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A High School
Lesson
Hello, my name is Alex. I am a
sophmore at a high school and I am
currently doing an I-search project. My
topic is "Should I become a police
officer?" I am to the part where I have
to conduct an interview with someone
knowledgeable about my topic.

1. Why did you decide to  become a
police officer?

2. When you first joined, were you
nervous or scared?

3. How were the first few weeks on the
job?

4. Whenever you went into work, was it
always a thrill to be there?

5. What might be some exciting
moments in your job?

6. Some scary moments?

7. How did it feel when you were
undergoing high speed chases or
catching criminals?

8. Police work is not always the high
speed chases and catching criminals
right?

9. Were you fulfilled as a police officer?
Was it a rewarding experience to you?

Thanks again for answering my
questions you have been extremely
helpful.

          -Alex
Okay, Alex.  Let's get started.

1.  Why did you decide to become a
police Officer?

My decision to pursue a police career was
based on all the right reasons.  I say
right, because service was right at the
top of the list.  My desire to do good was
always the most important reason, and
I'm glad to say that doing good
maintained its position of importance
throughout my 32 years of police service.

2. When you first joined, were you
nervous or scared?

No way.  I was too young and naive to be
nervous or scared.  Like most young
men, I felt I was indestructible.

3. How were the first few weeks on the
job?
  

It was an education.  Even though I'd
completed some pretty intensive training,
I soon learned that I knew next to
nothing in those first weeks.

There's nothing easy about police work,
and anyone entering a police career must
realize that it's a continuing education.  
Oh, it definitely gets easier with
experience, but you have to rely solely on
your powers of reasoning in the
beginning.

4. Whenever you went into work, was it
always a thrill to be there?

For me, this was the case.  If you really
want to be a police officer, you'll always
look forward to going to work.  Of
course, your working environment will
always be important.  I'm not talking
about the criminal environment, I'm
talking about your coworkers and
supervisors.  I found myself working with
great people and honest and competent
supervisors.

Here's where police work and other
occupations are similar.  If you're
surrounded by incompetence, you'd
rather be somewhere else.  However, in
police work, incompetence can create a
really dangerous environment.

5. What might be some exciting
moments in your job?

6. Some scary moments?

These two questions are
interchangeable.  Exciting can be scary,
and scary can be exciting.  Solving a
crime is always an exciting experience.  
When you solve an armed robbery
through investigation it's exciting.  When
you solve the armed robbery by walking
into the middle of it, the excitement level
definitely elevates to scary.

7. How did it feel when you were
undergoing high speed chases or
catching criminals?

Catching criminals is what it's all about;
however, the high speed chase is one
thing that every police officer should try
to avoid.  Catching a criminal leaves one
with a great feeling of accomplishment,
but that feeling of accomplishment will
turn to nothing if an innocent person is
injured, or killed, in the process.

8. Police work is not always the high
speed chases and catching criminals
right?

Right.  While you may not be catching a
criminal every day, you'll be writing
reports of some kind each and every
day.  The single most important skill for
any police officer will be the officer's
written communication skills.  All your
hard work and dedication won't mean
much if you're unable to clearly articulate
facts in writing.

9. Were you fulfilled as a police officer?
Was it a rewarding experience to you?

Absolutely.  I learned early on that police
work is a very serious business.  I caught
a lot of bad guys and helped a lot of
people.  In some instances, I actually
saved lives by just being at the right
place at the right time.  How much better
can anything get?
I would add one more question to Alex's
project:

What is the importance of integrity?

A police officer has enormous power, and
any lack of integrity will corrupt that
power.  A means will never justify an end
when that means consists of lying or
fabrication in any form or degree outside
of subterfuge.  In other words, you can
lie to a suspect, but never lie on him.
Alex asked about high speed chases.  
Those of you who become police officers
will, at some point, have to make a
decision on whether or not to pursue a
fleeing suspect vehicle.

