As I drove up into the Walmart shopping center parking lot, I was relieved when I saw the deputy’s patrol car sitting over to the side. I was there because I was concerned about a friend who was involved in a situation that could have possibly become harmful. After talking to the deputy, we went over to my friend’s car. The situation was quickly handled by the deputy in an efficient, but yet compassionate manner.
It was a situation where a little understanding and caring conversation by the deputy helped diffuse a potential difficult circumstance for my friend. I really appreciated the assistance from the Sampson County Sheriff’s Department. It was probably just a nonevent for the deputy, but it meant a lot to us. Ironically, last year, a Clinton Police Department officer was just as efficient and considerate in assisting my friend after a little bump-up in that same shopping center parking lot. While most of their day may be considered nonevents for that Sampson Co. deputy, Clinton City officer, and all law enforcement officers, I know that can change for them at a moment’s notice.
A couple of months ago, members of the Clinton Police Department came and spoke to our Kiwanis Club about the new body cameras that the officers are now wearing. You’ve probably seen dramatic videos on TV made by body cameras worn by police officers. Many activists argue that more body cameras worn by law enforcement officers are necessary to deter and detect officer misconduct. While that may be true in a very few cases, I feel that the cameras will better show the general public how professional and how difficult the job today’s law enforcement officers actually have.
During the program, the officers showed the new body cameras and explained how they will be used. The video cameras are small and attached directly to the officer’s uniform. The cameras will be helpful in documenting evidence, reviewing officer performance and hopefully making suspects be less aggressive.
The officers then showed a couple of videos of the new body cameras in actual use. The videos had been carefully edited so that any actual suspects could not be recognized. The first videos were rather simple, showing everyday police work. The picture and sound from the video were clear, and it’s easy to see how they will be helpful to law enforcement. It was interesting watching police work from the officer’s point of view, and seeing what they see. But it was the last short video that caught my attention, along with others watching during the presentation.
The officer wearing the body camera was confronting an individual outside a house. The suspect looked like he was wanting to go back into the house, for whatever reason. The Clinton police officer yelled to the individual, “Stand still! Don’t go in the house!” He repeated it several times as it looked like the suspect was thinking about going back into the house.
Watching the video, you could feel the tension. I thought, “What if he went back inside to get a weapon? Does he have a gun on him right now?” The video soon ended, and the officer presenting it said the incident ended peacefully. As I looked around the room, I saw that others were thinking the same thing I was; that the situation could easily have ended up much different.
You see law enforcement videos on TV, and they are dramatic and interesting. But they are in places like Pittsburgh, New York, or somewhere in Texas. But what hit home for me was that video we saw at the meeting was from here in Clinton. It involves law enforcement officers we may know and see often. And similar events could happen to them any day they are on the job. That highway patrolman you know doesn’t know what’s going on in that car he is walking up to after a traffic stop. That policeman or deputy doesn’t know what has happened inside the front door when they go to a home to investigate a domestic situation. And for them, they don’t know if any call is an ordinary nonevent, or a perilous situation where lives, including theirs, could be in danger.
I’m thankful that the situation last week turned out to be a nonevent for all involved. And I’m also thankful for our local law enforcement officers, who are doing their job to protect us every day, whether it’s on a body camera video or not.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]