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Policing in America - a Calling

The image many Americans have of police officers comes from television programs in which high-speed chases and dramatic arrests are the norm. In truth, the average day of most police officers is quite different. VOA's Odil Ruzaliev recently spent a day with a local police officer to learn first-hand what it takes to be a lawman. Jim Bertel narrates.

Police Officer Ray Golden is getting ready to go out on his daily patrol in Alexandria, Virginia, a city just outside Washington, DC. Golden has spent five years working for the Alexandria Police Department. "It is a pride. I grew up here in the City of Alexandria. This is the only real department I really wanted to work for. The people here are pretty much like a family."

"And I really enjoy it. It feels good to me to be able to give back to the city that I grew up in."

Golden receives a call about an alarm going off at a nearby store. But when he arrives, another officer is already there. It turns out to be a false alarm. That is the essence of a police officer's job - dealing with the unexpected.

He gives us an example. "From [the situation] when you think it's going to get out of hand and you think it's going to become violent, and then the person you're dealing with just becomes a comedian and everything becomes funny."

Golden enjoys his work. "This job is a fun job, I love this job. If not, I wouldn't still be here…definitely not doing it for the pay."

Alexandria's Chief of Police, David Baker, has 30 years of experience in policing and commands just over 300 officers. Like Golden, Baker likes his job and thinks of policing as a public service. "Policing in America is, in some ways, a calling. You don't come in to it for the money, but you come in to it because you have a commitment to public service."

But Golden says people do not always appreciate the police. "General perception of the police, I feel, is no one really likes us until they need us, no one wants to get pulled over for speeding or get that ticket but when someone's breaking into their house, they want us there, they appreciate us then."

Golden continues on with his day. For now it is quiet, but he is ready for anything to happen.