Putting your life in the line of fire everyday is not a job most are not willing to do. Police officers are in that position every day, whether it is from an armed robbery suspect who is holding a civilian at gun point or from a drug abuser who is carrying a gun. Many officers die every year from being shot in a stand off with a criminal. Having that burden put of their lives can create immeasurable amounts of stress on the officers. My uncle is Officer Thomas Melle of Raleigh Police Department, a city with a very high crime status. My interview with him will show the daily events and struggles of a police officer in a large city to keep crime low and peace elevated.
When asked his overview of his job, He replied “Police work is stressful and dangerous, especially in high-crime areas. On the street, cops often feel they’re doing little more than keeping a lid on problems that are far bigger than they can control. Police officers also do a surprising amount of paperwork; every intervention must be carefully documented.” He also returned with a question of his own. Could I remain calm in a situation like this? You receive a call from dispatch of a domestic dispute involving a firearm. You arrive at the location and the wife has retreated across the street to the neighbors and the husband has barricaded himself in the house. He is cursing to the top of his lungs, the wife is yelling at you to go in and restrain him and you also have the young children crying in the background.
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This is a situation that officers face on a day to day basis and must resolve without any harm to anyone in the incident. Most civilians would not be capable of resolving the situation. He says that it all comes down to training he received when he first became an officer. He said that before he entered the academy he was in the Army Reserve, where he went through basic training and learned all the fundamentals at gun handling and remaining calm in situations of distress. I asked him if he had any background in any police type work in the reserves. He replied that he was sent to Bosnia and was stationed at a road check point in an area where insurgents frequently used as a supply route. He frequently conducted police type actions that made him even more prepared for the high rate of crime in Raleigh.
Then I went on to ask him what a normal day is as a Raleigh police officer. He laughed and said “normal, that word is not in a police officer’s vocabulary.” For one he replied, there is not set, schedule, no agenda for police officers. Seeing they work in shifts, they have no nine to five day. One week they will be working during the day, then the next they will have to turn right around and work night shift. He went on to summarize some semblance of a normal day. He would wake up in the early hours of the day, before the sun came out, and would grab a coffee and head to Headquarters.
He continues in briefing me with the beginning of his day. Then he tells me about some daily situations he goes through. He would do some paperwork to start off the day have a little bit of time to finish up his breakfast. Then he would gather his supplies for the day and head out on his first patrol. He is posted to a five mile radius in downtown Raleigh that includes area that are very high in crimes ranging from shoplifting to grand theft auto. “It can go from a day in the park to a day you’ll never forget” he replied when I asked how his work day plays out.
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When I asked him this next question, he had to sit and think for almost a minute before he answered me. I asked him what was his most memorable, or eye opening for him. He started by saying that he just got back on patrol from his lunch break, and continued on his patrol like any other day. It was a nice, sunny day and he thought the day would go through with a breeze, until he got a call form dispatch. He was called to a robbery in progress where the perpetrator was holding the store clerk at gun point. When he arrived on the scene the moment he step out of his squad car, all he could hear was a zip of a bullet fly by him. He immediately called for back up and had a 20 minute standoff with the fugitive. Then he was ordered to go unarmed and try to negotiate with the perpetrator. When he seemed to have the situation under control, the unthinkable happened. The man opened fire on the officers hitting Officer Melle in the chest. “I dropped to the floor and did what only instinct made me do.” He pulled his secondary pistol form his ankle holster and fired one precise round in the man’s shoulder. It was a moment that changed his perspective on his career.
He told me that his day on duty could change in a split second. I found that very closely related to my philosophy on life paper when my entire view on life changed in a split second and my interview with him helped reinforce that perspective. The interview also greatly helped me in getting an idea of what my career while be like in the criminal justice system.