By Rikki Schwab
In the last several months I have discussed all sorts of issues that are faced by law enforcement, but also involve situations experienced by the citizens. An aspect of police work is that a lot of people question how we handle situations, our uniform attire, or even particular laws. All of these questions and more are understandable. One thing we all have to be open to is understanding others and their situations. I know that part of being in law enforcement is that we will be questioned, degraded, talked about, etc. I have been in this profession long enough that nothing surprises me.
We are always open to answering questions and improving our relationship in the community and with its members. Just like the public has questions about us, we have questions as well. We often discuss a case or a person and try to come to a conclusion, or understanding on why things take place. Just like the public, we don’t always get our answers.
We don’t often get questions about our uniform attire and equipment, but lately I hear this is a major topic because of all the publicity police departments have received in the last year or so. As police officers, we issue citations, answer domestic violence calls, interact with people who are armed and may be intoxicated. We also interact with individuals who are under the influence, have syringes in their purses and pockets, carry pocket knives, and are convicted felons. This is why we carry a firearm, a taser, pepper spray and other equipment as part of our “uniform.”
There are degrees of force that we can use. Of course there are times when stuff goes from “fine” to “crazy” in a split second. Just because you don’t know these things take place, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If you looked up individuals who are convicted of crimes and saw an increase in your area, would you change things in your daily life? You probably would. This is the same for police work.
I remember working in low-income housing and having a vest, gun and baton. I worked there a few years with these few items. But then someone invented a taser, so I trained to carry one because it is a tool and could save someone else’s life, my partner’s, or my own.
When someone has victimized you, you want assistance. In that moment, you are most likely not looking at what we are wearing. As long as you know that we are coming to help you, and we want to go home to our families at the end of our shift, that is all that matters. If you don’t understand why we have to wear all this gear, maybe you should look at the “officer down” memorial page, which gives statistical data on officers injured in the line of duty.
The decisions I make as a chief are based on the things that I deal with around me. Like Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow said at a recent community meeting, there are drug-related crimes occurring here. My office has filed several charges, and made several arrests. Having this information is what makes me feel secure about the gear I approve my officers to wear.
Please recall previous articles in which I stressed how important it is to keep our homes and vehicles locked, and to watch out for our property and that of our neighbors. Lastly, when you have been victimized, please allow us to assist you and do our job. Prosecution of these crimes is very difficult without a witness. We need to stand strong as a community, and give support to one another. When you don’t prosecute, another person is victimized. Sometimes prosecution can take awhile, but don’t give up. Their time is coming.
Have a safe holiday and remember not to drink and drive.
Rikki Schwab is the Winthrop Town marshal.