Hill street blues

Unless you have been living in a cave, you have probably noticed that the police have been in the headlines a lot lately. From events in distant places like Missouri and New York City to events here in Cleveland itself, the relationship between the police and the communities they serve has been placed under strain. This strain has been felt by us here at Case Western Reserve University Police Department as well, so here is one campus cop’s perspective.

Policing is a difficult occupation at any time. You realize that a certain percentage of the population is always going to hate you. You learn that part of your job is to run towards what others run away from. You see human suffering, death and evil with far greater frequency than most occupations. You learn that in the right circumstances, everyone will lie, and you learn to be hypervigilant. Yours is a profession where about 150 of your peers will be killed in an average year in the U.S. You are in a society where millions of guns are in circulation, and anyone you meet could potentially be armed, even legally so, unlike in many other countries.

While fishermen and miners may die in greater numbers, there is no occupation outside of the military where exposure to violence is so constant. Many Americans can go through their whole lives without getting into a violent confrontation—all police officers do; the only variable is the frequency depending on where you work. All these things change anyone who stays in this profession for any length of time.

Policing on a college campus is certainly different than policing in a city, and I have done both. While campus policing is more focused, the larger world still intrudes—CWRU PD officers have arrested bank robbers and other dangerous—and armed—criminals since our founding in 2006. While interaction with college students, along with the energy and ideas they bring, is one of the fun parts of this job, students can do wrong too, especially when alcohol gets involved. Police officers are given a lot of authority in our society and need to be held up to a high standard. However it can be a helpful exercise to try and picture yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. Let’s look out for each other.

On the Beat is a weekly safety column written by Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko and Officer Mark (The Crossing Guard) Chavis of CWRU PD. We welcome questions, suggestions and gripes/groans/moans/complaints about campus life at policecolumn@case.edu.