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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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