Police departments around the country are exploring ways to improve their relationship with their local community. Commentator Rebecca Rine decided to see what she could do as a citizen to learn more about her local police.
With so much negative behavior and publicity in police forces across America, I decided to enroll in the Kettering Citizens Police Academy to gain some insight into my own community’s police force. I had no idea just how deep that insight would go.
Chief Protsman greeted us on the first day, telling us they hire only the best officers who are held to strict standards daily. As the eight weeks proceeded, I came to see the chief wasn’t just saying empty words--we truly do have police who are filled with heart, courage and pride. And this isn’t limited to Kettering. The chief told us he frequently meets with the police chiefs in the area to ensure a unified front that knows no borders.
As each officer explained their job, I was struck by the pure camaraderie they have. The phrase, “I’ve got your back” is not just a phrase--it’s a hardcore truth. These are folks who are trained to literally lay down their lives for their fellow officers. This deep familial camaraderie comes out in the way they joke with one another, humor being the salve that eases the stress of a job that would otherwise eat them alive.
One officer told us he was a music major before changing gears to become an officer. Before I could edit myself, I snorted out loud in laughter. I cringed, but the officer laughed along with me. This was the same jovial officer who looked at us with steady, purposeful eye contact, saying, “If you’re ever in a situation with an active shooter, fight like you’ve never fought before. You’re fighting for your life.” He explained this very matter-of-factly as if he were a parent telling his child not to forget his rain boots.
Humor and brotherly bonds cannot completely mask the strain that this job brings to any good cop. One officer’s eyes filled with tears as he told us he has seen children die while on duty. As he said this, his voice cracked and he paused and bit his lip. I saw instantly that this is a man who takes his work home with him. As he explained of times when he has seen children being treated poorly, I had to leave class early because it was too emotional for my thin skin.
As I sat in my car weeping, it dawned on me how lucky I am to have the luxury of walking away from it, hugging my own kids close in blissful ignorance while officers lay awake at night wondering how they can fix the problems they see. I am grateful there are people with the ability to take on such enormous, emotional work because I am not one of them.
We saw a SWAT team demonstration, learned about everything from crime scene analysis to polygraph testing and even had the chance to shoot a firearm. We got to see first-hand how officers have to make split-second decisions that could mean life or death. They are always in training to be well equipped for such situations, constantly learning and growing to be prepared. The same goes for most police across the nation. Yes, there are bad police out there, the same way there are bad accountants, teachers and mechanics. From what I’ve seen, our piece of Ohio is armed with men and women who genuinely care and actively put forth effort to meet the changing needs of society.
After going through this class, aside from being grateful, I also feel a sense of responsibility. Having a safe community shouldn’t weigh solely on the shoulders of our police force--it should be distributed evenly on all of us. The officers conveyed that they’ve noticed neighbors don’t look out for each other like they used to. The mindset now is to mind our own business, and let the police take care of things, but I know now the police are taking care of a lot of things that we have no idea about. They are seeing things no one should see, so the least I can do is learn my neighbors’ names and let them know they can rely on me. Now that's a small thing, but if we all do it, it's a big thing.
Rebecca Rine is a writer living with her husband and two small children in Kettering. Find more of her work at: JaggedJourney.com