Past VCOPS Scholarship Essay
Anna Nichols -
Prince George, Virginia
VCOPS 1998 SCHOLARSHIP WINNER
Elyse Ann Ritter, Woodlawn, Virginia
VIRGINIA LAW ENFORCEMENT: A COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY
The caliber of law enforcement is of critical importance in a free society. To most civilians, police are the guardians of peace and public order. They man the "thin blue line" between ochlocracy and order. They engross, indeed cause rapt fascination, with a wide variety of audiences. Of all the agents of government (politicians, prosecutors, and judges, to name a few), police are probably the best known and least understood. They are best known, because of their high visibility on the street and least understood, because the citizens only have a sketchy comprehension of the intricacy of the policeman's job. Furthermore, much mythology surrounds the police and their work. The job is both enhanced and diminished by the advent of the television police officer. To some it is a tainted business, while to others it is a calling similar to the priesthood or medicine.
The late Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that "the policeman is more powerful than the president. Only the policeman has the power to deprive an American of his liberty, and only a policeman defines, on a daily basis, the real law of the land". In this, Chief Justice Warren Burger agreed, "Few if any officials in our society are given the breadth of discretion and heavy responsibility that our police are asked to carry In matters affecting the daily lives of 220 million Americans."
The police face a succession of stresses and disputes that underscore a wide discrepancy between their self-image and the reality of the job. Most officers see themselves as crime fighters. They are primarily seen as those who enforce the laws and catch criminals. The job is difficult and potentially dangerous. He must be able to adjust to a variety of different roles: from that of psychiatrist to a street fighter. A policeman must be able to handle difficult and dangerous situations quickly. On rare occasions his actions are brought into public scrutiny, sometimes alleging that he was "trigger happy" or accusations of "police brutality" abound. Reporters and lawyers might take hours or months debating a decision that an officer was forced to make in a split second.
Social policy represents the accumulation of values and standards that a society builds up over time. These norms determine what a society will allow its organized structure of government to do on the behalf of its members. They are an unwritten and written blend of what a people think their society ought to be, what they wish it to do collectively for the good of all and how they prefer to act to achieve these ends. The police are an integral part of the social structure. For it is the police officer who must deal with both the criminal element bent, in its own way, of attempting to destroy the fabric of society and the average "Joe" citizen, who needs a ride home, after his car breaks down and expects service.
The police officer is a person who collects facts. His aim is to preserve peace within the community and uphold the laws of both the State of Virginia and the United States. It is expected that his reasoning processes will be logical and that even when he engages in speculation, good judgement and common sense will prevail.
Police are the only government agency open twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. They are a constant presence within the community and frequently visible. They make house calls and do not charge for this service. Moreover, they respond to all emergencies in virtually every jurisdiction, even when the request is not related to law enforcement. In many instances, the police department is the only agency that a citizen can turn to. The police department is a "lifeline" for many.
Virginia officers, as with officers in the other states, typically, do not like service calls or "domestics" (family disputes). Yet, these are the calls that influence public opinion of the police the most; as service calls, in particular, are the most frequent. Generally, dissatisfaction towards police in these and all other types of calls stems from several sources. The first, is a high degree of cynicism that appears to run through society today. Secondly, there is a great probability that the police will lack effectiveness, especially after a serious criminal violation. The damage is done and it appears that all an officer is doing is taking a report. Thirdly, there is a tendency on the part of some officers to be brusque and impersonal: they lack a "bedside manner", seeming to be indifferent to the plight of the victim. Many citizens interpret the professional police demeanor as insensitive and callous. For a patrol officer, the incident he is investigating many be similar to hundreds of others that he has previously experienced.
Unfortunately, in many communities there are not enough officers for the given population. In many instances, officers are rushed through calls and do not have the time to explain the "system" to a victim, how a case will be processed, or what community services are available. The breakdown in communications inevitably leads to poor police-community relations.
