Letter: Burden borne by boys in blue

I recently embarked on a ride-along with a few of the gentlemen of the Aspen Police Department. The officers gave me a glimpse of how certain tools, like the body and dash cameras and speed radars, are put to use in every shift. I observed the inner workings of traffic-violation stops and of disturbance calls, and I began to realize how these seemingly simple police tasks are actually quite complex and must be handled tactfully.

As the night progressed, we encountered a man violating a traffic law. The officer had every intention to verbally warn him and make nothing more of the incident, but the man decided to steer the situation into conflict by being unbelievably disrespectful. He swore profusely and acted as though he knew the law better than the officers involved. I watched with wide eyes as the scene proceeded, and I was amazed at the cool composure of the officers while insults were hurled their way numerous times. I later asked the officer how he could stay so levelheaded during the scene, and he told me how that minor situation was tame compared with other verbal and physical assaults he and the other officers have endured. The rest of the night concluded without another issue, but I couldn’t shake the fact that I had now caught a glimpse of the reality of life as an officer.

I understand there is contention between police officers and the public in this nation currently, and although it’s indisputable that police brutality occurs in certain areas, I want to address the brutality to police that I feel goes largely unacknowledged. These officers, be they in the Aspen or New York police department, primarily work to keep people safe and maintain order. Not only do they put their lives at risk in the face of gunmen, but they also put their well-being on the line when they must deal with incorrigible people on a daily basis. These officers have families and feelings of their own, and it still seems as though some people will freely verbally, or even physically, attack officers who must remain calm. Can you imagine having to deal with such flippancy every day, even though you are simply acting on your duty to keep people safe? I implore anyone reading this to think of how their words and actions affect an officer next time you find yourself in violation of a law. Even if there is a reasonable dispute to your infraction, please handle the situation courteously and through the right processes rather than taking it out on the officer, who is simply doing his or her job.

It takes a strong, self-secure individual to take on the role of an officer, and I thank everyone at the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and all other officers for continually putting up with bad-mannered people time and time again. I, and many others, deeply appreciate what you do and realize how much of yourselves you devote to protect and serve this community.

Shayla DeYoung