerns that may have been overlooked.

That backup officer is also scanning the area for potential threats and traffic concerns. On more than one occasion, an alert second officer has shouted a warning about a passing car veering too close and have pulled an officer or citizen out of harm’s way.

 

Community Relations: What are we doing?

 

Right now I have, among other responsibilities, the duty of community relations in my organization.  The truth is, I am not entirely sure what that means anymore.  In a post-Ferguson world, it is hard to understand what, as police officers, we are supposed to be doing.

It seems obvious that engaging the community is the right course of action, and this has become very purposeful in recent years in hopes of repairing police-citizen relations. Some initiatives have been revived and new ones have been created, with officers spending more time in non-enforcement activities, and this is a positive thing.  Almost daily I see inspiring stories about officers doing wonderful things with members of the community, including charitable acts.  Pictures of these acts, often of officers interacting with children, are plentiful.  Like anyone else, I love to see these “feel good” stories.

But here is the proverbial rub; I can’t help but feel at times that the increased attention to these acts by officers feels staged.  And that is unfortunate because police officers have always done these things.  That we didn’t hear about every one of these stories, or see pictures about them, is because police officers never felt the need to share them.  In fact, it would have felt almost boastful just a short time ago to publicize acts such as this.  The truth is, I don’t think any of us ever realized we were supposed to keep score in this aspect of our job.  We really didn’t know that it “counted” in the tally of tasks that were expected of us on our jobs, like issuing citations or making arrests.  We just did it because it was the right thing to do.  We continue to engage our communities at an accelerated pace, but can we maintain our sincerity in this push to show the world that we really do care now, even though we always have?

Which brings us to this blog.  We need a voice in law enforcement, both collectively and individually.  From a broad nationwide perspective to a single member of a local department we need a platform to let everyone in our communities know that we have a genuine interest in them, and it is as sincere a part of our job as it always has been.  Because we are a part of these communities.  From special interest stories to crime prevention to educational pieces about why we do what we do and how it all works, this has to be part of our engagement with the community.  We hope to bring you this on this forum.

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