By Jerry Moore
He owned Commercial Business Supply, which abutted the Smoke Shop, one of the most interesting bars this city has ever seen. Every day, as I worked for my dad, I would see police officers interact with the Smoke Shop’s patrons. And what interactions they were.
I was impressed, and it piqued my interest to see how the officers handled tough situations. I am proud to say I have been a Salem police officer for more than 32 years, the last seven as chief.
During those 32 years I have had many interesting experiences and learned a great deal about life in general, about this city and about the people who make it tick.
I’ve learned that it takes a lot of work to become good at this job.
I’ve learned how cruel some humans can be to others and how caring others can be.
I’ve learned that some people will choose to buy drugs instead of food or electricity for their families.
I’ve learned that you can actually be assigned to some pretty interesting assignments in this job. Years ago when people asked me what I did at work today and I said I bought dope and picked up hookers all day, I really wasn’t kidding.
I’ve learned that just about the time you think you have seen everything in this job, something comes along that makes you say “Wow, didn’t see that one coming.”
I’ve learned that, as a police officer, you can go from sheer boredom to stark terror in a matter of seconds.
I’ve learned that the police and the community really do need to work together to make this the community we want it to be.
And I’ve learned we live in a world of conflict. No one ever calls us because they are having a good day. They call us because they need help, and it is our job to give them hope that things are going to get better because we are there.
Police officers have to master many things: technology, constitutional law, city and state laws, driving, defensive tactics, firearms skills, specialized equipment, being confronted by drug-affected, violent, aggressive individuals. They also have to make instantaneous decisions about what they are seeing, decisions that many people will question and dissect for years to come. All of these skills involve years of training and experience. But it all comes down to being able to effectively deal with people.
I have had the opportunity to present awards to many of my officers for their work in this community. Some of the awards were for heroic deeds: bringing unconscious people back to life, risking life and limb by entering storm-driven creeks or burning buildings, entering a bomb-ravaged crime scene where other police officers lay dead, and rescuing an officer who had been shot and was still in harm’s way. While all of these incidents seem horrific or frightening, I will guarantee you those officers will tell you they were just doing their job.
I am honored to be their chief.