The Star-Herald

Public perception of law enforcement skewed by the negative actions of a few

In recent history, the people’s view of Law Enforcement has skewed toward making the police force look like the bad guys. Yes, there is a true meaning behind good cop and bad cop, but that should not mean that we should hate all of our country’s law enforcement because of the actions of a small portion of our large police force.

Wrongful media attention and other false and negative opinions that some people have put out to the public are starting to consume all of society’s views on our law enforcement. What about the good ones — the ones who risk their lives doing what they love?

Not many people understand what exactly a police officer has to go through, especially the younger generation who think they just pull you over because they feel like it. The No. 1 goal for a law enforcement officer is to keep our communities safe; even if it means pulling someone over for a burned out headlight or wide tires, they do it because it is their job.

To have a good understanding of what the average police officer has to deal with on an everyday basis, I spoke with active Fort Kent Police Officer Connor Lapierre. I asked him some questions about what it is like to be a police officer in a small community like Fort Kent and his perspective on the younger generation.

How do you think the younger generation portrays law enforcement?

The high school generation believes that we are out there a lot of the time to harass them or bother them for vehicle defects and other motor vehicle laws. I think it helps law enforcement officers when we can interact with the students on a daily basis in a positive manner. By doing so a lot of the kids in Fort Kent have been able to see us as human beings instead of “pigs.”

Have you felt more pressure since the recent wave of criticism in your profession?

I feel that, unfortunately, the mistakes of a handful of corrupt officers have made this profession much more difficult. As officers, we are faced with many different tasks throughout the day and society has forced us to make impossible decisions in life-threatening events. The media portrays us as corrupt when in nearly all cases officers are risking their lives to keep society safe. The same society that judges us day to day on our actions.

Even in a smaller county, do you still face unique challenges as a law enforcement officer?

Absolutely. As officers in The County, we are beginning to face unique challenges with the ongoing drug epidemic. We deal with many crimes where drugs are involved in some way, shape or form. A majority of people involved in these crimes are carrying weapons and they are not afraid to use them in any situation. Although our communities are smaller than most, we as officers are faced with a multitude of issues on a day-to-day basis.

What is a word of advice you would give aspiring law enforcement officers about dealing with today’s society?

I would say that you have to approach every situation and everybody with an open mind and try not to judge a book by its cover. I would also say that it is extremely important to treat everyone like you would want to be treated.

How hard is it to fulfill the term “protect and serve”?

I’ll say this, on some days it is extremely easy to perform my duties while other days, I experience and deal with things that I would never want another individual to have to deal with.

Although this job is tough at times it is extremely rewarding and I would not want it any other way.

In conclusion, in order for our community to create a safer environment for law enforcement, and ourselves, we need to view these men and women in a different way and give them the respect they deserve.

In all reality, not one person can change the view on law enforcement, but the perception of law enforcement in local communities can grow to get a greater view on the fact that police are here to help not harm.

The goal of this editorial is to build relationships and trust between citizens and law enforcement so our communities can grow to help both the people and the police force.

Ethan Delena is a senior at Fort Kent Community High School who wrote this editorial guest column on the public perception of police officers as his senior project.

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