Last week the Rock Hill Reader was invited along with other news outlets to participate in York County Sheriff’s Media Academy.
This daylong event was full of training and information. We were put through the wringer as some of us tackled an obstacle course complete with hurdles to jump over, a window to jump through, and a heavy body made of fire hose to drag. Everyone that attempted managed to get through the course without incident, and in under two minutes.
Technology and Law Enforcement
On top of all that, we heard from Sheriff Bruce Bryant on how technology is changing and how law enforcement has to compete with things like social media and YouTube. PIO officer Trent Faris and Sergeant Josh Solomon explained how members of the media need to see what it’s like to be a cop in order to better understand what situations they face on a daily basis and why they withhold information for a time before it can be reported.
They explained how one incident involved a media outlet that filmed the house where a homicide occurred. Though no names had been released, the family had found out through the news that they were facing a tragedy before they could be told in person.
They also covered how the media has been known to portray officers in a negative light and wanted to show us that they are real people in a sometimes dangerous profession. Solomon said “90% of the time, it’s the worst day of their lives” when telling us what it’s like showing up on a scene. And you thought customer service was bad? Any number of situations could be waiting for an officer. Just because someone calls them doesn’t mean they get the whole story before hanging up the phone – another thing we learned the hard way during our simulation training.
The Realities of Domestic Disturbance Calls
Each trainee was thrown into a situation where they only knew that there was a domestic disturbance. Once in the building, the situation turned dangerous. Each of us was faced with split-second decisions on whether to discharge our firearms when faced with a threat. In each scenario, officers played various roles of angry, gun wielding citizens who were ready to fire on us at any time. It was stressful, scary, and really put things into perspective.
“I want the media to know; I want the community to know…We’re not bad,” Sheriff Bryant said.
However, with regards to police actions, Bryant was clear: “If I were able to prove one of my officers lied on the stand, I’d fire him in an instant.”
Traffic Stops Turned Dangerous
Each of us performed a different kind of traffic stop, complete with totally unpredictable situations: upset parents racing home to their children, suspended licenses, angry drivers who don’t have time to be pulled over.
Kim Morehouse, crime prevention officer for York County Sheriff’s Department, told us that at one point, in Indiana where she used to be a state trooper, more officers were killed by vehicles than anything. She told us about cruel ‘jokes’ semi-truck drivers played on law enforcement, for example, where they got as close as possible to an officer at a traffic stop just to see if they could blow off their hat. The thought of facing that along with unpredictable actions from the people we pulled over was a real eye-opener.
Officers and Headlines
While these officers know they are doing something good for our community, they’ve seen and heard that recruitment and retention are at risk because of recent headlines and news stories.
“We’re starting to lose seasoned good officers, and at the same time, some of the better candidates where we’re having a hard time reaching out to them,” said Solomon.
After our day at the Academy, it’s no wonder officers question their profession. Thankfully for York County, each officer we worked with was dedicated, honest, and well-seasoned. I couldn’t ask for more in a law enforcement agency.
Interested in seeing more about YC Sheriff’s Office Media Training Academy?