For National Police Week, we talked to four Triad police officers about parts of the job most people don’t see. We wanted to know, what's being a police officer really like?

Lieutenant Katie Paterson has been with the Winston-Salem police department for nearly 17 years and thinks a simple compliment can go a long way.

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Lieutenant Katie Paterson, Winston-Salem Police Department

Q: What’s something people don’t realize about being a police officer?
A: ‘I think one thing I think people don’t often realize is a lot of times the community wants to figure out a way to help police officers and one thing they can do is we’re always perceived as always so stoic and we’re here, just the facts ma'am, but at the same time there's things that we see day in and day out like maybe a child that’s passed away or a victim of domestic violence that really affect us.'

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'In the long run, that can really kind of grate on you. So it’s nice if you’re out at a restaurant or if you see an officer in public if you want to walk up just tell them 'thank you for what you do' or 'I’ll pray for your safety.' Those type of comments mean so much to us because we do see such horrific things every single day for what can be a 30-year career. Just a kind word is very helpful to a police officer.'

Q: Does routinely seeing tragic events make you desensitized or more empathic?
A: ‘I think you do have to become a little bit desensitized, I think that’s an emotional coping mechanism for police officers because you’re seeing such sadness a lot of times. It also makes those times when you do have a rewarding call where you make a difference in someone’s life or a child comes up and gives you a hug and tells you thank you for helping them, it makes that so much better because you do realize the impact you have on people’s lives.’

Q: Is there a story from your career that you look back on with pride?
A: ‘Several years ago I handled a call where a child was walking down Silas Creek Parkway in the winter and it was really, really cold and she was left by herself. She wasn’t in a good situation. It was just one of the brightest, smartest little girls. So we were able to help her, I remember taking her through the Sonic Drive Thru and getting her some food and she was just so sweet.'

'At the end of that call, she gave me the biggest hug and told me 'thank you.' It just made the whole circumstance, which was very sad, it made me realize I made a difference in this child’s life. I may not see her again. I may not interact with her again in her life, but I know on that day, I made a difference to her.’