For National Police Week, we talked to four Triad police officers about parts of the job most people don’t see.
Burlington police Captain Brett Taylor has seen it all through a lengthy career in law enforcement. He's spent 28 years with the Burlington Police Department and even been a part of U.S. Secret Service Task Force. Taylor knows the sacrifices officers must make to do the job.
Brett Taylor, Captain, Burlington Police Department
Q: What’s something people don’t realize about being a police officer?
A: ‘They don’t realize, I don’t believe, the amount of extra hours that every officer puts in. If you see an event in your town, a parade, fireworks, something that’s got a uniformed officer there, that’s somebody who is there on a day off. Whether they volunteered, they’re there. Every time. Every time you have an event like that, somebody’s got to come in on a day off and do that. People think that’s just part of the number of hours that you work per year, but it’s not.'
'If something bad happens, we come in. It doesn’t really matter what you had scheduled at home. It could’ve been your anniversary, could've been your child’s birthday, could've been Christmas. We’re coming to work and we’re going to work this thing as hard as we can until we come to some sort of resolution of the issue. It’s just not a situation where you can say ‘we’ll get to it Monday.’ That’s not the way it works. I remember I had tickets to a James Taylor concert. I Never got to go. We had a homicide that night. We had to work. I was out the money for the concert tickets plus we had to work here to solve the crime. People just don’t realize the amount of time and effort that’s given up in the pursuit of doing the job well.’
Q: How do you deal with some of the things you see everyday?
A: ‘I’ve been in the detective division for a good portion of my career and I’ve seen things that you can do the human body that, it’s tough to deal with at times. You have to, and it’s not necessarily good, compartmentalize certain things. When we come to work and work those events, you work the event to try and bring it to a resolution because we realize that there’s a family involved. Somebody’s got to speak for the victim. So you have to put certain things to the side and work through it.
'There are certain crimes that I don’t care how hardened you are, they’re going to affect you. Now whether it affects you at the scene or whether it affects you when you get home varies from person-to-person but there is a huge emotional issue we have to deal with to work this job and do it well.’
Burlington Police Captain Brett Taylor
Q: Does the national conversation about law enforcement have an effect on your job in Burlington?
A: ‘If you’ve been in this profession for a long time, things are cyclical to a degree. I was employed here during the Rodney King issue in California years ago. For many months thereafter, you’re having to deal with issues that occurred in California that had nothing to do with you but they showed up in how you performed your job here. With the things that are going on in the media nowadays through events that are occurring across the country, we routinely have to be confronted with the town in which something bad may happen. You’re having to deal with the issues that occurred somewhere else. You’re trying to do your job with the best intentions in the world, not because of some issue that happened somewhere else in the USA.’
Q: How do you go about dealing with fear day-to-day?
A: ‘It’s different depending upon whether you’re in uniform or not I think. The uniformed people are a target every time they put a uniform on. That’s difficult to deal with. You could be sitting in a restaurant with your family and you’re a target. You can be getting out of your car and have nothing going on here other than going into a store or stopping a car. Just the fact that you got out of your car makes you a target.'
'You work in the plain clothes field, you really don’t want to put anything on at times that identifies you as a police officer whether it be a gun or a badge or anything for just the fear of somebody recognizing you for the job that you possess and wanting to do something to you. You have to think long and hard about the car that you got out of. What does the public see maybe on your belt. I won’t say that there’s fear as much as you are extra careful about what you’re doing, what you say and how you present yourself.’
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Q: How do you think the prevalence of cameras and cell phones have changed how officers react?
A: ‘I think most officers, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending upon the situation, give it another second or two before they act. There can be a bad part of that is you can’t wait to react too long before you can end up getting hurt. But I think most of us think a little bit more, try to slow it down a little bit and process the information a little quicker in our head so that we don’t find ourselves saying or doing something wrong.'
'We’re all human. We all get confronted with issues that we’re more successful or less successful dealing with than others. I believe that because of the generation of which we live, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that we’re slowing down processing the information and hopefully coming up with better solutions than we may have done prior to.’