Bryson Hester
Micro-Ethnography Report on Law Enforcement
Being a police officer is a controversial job as well as an extremely difficult one. I see a
community of police officers being very similar to a community of teachers. Both are job positions
that aren’t highly valued, and it reflects in what these two positions take home every month in
their pay checks. They have their own two separate communities where only people that are
working that job or have worked that job in the past are welcome, or even understand what is
being talked about in their specific circle. And another way they are similar is that neither one
gets as much respect as they should if you even mention police officers in a room of people there
is bound to be a group that says, “I hate cops.”, or something else along those lines. They aren’t
respected and some people have seemingly forgotten the important role that they play in
everyone’s community. One department where teaching falls short of law enforcement is in the
danger factor. 150 police officers die each year in the line of duty, what this equates to be about
one police officer being killed every 58 hours.
Types of Law Enforcement
There are actually 4 different kinds of law enforcement agencies for the state and local
levels. They are local police, state/ highway patrol, special jurisdiction police, and deputy sheriffs.
Many people don’t know that each one has a special job, with different qualifications on
becoming that certain type of law enforcement. Local police job is to investigate crimes that
happen in their area as well as to patrol their area, county and regional police also fall into this
category of law enforcement. State/ highway patrol are the hardcore law enforcement. Typically
the ride alone and patrol the outskirts of their jurisdiction as well as help out local police in the
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event of a very tough investigation. State/ highway patrol members have stricter enrollment
requirements and are generally very physically and mentally tough, along with most of the time
being ex-military. Special jurisdiction police protect and serve as their name states places with
special jurisdiction this is places like parks, courthouses and schools. The last form of law
enforcement are deputy sheriffs. They are like a police force on the state level instead of local
level and usually they guard the jails and in places where police jurisdiction ends they go out and
respond to calls. All of these police departments have excellent communication inside their own
branch as it is crucial that they do so in order to protect and serve their particular communities.
They also communicate very well to each other so that they can complete tasks more efficiently
and stay up to date on things.
Compared to…
As with all emergency services such as firefighters and emergency medical personnel
police officers are a very tight knit group. They all go in and suit up together at the beginning of
the shift and at the end of the shift they change back together to go home. This creates
camaraderie that you can’t get in any other work environment a sense of brother hood that you
just can’t get in an office or a regular old cubicle. And that is the way that most police officers
describe their occupation, that not only is it a job but it’s a lifestyle and a brotherhood and that
when you go out in the field it could be potentially dangerous and that you have to have your
fellow officers back. This aspect of being a police officer could closely be compared to a sports
team such as a football team. You have the coach (football) or captain (police) and directing the
team that never really goes out in the field but directs from the sideline or from the office. Along
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with the captains (football) or lieutenants (police) that command little squads to be most
effective and win the game, or in this case serving and protecting the community of citizens
Pressures of Being Law Enforcement
Police officers are constantly under the microscope because of police brutality, abusing
their power as well as just having a badge. Police officers have to understand that every move
they make will be scrutinized and that technically they are public servants and are only here to
obey and aid citizens of the United States. As with all positions of power there are police officer
who can’t handle their authority and don’t use it for the best purposes but that is to be expected
because after all, they are humans just like the rest of us. But most police officers are good people
and signed on to be a police officer because they genuinely wanted to make a difference in their
Police officers communicate information through the radio. This requires them to have
their own separate abbreviations and lingos because it isn’t always easy to understand things
over the radio. Another factor is that in almost all instances a police officer in the field wants to
give and receive information as fast as possible so these abbreviations really help achieve that
goal. The most well-known abbreviation is 10-4 which means acknowledged or okay. On police
scanners in general there are two types of codes either they have 9-codes, 10-codes or 10-codes.
And within these three broad types of codes there are a whole lot of codes that are used to
communicate a general term. The first 9-codes and 10-codes only had 17 total codes, and after
that it moved up to 60. Most police departments use these codes but not all of them use them,
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and it varies from department to department. Many law enforcement departments don’t want
to use the codes because there are so many variations of it that it makes it hard to communicate
outside of their own particular law enforcement department. The natophenetic alphabet is also
used to communicate things such as license plates, serial numbers and spelling out complex
names over the radio. This originated from the military and just like the 9-codes, 10-codes and
11-codes is partially known by citizens as well. Alpha, bravo and Charlie as everyone who has ever
seen a military movie probably knows, are the first three letter words of this special alphabet.
These codes are also used by law enforcement to communicate important information to other
emergency services such as firefighters and paramedics. As well as these codes officers also use
writing to help clarify what happens at the scene of the crime. When something happens there
is always paper work to be filled out so if there are ever future questions about something that
happened in the past you can always refer back to the official report.
The Interview
For my interview instead of interviewing a police officer for the city of charlotte I decided
to interview a University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus police officer. His name was
Officer Kerr and he had been working as a campus police officer for 7 years. He has only been a
campus police officer and not a city police officer but he has worked in emergency medical
services for a city. One of the most experienced on campus as he also is the training officer for
new campus police officers when they first start out. But anyways when I asked Officer Kerr about
what was the difference between Campus Police Officers and City Police Officers he didn’t have
trouble giving me an answer. Basically he told me that in colleges all you’re dealing with is kids
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for the most part so its alcohol and drug violations and the occasional fight or sexual assault. As
opposed to in city police officers job where you could easily run into a hardened felon or a serious
domestic violence call or regularly run into someone one who is armed and dangerous. Also how
it is important to a tad bit softer with college kids because they are just starting out and you don’t
want to ruin their whole life because of one bad night. He also talked about how much
communication there is on the police force. And how they have to check in with dispatch when
they arrive and leave a call as well as what is going on at the call. And how it their radio goes
within the campus only but if they need extra back up or have to check something, with the flip
of a switch they can be communicating with charlotte police department in a matter of seconds.
The main thing that Officer Kerr told to me was that being a police officer is a mostly thankless
job and that everyone hates your guts until someone actually needs your help. He compared it
to every work place everywhere saying that, every work place has that one or two employees
that don’t take anything seriously and are rude to people constantly and other annoying things.
The same thing goes for in the police force you have those same one or two jerks that make
everyone else look bad. The only difference between regular jobs and being in the police force is
that you are under a constant spotlight and everything that you say or do is scrutinized because
you have such an important job where it’s easy to take advantage of your power