April 10, 2014
Field Assignment Paper
Riding along with a police officer and interviewing him about his views on crime and behavior produced many insights towards the law enforcement attitude towards crime and behavior. The officer that I interviewed had over twenty years of experience within three law enforcement agencies and served many details from basic patrol to K9 unit to narcotics and courts.
The first impression was that this officer was highly respected among the newer officers and that he had “seen it all.” Learning more about his background, it was found that he had many experiences from handling critical incidents such as live shootings to murder cases, gang cases, drug raids, traffic work, etc… Thus I presumed that if he was able to survive within law enforcement this long, he probably managed the stress of law enforcement very well. With this, he had to have developed some sort of attitude towards crime and behavior that would help him maintain stability in his line of work. I noticed that he was able to cope with the stress of the work simply through treating it as a job. Although exhilarating and often times dangerous, this officer was able to handle officer cynicism, hyper vigilance, and the emotional roller coaster (Gilmartin 2002) by making a mental separation between work and private life. Advice in maintaining this differentiation was highlighted by his belief that one should set a few weeks of the year dedicated specifically to a vacation far away from one’s work area with one’s spouse or family and to rid all distractions such as cell phones. Another was to maintain friendships with those working in non-law enforcement industries. I noticed that this piece of advice here was based on a fundamental notion that many law enforcement officers tend to abandon past friendships and surround themselves with fellow officers as their new circle of friends.
The officer’s general view on crime was that crime is a product of the environment. Depending on whether the area was urban, suburban, or rural, crime was mold itself into the surroundings of the area. This suggested the view of routine activity theory, where “the organizations of routine activities in society create opportunities for crime” (Valenzuela 2014). He characterized place as an area, such as the school, where there was high foot and vehicular traffic with simple escape routes, a target, such as a trolley passenger or an ignorant student, and the offender, who will seize the opportunity to commit crime once he or she believes that there is no a low risk of getting caught by the absence of a guardian and an easy opportunity to exploit.
The officer also spoke about how criminal behavior can be passed down from generation to generation, how criminals that start young and are not exposed enough to good influences, and how criminals lack the opportunities to move up the social and career ladder. This goes in line with Valenzuela’s (2014)...