Remember when Gomer in the Andy Griffith show makes a citizen’s arrest? I can’t remember all of the details, but I do remember Gomer’s target was Barney.
I couldn’t help but recall Gomer calling after the deputy, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!” as I checked in for my first class at my local Citizens Police Academy.
There were no Barney Fifes and no Gomer Pyles. I didn’t meet a Bruce Willis (Die Hard) or a Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) either. It’s not that I expected such characters, but our image of police is often shaped by television or movies.
The officers I met are deeply dedicated to serving others. I know they would arm themselves to the teeth and do anything and everything to protect our citizens from evil but that wasn’t the big takeaway. For the officers I met, it isn’t about badges and power. It isn’t about laws. It isn’t about force. Here is the big picture:
Police officers care deeply about people.
All people. Even “the bad guys.” More than one officer spoke of criminals as people who made poor judgment calls or mistakes.
They spoke of a “responsibility to care.”
Though it was not one of the main topics, if you listened closely, you’d hear a comment about an officer buying a meal for an indigent on the street or another policeman paying out of pocket for a new tire for someone stranded on the road.
A woman in the class noted that she knew a man whose life was changed because a police officer managed to get him a hotel room on a cold night.
The officers in my community are humble community servants.
I learned my community isn’t unique. Our surrounding cities and towns are similar. They all work together. They back each other up and sincerely seek to help each and every individual in the area.
I looked around the room. Four doors. One of the four guiding principles of our police department posted boldly above each door.
Integrity. Commitment. Professionalism. Courage.
I’m enrolled in this class for ten weeks. I’m signed up for a ride-along on a Saturday night. Through the course I’ll learn defensive tactics, ride in a swat vehicle, engage in a criminalistics lab activity, and participate in a firearms simulator. Those are a few of the items on the itinerary.
In the meantime, I encourage you to check out your own police force. See if they offer a program for citizens.
But whatever you do, do not chase after someone yelling, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!”