12/11/2013

Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.Passion for the Job
with Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

2013 in Review: 12 stories that capture the essence of police work

From hostage situations to drugged-up lunatics to little lost teddy bears, it’s all in a day’s work

When somebody asks “How’s work?,” my answer is usually “Fine.” 

I then ask about theirs. They usually have boss troubles and schedule troubles, just like me. They’re overworked and underpaid, just like me. 

Throughout 2013, lots of people had a day at work that went “fine.” Just. Like. Me. 

January: Naked man wielding Samurai sword arrested
I have my uniform — they have theirs. For me, it may be a sport coat poorly hiding my badge and gun. For them, it may be an embroidered name on their shirt, or a butcher’s apron, or Starbucks cap. For this guy, apparently, it was no uniform at all.

February: Hostage standoff with gunman ends
Yes, it’s just another day. I can’t walk in their shoes and they can’t walk in mine. Any honest labor is a good, moral, patriotic thing to do. After all, their taxes pay my salary.

March: Boy, 12, leads police on chase
Police work isn’t on the list of most dangerous jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Trash collectors twist more ankles, and convenience store clerks get shot and stabbed. 

April: Murder suspect used cop’s gun to kill him
​And, in this economy, we’re just lucky to have a job. So, yeah, “How’s work?” gets my answer “Eh, same ol’ same ol’ — ya know. How’s that kid of yours doing?”

May: Drunk pulls loaded gun in back of squad
I remember making it home after a visit to the emergency room after being punched and knocked out on a traffic stop. My cover officer protected me as I bled on the pavement and the attacker and everyone in his car fled into the darkness. I was x-rayed, treated, and released. I hit the pillow with grit still in my hair and my wife sleepily asked how my shift went. 

“It was good. Fine. Night, hon.”

June: Man calls cop to complain about prostitute
When people complain that a police funeral made them late for work, or that they can’t believe they got a ticket for such and such, I totally understand. I’m just a working stiff, too. Life is hard enough without being hassled, right?

July: Man texting while driving hits cop
Plus, I have a cushy job. Free to come and go as I please. Lots of coffee breaks, and I get to wave and smile at the kids. Sometimes I even get free food from grateful citizens. And as long as I can see who made it, or know that they can’t see that they’re preparing food for a cop, I’ll appreciate the offer. 

August: Cop assaulted with baseball bat
Pensions aren’t what they used to be, but I got in on a pretty good plan. And heck, for the first five years of my career I’d have paid somebody to get to do what I do. 

But I was young then. When people asked why I do what I do, I say the same thing I did the first time I was being interviewed when I was 21: “I want to help people.” 

Of course, back then I said it with a sense of awe and a sparkle in my eye. 

Now it’s a matter of discipline. 

September: Police rescue teen from burning car
I’ve worked the assembly line. Glad I’m not doing that anymore. But the one thing about that is you knew what you’d done by the end of the shift. This job sometimes you know, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you wonder why you even try. As an old cop once said — if you want closure, get a job installing doors. 

October: Two officers shot in Memphis standoff
I have great friends and family who are genuinely interested in what I do. So when they ask how things are going, I tell them enough to maybe make my job sound interesting, but not enough to drag them into my world. I try to protect their mind as well as their life and property. 

November: Meth-crazed man drags cop
Another day, another dollar. Lather, rinse, repeat. Just like the next guy. 

December: Indiana officer rescues teddy bear, returns to girl
“How’s your day, officer?” 

Fine, thanks. 

Just fine. 

Happy New Year.

About the author

Joel Shults currently serves as Chief of Police for Adams State College in Alamosa, Co. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He currently serves on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at www.joelshults.com

Follow Joel on Twitter @ChiefShults.

Contact Joel Shults

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