Clarence M. Kelley emphasizes the importance of a well trained, sensitive police officer. In dealing with the victims of crime, particularly in those instance where violence has occurred, the police officer should be prepared to exhibit, among other professional attributes, a high degree of sensitivity, compassion, and interview skills. The welfare of the victim is, of course, a foremost consideration and, in this regard, care should be taken by the contacting officer to avoid needlessly adding to the traumatic effects of the criminal experience. The often crucial role of the victim in the solution of cases also clearly warrants a special concern by the contacting officer. Indeed, a recent study involving a number of serious offenses indicated that in more than half of those cases solved, the police learned the identity of thesuspects through victim reports. in many such instances, a cooperative attitude on the part of the victim and a willingness to provide information may hinge largely on the manner in which the officer has handled the contact.
It cannot be stressed enough that the officer on the street is in a strategic position to offer a wide range of services such as helping an elderly person across the street or assisting a homeless family in finding shelter. Police departments need to place a greater emphasis on training officers to understand the communities in which they serve. This will probably entail intensive training to change the "crime-fighter" image that most police officers hold to that of social service, which is the reality of the "Job".
Elyse is a graduate of Carroll County High School. She will attend Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. She is planning to major in social work and child psychology. She plans to dedicate her life to child advocacy. The Executive Board of Virginia Cops wishes her all the best in her future.
VCOPS 1997 SCHOLARSHIP WINNER
The Police field is now more diversified and flexible in addressing the needs of a community. Whether urban or rural, each community has certain real and perceived needs that are focused upon to meet the demands of citizens. In efforts to meet these needs Police Officers assume various roles, including that of protector, enforcer, social worker, psychologist, therapist, counselor, confidant, and friend. Law enforcement is a profession, comprised of advanced technology, innovative strategies, educated employees, and predicated upon strong traditional values. The field improves daily to meet the demands of modern society.
The profession itself requires that an individual officer to possess unique qualifications and training to handle the inherent stresses of the profession. Training in such aspects as criminal investigation, community relations, traffic enforcement, crises intervention, civil concerns, and other areas are vital to effective service. All of these attributes are channeled into the community for purposes of enhancing the quality of life. In this endeavor law enforcement now emphasizes the importance of drug education in elementary and middle schools, such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program (D.A. R E.). Through the education of our children, future drug abuse may be curtailed as well as the overall impact on criminal behavior.
In addition to drug education, Virginia law enforcement is quite involved in deterring juvenile delinquency, which is on the increase throughout the nation. Juveniles are more involved in criminal activity, including petit larceny and other misdemeanors, as well as serious felonies (such as burglary, robbery, etc.). Law enforcement agencies around the state are establishing juvenile specialists and working in conjunction with other community agencies to adversely impact the growth of these crimes. Focus is not only placed upon prosecution, but on the family environment. Expertise provided from local schools, social agencies, juvenile courts, churches, other professions, and community groups are making a difference by working hand-in-hand with law enforcement to deal with juvenile delinquency. Various social initiatives employed by community agencies working in concert with law enforcement may help a juvenile change his
values to a more positive viewpoint This community approach is more far-reaching than simple prosecution in rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, and re-orienting them to a productive lifestyle.
With the advent of "community policing," law enforcement agencies are now becoming deeply involved in helping communities help themselves. Community policing is a philosophy and an organizational strategy that promotes a new partnership between citizens and the police. This type of policing is based upon the premise that both law enforcement and their community must work together to identify, prioritize, and solve problems. These problems include crime, the fear of crime, illegal drugs, social and physical disorder, and overall neighborhood decay. The goal of this partnership is to improve the overall quality of life in the area.
Such programs as neighborhood watch, citizens on patrol, citizen's ride-along, crime-lines, and other endeavors are vital in assisting law enforcement with citizens being the "eyes and ears" for problems. Law enforcement agencies are also becoming more deeply involved in the environmental aspects of their community in recent years. Police are noting areas which are littered with trash, condemned buildings, graffiti, fire hazards, safety hazards, etc., and working with community groups and other governmental agencies in cleaning and improving these vicinities. Coupled with criminal and traffic enforcement initiatives, law enforcement applies environmental improvement with arrest and prosecution in improving the quality of life in numerous areas.
