Recently police officers across the country have been in the spotlight. From MO, to UT, and yes even in our own community. Law enforcement around the country are constantly scrutinized for everything they do. Generally you only hear about the PD when a big bust happens or something terrible happens. Generally speaking, awful things and major drug busts don’t happen every day. So what does our local law enforcement do on a daily basis? More importantly, what is a night like in the life of a Watertown Police Officer?
I grew up in Watertown. I’ve spent a majority of my life in this town. It’s been home for well over 25 years. Let’s just say that I haven’t always been the model citizen throughout my early days and have had my fair share of “encounters” with Watertown’s finest. I’ve never had an issue with police officers. If I’m speeding and get a ticket, that’s my fault. One time I was carrying a bottle of beer from one bar to the other, and was given an open container ticket. At the time, I wasn’t happy about it at all. Now, almost 5 years sober, I understand it. If it’s against the law, chances are, you’re going to get a ticket. It just makes sense. I got a speeding ticket this summer on the way to Pierre. The officer gave me my $125 ticket and I thanked him. I was always told when dealing with law enforcement, “Yes sir, no sir; yes mam, no mam” goes a long way. Basically being polite and using your manners can help you.
Wednesday, November 26th I spent roughly 9 hours with our local PD. Let me tell you what, that was an eye opening experience for sure. I’ve always had respect for police officers. The way I see it, they’ve garnered my respect by protecting and serving the community I call home. Without them, we would live in a world of Thunder Dome. Minor things like patrolling the bars to make sure no fights break out and everyone is safe goes a long way. A police officers presence gives that feeling of safety and reassurance. The access I was given I thought was pretty amazing. I started the night with a debriefing. There were roughly half a dozen officers in the room as the Sergeant went over the announcements. The announcements were nothing out of the ordinary. Need presence at the mall, this person has a warrant for this and that, and as always, be safe. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me. That is until I had one on one time with the officer I was with. I’d love to credit this individual for his heroics and the amazing work that he, and all the officers put in, however I think it’s best if his name is left out.
After the debriefing we talked for sometime just the 2 of us. He showed me a drug called K-2. Apparently this drug is a synthetic type of marijuana. It’s a cactus plant sprayed with chemicals. The odor of it was powerful. When I smelled it, I felt like it shot down my chest and settled in my lungs in a matter of seconds. I know afterwards my chest hurt a little so I can’t imagine actually smoking it and inhaling it. I took several things out of that conversation that just the 2 of us had and many things stand out to me. More than the others, his intelligence of all drugs was astounding to me. He knew and could spout out, what seemed to me, absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about any kind of drug. This is a man who is incredibly knowledgeable. This isn’t just the stereo type. You know the one; guy gets picked on in school and decides to be a cop so he can “stick” it to all the people who did him wrong in school. This is an officer who cares deeply about his community. An officer that cares so much that he puts you and I above his own wants and needs. Who wants to work weekends from 6pm to 6am? Certainly not this guy! That’s exactly what plenty of our officers do though. The officer that I was with, was impressive. He was knowledgeable, passionate, confident, brave, and heroic. I’d go as far to say that he is a role model.
I will refer to the gentleman I was with as “my officer” to make things easier. I asked my officer exactly how he wound up in the position that he’s in. The answer he gave me stunned me to say the least. His dad wasn’t an officer, nor was his brother or uncle. So the stereo typical answer of “its in my blood” doesn’t play here. You see, my officer isn’t your normal officer. He went to school to be a mortician. After doing an internship and being witness to things that no one should ever have to see, he decided that wasn’t for him. He was a sophomore in college, and like many, had no idea what he wanted to be. During one of his generic classes, the professor thought it would be a good idea to spend some time with various employers throughout the community. This was completely random and my officer drew a ride along with the PD. He HATED this idea! In fact, he told his professor that he wasn’t going to do it. Given the ultimatum of doing it, or failing, he went along and did it. As my officer and his “partner” were riding along, they get a call for a domestic violence dispute. As all the badged ones were inside, my officer notices someone crawling out of the window. As this is happening, something clicked inside him telling him that he couldn’t just sit on his hands and watch. So as the criminal takes off down the street, my officer; a civilian at the time with zero training, does his best Carl Lewis impersonation and hauls off down the street after him. Once he makes the tackle and the “real” officer cuffs the perp, a high five is shared and an officer was born. You see, it was in his blood the entire time to be an officer, he just didn’t know it.
After sharing pleasantries and my officer blowing my doors open with his vast knowledge of all things illegal, we were off to hit the streets. After cruising around seeing what we were seeing, we got a phone call for a domestic disturbance. (When I say we, I actually mean him) This was the first time I’ve ever seen anyone high on meth before. I hope to never see that again. Although in the company of several officers and a couple of jailers, this was the only time I felt scared. To be clear, I wasn’t scared for my safety as I knew I was in good hands, I was scared for this man’s well being. Not having ever done meth, I don’t know the feeling that it gives someone. I do know the looks it gives someone and its terrifying. For example; my officer showed me a picture of a rather attractive young lady that moved here from down south. The picture was taken roughly a year ago. The next picture he showed me was of her most recent arrest. It’s flat out scary the transformation that was made. A while back those images were being shown on TV. I remember sitting with my bride thinking “Really? How can one drug do that? I’ve got to believe that there is make-up involved” I couldn’t be more wrong. Meth is damn scary and I urge all parents to have a serious, serious conversation with their children about the dangers of not only meth, but all drugs. If you by any chance are currently using, contact the local PD and get yourself the help you need.