I should mention that automobile
accidents now claim the lives of more
police officers than any other police
line-of-duty deaths.  While police
departments are, and always will be,
struggling with pursuit policies, you'll
always be the one behind the wheel of
your police car.  Your decision to pursue
a vehicle at high speeds will always place
you, and others, in jeopardy.  It's a hard
decision to make, and you'll always be
responsible for that decision.
High Speed Vehicle Pursuits
"January 22, 2002—One minute, Kristie
Priano was a 15-year-old honor student
and community volunteer laughing with
her brother in the back of the family
minivan on the way to her high school
basketball game. The next, she was one
of hundreds who die each year across
the nation from the violent crashes due
to police pursuits.
It took seven days for Kristie to die, but
only a few hours for the teen to be sent
home with her mother. She was not even
arrested! Kristie died from a massive
closed-head injury, a crushed brain stem,
and extensive swelling that caused her
brain to rupture."
My first vehicle pursuit was not a high
speed pursuit; in fact, it was a very low
speed pursuit.  As I would come to learn,
the operator was a teenage girl with a
second teenage girl in the passenger seat.

The pursuit began after I observed the
vehicle fail to come to a complete stop at
a stop sign.  We were in a residential
neighborhood, and the time was after
midnight so there was little to no traffic
moving.  When I activated my blue light,
the fifteen year old unlicensed driver
began leading me on a circuitous route
through the neighborhood.  I didn’t
sense any real danger since the operator
was moving at a low speed, and she
would slow at intersections where I could
see her head moving as she looked for
oncoming traffic.

The pursuit had lasted for less than two
minutes – a lot of ground can be covered
in two minutes – when the young driver
began to accelerate.  Here’s where
everything changed regarding my sense
of impending danger.  She was heading
for a stop sign that intersected with a
main thoroughfare.  The row house
configuration of the neighborhood made
it impossible to observe traffic on the
thoroughfare until you reached the
intersection.

My stomach turned to knots as I watched
that car speed through that stop sign at
about 40 mph.  I was so relieved when
she made it through the intersection
unscathed.  It was at that instant when I
decided to immediately end the pursuit.  

Ironically, the driver had evidently made
the same decision.  I watched with
surprise as she pulled to the curb in the
next block.  Both girls exited the car, and
as I pulled in behind the vehicle I watched
as the passenger screamed at the driver
chastising her for her behavior.  It was a
little surreal as I walked up to the girls; it
was as if I wasn’t even there.  The young
driver said to her girlfriend, “I was just
trying to get away.”  The second girl
screamed back at her, “I told you – you
were just pissing him off, and he
wouldn’t stop chasing us!”

How wrong the second girl was – I wasn’t
pissed off, and I certainly was going to
stop chasing them.  However, I saw no
need to share that part with these girls.  
It was probably better that the driver
believed her friend’s opinion.  Perhaps
that belief would prevent her from doing
anything similar in the future.

The incident had a very profound effect
on me.  Thereafter, I set my standard for
pursuing a vehicle at a very high level
balancing the need for the pursuit
against possible adverse outcomes.

I would urge that every person
contemplating a police career or any
police officer reading this go to this
website:  
KristiesLaw.org.  Whenever I
think about Kristie Priano, I always think
about that teenage girl I chased over
four decades ago and about the teenage
girl; man; woman or child that fortunately
was not in that intersection.     
What went wrong? The mother of a
teenage girl called the police, complaining
that her daughter was driving the family
car without permission. She told the
police where they could find her
daughter. Within seconds, the chase was
on through a residential neighborhood
dotted with two-way stop signs (a
violation of the Chico police pursuit
policy). The teen and the police ignored
the stop signs even though intersecting
streets had the right of way. At the
intersection of the fifth stop sign, the
teen T-boned the family van directly
where Kristie was sitting.
My First Vehicle Pursuit
I received the e-mail, shown below, from
a high school sophmore asking for some
input to complete his I-search project.  I
was going to just respond to the mail,
but, I thought, why not share the
project.  The questions are good and
certainly relevant to anyone considering a
police career.

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