An overview of how law enforcement works

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A pregnant mother. A man who saves mistreated horses and donkeys. A new father. A softball coach. These are some of the people I have had the privilege of learning about over the past three months, and all of them were officers of the Edmonds Police Department. Hosted by Officer Tabatha Shoemake, the Edmonds Community Policing Academy provided an opportunity for citizens to get an inside look at how law enforcement works. It covered everything from homicide investigations to traffic stops.

The main reason I signed up for this free program was that as a writer I wanted to be able to write better about police work in my books. Every Thursday evening was filled with information and I took many notes for future reference. I was there for my career as a writer, but the knowledge I gained as a citizen was profound. I realized that there were fundamental things about law enforcement that I had ignored all my life.

Take civilian jobs, for example. I didn’t know there were civilian jobs in the police department. In fact, the Edmonds Police Department has 71 licensed positions, including 55 officers, 3 staffs, and 13 civilians. The presentation of the archives department was fascinating. They handle everything from public information requests to concealed carry permit licenses. If you want to help your community but don’t want to become an officer, a civilian job might be right for you.

The Edmonds Police Department currently has nine vacancies, seven of which are for officers. They are looking for people with impeccable background checks and exceptional customer service skills. Here’s another cool new thing I learned. Officer trainees start earning money right from the start. They are paid to attend the police academy. If you know anyone interested in law enforcement, they can email [email protected] or call 425-257-4689 for more information.

Another thing I learned was about economics. I was a teacher. I’ve always known that rich cities usually have better funded schools than poorer ones. Turns out it’s the same with law enforcement. Well-funded departments like Edmonds have some of the best safety equipment available. They also go beyond officer training because they have the budget to do so. The Edmonds Police Department is one of approximately 60 accredited law enforcement agencies in the state. The majority of agencies do not achieve this level of accreditation. I’ll remember that the next time I pay my astronomical property tax bill. Yes, it’s expensive, but the people of Edmonds are paying for a police force with expert training in emotional intelligence, de-escalation tactics and the judicious use of force.

One of the most memorable courses was provided by Snohomish County 911. Prior to this presentation, I had the misconception that when I called 911, the dispatcher knew exactly where I was calling from. This is not the case as Snohomish County 911 does not yet have “Next Gen 911” capability. If you call 911, it is important to give your address to the dispatcher at least twice.

The biggest benefit of participating in this program has been to humanize the people who wear the badge. The only police officer I met before this year was my DARE officer in sixth grade. Now I have met at least a dozen officers, heard their life stories and seen photos of their families. When I pass a police car while driving through Edmonds, I look carefully to see if it’s someone I recognize.

Will there be a detective story in my future? Probably not, but I could see myself writing a small-town romance one day about a victim of fraud. Even though I never write a word, the civic knowledge I acquired was worth it.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and under the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as author Jennifer Bardsley. Email her at [email protected]


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