A day in the life of a police officer can be rewarding, disappointing, satisfying, distressing, boring and exciting – all during one shift.
McMinnville Police Department Lt. Ben Cantrell says there’s no typical day in the life of a police officer.
“Every day at work is different. We may have a plan in mind of what we would like to accomplish that day. We will have items on our plate to handle, but each day is different. A lot of times we don’t get to go through with that plan. We have to roll with the calls that come out.”
Most work periods begin with a meeting between the outgoing and incoming officers.
“Normally, we go to shift change,” said Cantrell, when asked how his work day begins. “We talk to the previous shift to see what they had on their shift and if there’s anything that will be transferring over that we need to take care of on our shift or anything we need to be on the lookout for during our shift.”
Every job has its challenges.
Cantrell says one challenge to being a police officer is the momentum and diversity of calls for service which includes, but is not limited to: citizens requesting information, crimes in progress, thefts, vandalism, wrecks with injuries, vehicle pursuits, parking violations, nuisance abatement, disorderly conduct, trespassing, wellness checks, intoxicated persons, suspicious persons, and even regulation of interpersonal disputes – a list that just scratches the surface of the types of emergency and nonemergency calls an officer can receive.
“Some days are slower than others, but usually, we stay pretty steady,” said Cantrell. “There’s not a shortage of work. That’s what make it interested – each day is different. You never know what you’ll have to get into. A lot of times you’ll answer calls back to back to back.”
Because each call can be different and officers find themselves transitioning from their core responsibility as law enforcement officers to providing social services, relationship mediation, mental health assessments, conflict resolutions between parents and their children, etc.
“When a call comes in, that is their problem that they need help with,” said Cantrell. “We have to adapt to every call. The call we were just on was different, and we’ve got to focus on this one. You have to be a jack of all trades, just a little bit.”
Police departments do not write laws, but they are tasked with the responsibility of enforcing them even at risk to their own safety.
“One of the most dangerous calls we go on are domestic,” said Cantrell. “We’re going into somebody’s home. There’s been a heated argument. There could be weapons. We don’t know the layout of the house. We don’t know what the argument is actually over. A lot of times the information we receive about the situation is limited. Going into a home to resolve an argument between couples or family members is probably one of the most dangerous.”
The information the department does have is obtained by officers’ previous encounters at specific residences and noted by E-911 dispatchers.
“When we go to a house and maybe they have video surveillance or dogs in the home or we know they have weapons in the home or they make some sort of statement that’s anti-law enforcement, we try to log that down with dispatch. Dispatchers will provide those alerts, if an officer has to return to that residence.”
Every job has its rewards, according to Cantrell.
“Personally, I enjoy resolving the issue. Whatever that issue is, even if that’s helping someone involved in a motor vehicle accident or finding the person who broke into someone’s house. If we can resolve the issue, to me, that’s rewarding. We responded, we took care of the problem and now we move on. I like that part of it. By the nature of our jobs, we are in a position to help people and that’s what we do.”
Cantrell has been with McMinnville Police Department for 13 years. He also leads the department’s Critical Response Team, a position he’s held since 2014.
“If we can resolve the issue, to me, that’s rewarding. We responded, we took care of the problem and now we move on. I like that part of it. By the nature of our jobs, we are in a position to help people and that’s what we do.”
Lt. Ben Cantrell