Spring 2018 internship, Altoona Police Department
I have wanted to be a police officer since I was 5 years old. When I was little, I told my mom, "I'm going to be a cop," and I never changed my mind. Being able to intern at the Altoona Police Department is a wonderful experience, and I’m learning so much.
A typical shift includes riding with officers, responding to accidents, and aiding AMED, fire departments, and Children and Youth Services. My abilities as an intern are limited, of course, but I help officers collect names and information, and I have been guided through writing warning cards and citations. I can go on any call, but if there is a weapon involved, I have to stay in the car unless it's a knife, in which case I have to keep an officer between me and the person who is armed.
I’ve seen a lot of different things so far. There was a mentally unstable girl who climbed a tree, and there was someone who got hit with a hammer. There have been some domestic violence calls, and we responded to a suicide threat where there was knife involved. A child endangerment call really sticks in my memory. A woman on bath salts left her 2-year-old and 7- month-old children in her vehicle alone. The car door was wide open and the temperature at the time was 13 degrees. We fed and played with the children until their father was able to come get them. Knowing we were able to help those kids was extremely rewarding.
Doing this internship is very important for me. I can go to classes and learn the coursework and lecture material, but that’s not the same as actually experiencing things first-hand. The internship is teaching me a lot about police subculture, such as how police think and why they do what they do in certain situations. I’m learning about coping techniques and how to deal with stressful situations like responding to a weapons call. I'm also learning processes like writing reports and citations and what all of the codes mean.
There are so many things about working with the Altoona Police Department that I love. The people there genuinely care about one another, and I like that bond. I also like when citizens talk to us and ask for advice, or when we go to a coffee shop and the employees know us and ask us how we are doing. I like having that connection with community members. I’ll admit, the adrenaline rushes are amazing, too. Being in the car with lights and sirens speeding toward a call is a feeling I've never had before.
I would advise all students to do an internship and to pick one that falls in line with their career goals. I could have gone to a courthouse or something like that, but it was more important for me to get experience with police work. Be personable, smile, and have good energy. People appreciate that. Be kind, and show interest in what you're doing. Hone your communication skills, and ask questions as much as possible. Get to know people—the more connections you have, the better.
My experience has been amazing. I love it at the police department. