Law enforcement is a challenging and rewarding public service profession. The daily life of a police officer on the job is not commonly understood by the public. In fact, public perception of the police is typically guided by their personal encounters with the local police department, stories from others who encountered police officers and the portrayal of law enforcement by the media.
I have provided training and conducted research involving law enforcement officers from agencies around the United States, Central America, South America, and Europe. Misconceptions of law enforcement are common all around the world. The public often underestimates or doesn’t understand the amount of dedication, compassion toward others, and hard work officers put forth on a daily basis to mitigate crime for law-abiding citizens and maintain public safety.
Working in Law Enforcement Takes an Emotional Toll on Police Officers
Unless someone has a friend or family member in law enforcement, the public often does not see the emotional toll that a police officer experiences on a daily basis. This stress comes from responding to horrific crime scenes, responding to calls where children have been neglected or abused, traffic fatalities, and many other 911 calls for service.
Holding Perpetrators Accountable
The vast majority of police officers are ethical; they have genuine care and concern for the local people that they protect and serve in the line of duty. When people are victims of crime, officers inherently want to help by providing immediate aid and holding perpetrators accountable for the harm that they have brought to crime victims and their lives.
During the coronavirus pandemic, local law enforcement officers across the country continued to serve their communities by being willing to risk their own health and wellbeing on service calls. They accept the risk of physical harm that comes with the job of being a police officer and inherently run toward danger while most people run away from the threat.
[Related article: Effective Police Leaders: A Vital Component of Law Enforcement]
January 9 Is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day
Each year, January 9 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. This event recognizes the sacrifices dedicated police officers make on a daily basis to keep everyone safe. According to the U.S. Census, there are over 900,000 people in law enforcement.
The Elk Valley Times notes that National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day began in 2015 to enable our nation’s citizens to thank officers nationwide for the daily sacrifice law enforcement officers make to keep us safe. There are different ways that a community can display support for its law enforcement officers, including:
- Displaying respect toward police officers in personal encounters
- Volunteering for police programs such as citizen academies, crime stoppers programs or neighborhood watch programs
- Visiting local police agencies and talking with officers during community/police events, such as the National Night Out program
Yet another good way to gain a deeper understanding of criminal justice is through education. The University offers several online criminal justice programs, including:
- Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Master of Arts in Criminal Justice
Getting to know local law enforcement during events such as National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is essential. Meeting police officers face-to-face builds trust between a community and the officers who maintain order in the community. It also helps local citizens to gain a deeper understanding of the people behind the badge and learn more about community safety programs.
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