After 27 years on the job, Beatrice Police Sergeant Jay Murphy has seen it all.
From dealing with theft, assault and drug arrests to providing safety tips to children through the Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce, no two days are the same, Murphy said.
“When I first started, I used to keep a journal of things that happened during the day,” he said. “I wish I would have continued to do that because there’s been many, many things that I’ve probably forgotten that we did. That’s something I tell all of our new officers: ‘You should keep a journal,’ because I wish I would have.”
While these experiences are just part of another day for Beatrice police, outsiders would probably be shocked by what work is actually like at the BPD, Murphy said. Life on the police force isn’t what people think it is.
Oftentimes, he said, people will watch a crime show on television and think that every crime will be solved in an hour. That simply isn’t realistic, however. What people don’t realize is that there is more to it than patrolling the streets and making arrests.
“Unfortunately, investigations take a lot of time,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of paperwork. I would say probably 80 percent of our job is paperwork. We want to make sure that all of our reports are detailed and accurate.”
The amount of required paperwork and the time it takes to process each case has gone up since Murphy began. Years ago, it used to only take about 45 minutes to completely process a DUI case. Now, when a person is arrested for DUI, it can take more than three hours to complete the process and fill out a probable cause form, an arrest report and all of the other necessary paperwork.
Despite the heavy amount of paperwork, officers still spend most of their shifts out of the office, BPD Officer Kristine Gill said.
When officers are out patrolling the streets, they use a computer and radio system to communicate with the dispatch team and other officers. Dispatchers then rotate incoming calls among all of the officers on duty. After officers respond to a call, they are able to complete paperwork in their vehicles if need be.
Until a call comes in, however, Beatrice police officers have some freedom to patrol around town.
“For the most part, I can make my day what I want it to be,” Gill said. Typically, BPD officers aim to patrol during peak traffic hours.
“We like to be out and about when school’s getting out,” she said. “It’s an important time to be out.”
During a traffic stop, officers must determine whether or not someone is going to get a ticket. It’s a decision which officers usually make before even getting out of their car, Gill said.
“I typically have already made my decision if someone’s getting a ticket when I go up to their car,” she said. “I base it on a lot of different factors. When there’s discretion, I do take into consideration the choices that they’re making. I like to help people who are trying to help themselves. Having a bad attitude when an officer walks up to your car is not helpful at all.”
Life on the police force can be dangerous and frustrating at times. The job requires an incredible amount of intuition, Gill said. You have to be able to tell when a person is lying, what a person might be feeling and anticipate what they might do. That extends to fellow officers, too.
Over the radio, Gill said that she and her fellow officers are able to pick up on subtle clues in a person’s speech pattern, including the things that they say and the inflection in their voice.
“If any of that is out of norm, someone will show up, even if you don’t ask,” she said. “We all know that we can depend on each other to be there if somebody needs something. When things go south, we’re going to be there for each other, no matter what.”