Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Ever been someplace and been asked, "So, what do you do for a living?" Yeah, me too. I generally try to avoid that question. When it comes up I give vague answers. "Well, I work for the city." Occasionally that ends the exchange, other times not. "Really, what do you do for them?" Depending on the setting and questioner I will sometimes equivocate. "A little of everything I suppose." Most times I just shrug and give in to the inevitable, "I am a cop."

That draws a wide variety of responses. I have heard all of these. "Really? I would never have guessed, you seem so normal." "Awesome! So you get to shoot a lot of people?" "I got pulled over once and the cop was a real jerk. He told me..." "How can you be a police officer and a Christian too?" These are just a small sampling. Sometimes I wish I had written down all the ones I have heard. My mother-in-law used to introduce me as, "A police officer in a small town, like Mayberry." She meant no disrespect, the town is only about 2,200 people. As dangerous as being an officer in L.A. or New York? No. As interesting? Sometimes. As hard? Yes.

Maybe some background is in order. The city is small (see above). The Police Department (PD) consists of five full-time officers including the Chief. We have one part-time officer who mostly works weekends. We provide 24-hour coverage seven days a week. All the full-time officers are required to become state certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs). This is because the Chief is also in charge of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS). The service started out all volunteer but got four full-time positions several years ago. They kept the volunteers though and so we are a mixed service of full-time EMTs and volunteers. Two of the positions are currently filled and one of the techs is cross-trained as a part-time police officer. The goal is to eventually have all four positions cross-trained. We have to do EMS, they have to do PD. While the PD covers only the city limits the EMS crew covers three quarters of the county. We drive for them on emergency runs and so often end up outside our jurisdiction. We are more than willing to backup and deputies or state troopers who need us and are also expected to help as volunteer EMTs in our off-time.

All dispatch and jail facilities are provided by the Sheriff's Office (under contract of course). The S.O. has five full-time road officers counting the Sheriff himself. For the sake of unity we'll say they provide 24-hour coverage. There are four full-time and one part-time dispatchers and several corrections officers. The total county population (including the city) is maybe pushing 6,000.

There is one other PD in the county that consists of one part-time position. Currently it is being filled by one of our officers during his time off. All the fire departments and the EMS crew responsible for the other quarter of the county are volunteer. State Troopers zip by on the highway and once in awhile drift into town. Sometimes they even wave. Once or twice a week a State Wildlife and Parks officer makes an appearance on the radio, we are lucky to see him once a month.

So that's my workplace.

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