Perspectives: Building bridges between law enforcement and citizens

OPINION – Television has truly failed us. Despite generations growing up watching Dragnet, Adam-12, COPS, and other reality-based police shows, the public’s view of law enforcement is hopelessly skewed.

If we go by what Hollywood depicts, the average cop’s day involves several fistfights, two or three car chases and at least one shootout. But this hardly reflects reality.

If our sole interaction with law enforcement has taken place at the side of the road, we may mistakenly believe that police are little more than armed tax collectors. Others take their lack of understanding too far in the opposite direction and become star-struck at the mere sight of a police uniform. Neither of these views is realistic.

The truth is, few of us have an accurate foundation by which to understand what our local cops actually do on a daily basis, unless we are related to one. Fortunately, in September, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is providing an excellent opportunity to dispel the myths and promote real understanding of what they do.

Starting on September 6 and lasting through October, the Sheriff’s Office will once again offer its Citizens Academy to a limited number of participants. It’s an eight-week course that offers a glimpse into the reality of the many responsibilities and duties of Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and his deputies. This program is offered free of charge, but participants must fill out an application and submit to a background check.

From crime scene investigation and traffic control, to courtroom security, search and rescue, and running the Purgatory Correctional facility, the Citizens Academy gives its participants a thorough appreciation of how the sheriff’s office operates.

Participants will meet members of the Drug Task Force, the SWAT team, and have a chance to do a ride along with deputies. Along the way, they’ll have the chance to observe for themselves the professionalism and down to earth nature of the vast majority of local law enforcement.

They’ll come to see how law enforcement officers perform a difficult and stressful job that depends upon the respect and trust of the public they serve. Citizen Academy participants will better understand just how seriously members of law enforcement take the confidence placed in them by the public and how, when an officer crosses the line, they aggressively weed out those who would diminish that trust.

In addition to seeing the many facets of responsibility that fall to the sheriff’s office, participants will come to see its officers as real people and citizens of the community.

They’ll better understand what Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, meant when he taught: “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

The Citizen’s Academy is a proven method for building productive bridges between local law enforcement and members of the communities they serve. Those who are willing to apply and participate in the one being offered by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will find it an invaluable investment of their time. Details can be found here.

Law enforcement is expected to respond to some of the worst situations imaginable and to bring order to temporary chaos while behaving impartially and respecting the rights of those with whom they are dealing.

That’s a tall order for mere mortals.

But the vast majority of officers do it anyway knowing that few people understand their profession and fewer still will hesitate to criticize based upon that incomplete understanding.

By dispelling our distorted view of law enforcement, the Citizen’s Academy has proven to be a highly effective antidote to a growing “Us vs. Them” mentality that is taking hold across the nation. Take advantage of this opportunity and enjoy a solid, firsthand understanding of who makes up the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and what they really do.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Curtis September 1, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Would attendees also meet the jack-booted thugs that live to kick down doors, shoot family pets and stick guns in the faces of women and children that Bryan is always telling us about ?

  • TARRELL Hughes September 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I was born and raised in St.George and can tell you first hand that this is just their propaganda. Aside from sherriff Pulsifer and a handful of others that most are carupted power drunk thugs. That is why pulsifer is sherrif and not some of the other riff raff. His only downfal is he believes most are good.
    If you think one is good research what that one has said about myself.

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