Shifting perceptions

October 25, 2013 

By Bethany Bashioum

Eight weeks ago, my perception of law enforcement started to shift.

And this week, I’ve had at least four people ask me if I wanted to put on a uniform and consider a career change as they have seen my newfound enthusiasm for riding around in cop cars throughout all hours of the night, doing observations in the jail, and getting a sneak peak into a real life evidence room, as I graduated from the 10th season of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy.

Upon completion of the program, which is open to the public, organizers didn’t give me a real, six-pointed Sheriff’s badge, but I did get a really cool coffee cup with an image of jail cell inscribed with the words, “Cass County Sheriff’s Office Bed-N-Breakfast.”

It’s nice to know if I ever need a place to stay, they have me covered.

All kidding aside, no words could really describe how it felt to walk out of the Cass County Jail as a free person after completing a five-hour observation two weeks ago. Maybe if more soon-to-be criminals saw the place, they’d think twice before breaking the law.

Before embarking on this course, my exposure to the day-to-day operations of a Sheriff’s Office were minimal.

I knew deputies were in place to help patrol the streets, responded to emergency situations, and keep inmates in jail, among other things.

What I didn’t realize is how each of the different departments within the Sheriff’s Office work like the major organs in a body to keep the entire body functioning.

From the walls from within the jail to a deputy on patrol, to the dispatch unit to the courts, and from the tasks performed in the investigations unit to the responsibility of administration, each of the six components of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office have a unique function to keep citizens safe and to uphold justice.

This course also sheds perspective as to where our tax dollars are spent. And upon observations I experienced over the last two months, I do believe the Sheriff’s Office is frugal with their resources.

Perhaps the most notable experience for me throughout this course was getting to know some of the men and women on the force.

Despite whatever you may hear on the street or the rare instance on the news, Cass County deputies are selfless individuals who will lay down their life to fight crime and protect victims. We can’t forget that they’re also our neighbors down the street.

As I read the online comments from one of the several stories I’ve recently written about the different individuals who make up the force, one summed up my observations nicely.

“These professionals will protect you without prejudice. They will come when you call for help. And it they will do what is honorable regardless of your obtuse opinion of them or their department,” the individual wrote.

This is especially true of the Sheriff’s Office’s patrol unit.

Over the course of this program, I’ve spent almost 20 hours on shifts with a road deputy. Their job isn’t glamorous, nor easy, as they see a lot of humanity at its worst. They often don’t get the respect that they deserve.

My fellow classmates and I in the Citizen’s Academy continually questioned how deputies have to mentally prepare themselves when they get a big call. Their attitude is simple, “Everyone goes home at the end of their shift.”

We need to remember that these deputies live in our community, and when you call for their aid, they will come with a courageous spirit to help us in our time of need.

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