Our local PD does everything they can to help us. I take issue with people saying “I hate cops” or using the slang, derogatory terms that we all know. I’d be foolish if I thought that all officers of the law were as honest and amazing as the officer I was with that night. That being said, for every one “bad” officer, I truly believe that there is 100 good ones. The police aren’t here to “eat donughts” and “harass” you and I. They are here to serve and protect. They are here to make sure your child is safe at school. To make sure that Danny Drunk is off the streets after he’s had too many cocktails. It’s really appalling that people would speak of law enforcement in any negative tone. Example; Danny Drunk (Danny Drunk is a fictitious name given by me to describe someone who is drinking and driving) is out at his local watering hole pounding back alcoholic beverages. It’s been a fairly productive night for Danny as he out celebrating with friends and co-workers the promotion he got. So as Danny is leaving, his friends say “Hey! Danny, you shouldn’t drive!” Danny Drunk replies “I’m good! I actually drive better when I’m drunk! Ha ha ha” So Danny is doing a little swerving from lane to lane and Officer Nice Guy pulls him over. From here Danny explains that he’s good to go and was out just celebrating a little and it’s not a big deal. Office Nice Guy sympathizes with him and tells him to “Go right home!” and Danny Drunk is on his merry way. Danny reaches for his phone about half a mile down the road to call his buddies and brag about getting away with a DWI. He takes his eyes off the road for a brief second and blasts into your young child who was going to get his ball out of the street. Are you impressed that Officer Nice Guy let Danny Drunk go? I wouldn’t think so. Zero tolerance for drinking and driving is a staple in our community. I would think in this scenario that even Danny Drunk would’ve been happier with the DWI as opposed to life in prison for killing a child. Point is, our PD is here to serve and protect, not to linger and harass.
So while you may not think that there is a seedy under belly to our little Camelot that we call home, there is some scary things out there. Our local PD does such a good job of protecting us, you don’t hear a lot about the on goings of what they’re doing. They are doing research, looking into this or that, watching this place or that person, going to trainings, and from what I can gather, learning. Learning and learning and learning some more. The vast knowledge is incredibly impressive. The officer I was with spoke of his “job” as passionate as an NFL QB speaks to his team before a game. I feel like it’s more than a “job” to him. It’s almost like a hobby that he gets paid for which I think is pretty cool. He honestly loves putting on his uniform every day. He has a bunch of patches on it so I’m assuming he’s pretty good at it as well!
I spent roughly 9 hours with my officer and I can tell you about seeing meth, K-2, and marijuana. I could tell you about going 65 mph down Kemp ave because a drunk driver wouldn’t stop. I’m sure those memories will stay with me for sometime but they won’t be the memories that last with me forever. For me, the sense of pride will stick with me. The officer I was with oozed pride. He was dripping with confidence and had such a demeanor about him. Each person he interacted with was treated as not a law beaker but as a person that needed his help in some way. Never rude or unruling, rather calm and collected regardless the situation. How can you not respect a person like that? Someone far smarter than me said something along the lines of 1 bad apple ruins it for the whole batch. I’m not sure how many apples are in a batch or if even there is such a thing of a batch of apples. That being said I think you get what I mean. I don’t like that though. Each man and woman that puts on a badge on a daily basis shouldn’t be lumped in with one incident that you may feel was right or wrong. Each day/night hard working officers across the country put on a uniform and have no idea what they are getting into when they hit the streets. They don’t know who or what they are going to run into.
I feel like every law abiding citizen would agree with me that police officers are a good thing. For those that are out there committing crimes on a fairly consistent basis, I’m sure they would disagree. But if you keep getting arrested for either the same thing or even something different, maybe you should consider stop breaking the law. It reminds me of the little kid standing next to the stove while mom and dad are cooking. Mom leaves the stove and tells little Johnny “Don’t touch the stove honey, its hot” Well, as soon as moms gone little Johnny touches the stove and sure enough, burns his little hand. Difference is that little Johnny probably isn’t going to touch the stove again while we have people getting arrested multiple times. If a 4 year old little kid can learn their lesson,why can’t criminals?
I really have nothing profound or super intelligent to share about my night with our finest. Nothing to bring to light that you haven’t known before. For the tens of people that read this, I’m sure you won’t quit your job and go to school to be an officer of the law. I guess I just want people to know that officers are good people and should be treated as such. Watertown can rest easy at night knowing that our finest are patrolling our streets and keeping us safe. As far as my officer goes? Man, what an impact he’s made on me. One of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. It’ nice knowing that there are people like him keeping people like you and me safe. Rest easy Watertown, we’ve got great people wearing a badge!
Finally, I’d like to thank all officers across the country for doing what you do. Without your selflessness, Thunder Dome would run rampant. Not everyone has the courage to do what you do day in and day out. Take pride putting on your uniform daily and know there are far more great officers as opposed to not so great. Thank you for protecting and serving our communities across the country. For those officers in Watertown, I especially thank you for everything you do. Although you’re not recognized for your heroics on a daily basis, you should be. Thank you WPD for keeping our Camelot safe.