In the ongoing effort to rid a community of crime, law enforcement is also pursuing numerous enforcement initiatives with the community policing concept. Criminal enforcement includes directed patrol, surveillance, plain-clothes details, reverse sting operations, undercover drug operations, regional homicide and arson investigation squads, inter-agency cooperative efforts, and intensive investigation of crimes. Traffic enforcement strategies not only involve radar, but include traffic road-checks, DUI checkpoints, school zone/school bus passing enforcement, speed-reading devices to caution motorists of their speed, and the placement of "dummy" police cars in areas where speeding is reported. All of these efforts are pursued to improve the environment and overall safety in a community.
Virginia law enforcement is following the lead of the federal government's emphasis on community policing, and becoming increasingly involved in the community. Through community policing, creative problem-solving is the emphasis in partnership with the public. This partnership is similar to the spokes of a wheel, with law enforcement serving as the center, from which other agencies are mutually cooperative in attaining community goals. Law enforcement serves as the catalyst in providing the impetus for partnership approaches in resolving community problems. Conversely, through community policing greater community involvement with the police function is promoted. This approach enhances communication, trust, crime prevention, accountability, police service, and organization, resulting in more effective police operations. Proactive pursuits by police agencies to inhibit problems in advance are more well-received by the community in lieu of simply only reacting to problems in general.
As a senior in high school, I have witnessed the police in action within my community, and the police are in the forefront of community policing. I am also from a police family, as my father has served as a police officer for over twenty-five years. I have observed first-hand the demands of my community upon the police from both perspectives. My father has told me many times of all the numerous activities in which the police are involved, and the vital role the police have within the community. During times when the local media have covered critical or other situations in the community, he has provided me with another insight that is not common to the general public. Both avenues have given me a broader view of what is necessary for effective community problem solving, and the major role a law enforcement agency plays within the "big picture." Through his eyes, I can see how dedicated a person in law enforcement is to the welfare of his community, up to and including the possibility of losing his life.
Amy E. Scalf
AMY ELIZABETH SCALF
E.C. GLASS HIGH SCHOOL
Amy Scalf was the winner of the 1996-1997 VCOPS College Scholarship Competition. Amy was accepted on an early decision basis at Hollins College. She has been extremely active throughout her High School experience. She is a member of the National Honor Society and was an honor student throughout High School. She is a skilled muscian and played the French Horn. Amy made All District Concert Band (1st Chair). She has been extremely active in her school and community. The Executive Board and membership of the Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs salutes Amy on her essay and wishes her all the best in her college experience.
VCOPS' Scholarship Winners - 1996!
Six high school seniors from around the Commonwealth were named recipients of the Virginia COPS Scholarship Competition Awards. At the IUPA Police Ball in Arlington, Virginia, Executive Director Chris Strope announced the the winners of the 1996 competition. With over 80 high school seniors participating, this year's competition proved very challenging. It was clear that students around Virginia care about both the quality of law enforcement they receive as well as the demands the job places on those who make it a career. The six recipients each receive a $1,000 scholarship for their college education. Without further ado:
Pamela Warren, First Colonial High School, Virginia Beach. Pam attended Mount Holyoke College
Judith M. Kitchen, Osbourn Park Senior High School, Manassas. Judy attended LSU.
Jared Wessel, Lord Botetourt High School, Roanoke. Jared attended The College of William & Mary.
Erin Burriss, Sherando High School, Stephens City. Erin attended Lord Fairfax Community College.
Tabitha Kay Hibbitts, Appalachia High School, Appalachia. Tabitha attended The College of William & Mary.
Brian Decker, Phoebus High School, Hampton. Brian attended Old Dominon University.
VCOPS' Scholarship Winner 1995
Allyson M. Hierstein, Norview High School, Norfolk, Virginia. Allyson attended the College of William and Mary.
Click HERE to find out how you can apply for a scholarship!