Last month, I received a letter from a woman in our community who had lost her father. She wanted to thank the officers who helped her on that night, because their compassion helped her make it through that very difficult experience. On Christmas Eve, while most families in Acworth were snug in their beds anticipating celebrating the holiday with their loved ones, she was calling 911 because she had found that her father had passed away. In a time of intense grief, a 911 dispatcher was there to stay on the line and provide comfort until the police arrived. The officers who responded provided a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and ultimately a great deal of compassion. I am so grateful to her for reaching out to me and for letting those officers know that they were appreciated.
Police officers see people in the worst moments of their lives. We see people when they are dealing with violence, loss of their sense of security or their property, loss of their freedom, and even loss of lives. Our officers must be able to separate themselves from the events they see daily, without becoming insensitive. A small amount of insensitivity is necessary for maintenance of the officer’s mental health, and in many ways our officers’ professionalism and demeanor is similar to a doctor’s bedside manner. It is a balancing act for them to be caring and compassionate without absorbing the pain themselves. We have to realize that while a traffic stop may seem like an ordinary occurrence to us, it is the most important thing happening in that person’s life at that time. When we write an accident report, it may seem like a simple fender bender, but that accident can be the catalyst for a series of events that may have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. Officers realize that, and they work hard to express their compassion while maintaining their professionalism. I am always encouraged when we receive letters like this, because it lets me know that our officers are successfully navigating the challenges of the human experience and providing excellent service to our community.
Couples sometimes argue that one parent gets to be the “good guy” and one always has to be the “bad guy.” Police departments must serve both roles in the community. We have to provide law enforcement and are responsible for arresting people who need to be arrested, but we are also the ones who help families pick up the pieces when things fall apart. One really great, but often overlooked example of this is our detention center. Detention officers are responsible for depriving inmates of their freedom, while also maintaining their dignity, care and respect. There are fewer lower times in a person’s life than when he or she is arrested and booked into jail. It can be an incredibly demoralizing time, and detention officers may seem like the enemy at first, but what most inmates quickly learn is that the detention officers offer support. Detention officers will speak with the inmates and their families to help them learn how to bond out of jail; they are there to coordinate visitation; they make sure that everyone has the food and medical care that they need; and many times, they are there to listen to both inmates and their family members.
Ultimately, I would like for the community to know that our department is here to support you. We are part of the community, and we are invested in the successes as well as the struggles. As many of you know, our 17th annual Citizens’ Police Academy takes place at the end of February. Registration is available on our website. If you are interested in learning more about our department, our community outreach, and the delicate balancing act that all officers throughout the country do on a daily basis, I would encourage you to register for this year’s CPA.
By Acworth Police Chief Wayne Dennard