One of the toughest jobs out there is being a police officer, as Henri Degre knows all too well. Although he's now the general manager of Mobile Concepts, Degre was once a police officer. Today's officers face a number of challenging circumstances, from tragic school shootings to the prevalence of drug crime. The position itself is also fraught with danger, with many cops becoming gravely injured (or worse) in the line of duty.
Drug Use and Abuse
Drug use is a major problem in the United States, particularly among criminal offenders. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, 50 percent of inmates are addicted to drugs and 80 percent abuse alcohol or another type of substance. Up to 80 percent of drug users commit another crime after being released from prison, often in an attempt to get money to purchase drugs.
Degre notes that dealing drug crime in the U.S. is a "dangerous and saddening process, because users have chose to gone down a path that they might not come back from. It’s harrowing for a new cop, and can be moving and disturbing even for a seasoned professional in the field."
It's easy for a police officer to get discouraged when faced with the enormity of the drug problem in the country. As Degre points out, "ultimately, there is only so much an officer can do to keep a drug offender safe from his or her own actions and the way those actions affect family, friends, and others in the local area.”
One issue that officers on duty often face is responding to calls when a drug user has overdosed. Every year, thousands of people die as a result of a drug overdose, according to the New York Times. But, an antidote known as naloxone can effectively reverse an overdose, as it acts as an opiate blocker.
While naloxone has the ability to save lives, Degre warns that it opens up a range of concerns for officers on duty. The antidote causes withdrawal, which depending on how addicted a person is to heroin, can be physically stressful. The article in the New York Times notes that there is the risk that the antidote will create a culture of nonchalance when it comes to overdosing. Drug users might fear overdosing less, as they know that there is a quick solution to the problem.
One of the most challenging aspects of police work might be the threat of school shootings. As Henri Degre explains, "School shootings are extremely tragic and horrific events that can shatter a community. Officers are responsible for ensuring that students can safely leave the situation, that the shooter him or herself is subdued and brought to justice, and that a community can begin to rebuild itself with support from local law enforcement."
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group created by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, there have been at least 74 school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. While in some cases, action is taken too late, there have been instances where the threat was reported early and police were able to respond before tragedy could strike.
For example, in Oregon, a 17-year-old boy was recently arrested after a classmate's mother reported the threats he made on Facebook. In messages sent over the social media network, the boy threatened to shoot other students. While police didn't find any weapons in the boy's room, there were secured guns in the home.
Degre applauds such actions by the police in a challenging situation, stating, "It’s essential to be a strong and solid force in the lives of the students, parents, and community members who are affected by these tragic disasters.”
In the Line of Fire
Perhaps the biggest challenge police officers face is the threat to their own lives. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, one police officer is killed in the line of duty every 58 hours. Since the 18th century, more than 20,000 officers have died while on the job in the U.S. One of the most recent incidences of a police officer being killed took place in Las Vegas, when a gunman and his wife shot and killed two officers, Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck, at a pizza shop.
“The passing of a police officer is always an extremely emotional event," says Degre. "No one wants to see their partners in harm’s way. Every effort should be made by our government and our community members to keep police officers safe, whether that means upgrading their equipment or working together to find solutions for rampant community violence and repeat offenders.”
Police officers face a number of challenges in their every day jobs, and those challenges greatly increase when a tragic event occurs or when a person puts themselves or others in harm's way. Henri Degre points out that a combination of personal responsibility and levelheaded thinking will help many officers overcome the challenges of the job.