This month in her column, On Your Watch, Carole Moore talks about the—erm—unpredictable nature of police work. That would be an understatement. Ask two police officers or sheriff’s deputies anywhere in the country “What did you do today?” and you’re sure to get two very different answers…because an “average” day could include anything from rescuing a family from a burning house to wrangling livestock from county roads back to their place of origin (I’ve typed up reports like that).
Moore points out the variety of activities from day to day is “what makes the job fascinating to some and a nightmare to others.” A call can be funny, irritating or downright terrifying. There’s really no telling what the day or night will bring. The random nature of each shift can make preparation a little tough, which is probably why there always seems to be so much stuff in the car.
The dangers of police work are random, too. For example, Joe Schmo at the office doesn’t typically worry about contracting a virus or tracking hazardous chemicals back home at the end of the day. A police officer? Sometimes. This month we’ve included some stories that address hazardous material awareness and protection. Maybe a tanker has spilled on the highway and it needs to be reported and contained. Maybe those goats who wandered off weren’t all that clean. Veteran law enforcer William L. Harvey reminds department leaders to keep officer health and safety front-of-mind during these more precarious rendezvous in October's feature article "Don't take this work home with you!". Annual flu shots and Hepatitis immunizations aren’t a bad idea, either.
In some ways, law enforcement is assuming a bigger role in terror threat detection, that of more prevention than response. And to help them along, scientists are currently working on the tools that will help detect bioterror threats in about an hour. The technology would put prevention efforts directly in the hands of law enforcement. Douglas Page talks about the behind-the-scenes science in his article "Biothreat analysis: While you wait".
From the possibility of a little Ebola virus on your boots to detecting biohazards the likes of which we’ve seen recently in Syria, it’s true that an “average” shift for someone in public safety begins with no simple to-do list and no guarantees. But then again, that’s what keeps things interesting.
“I’ve never got rich or famous while in police work,” Moore says. “But I’ve also never found another career as fascinating or worthwhile.”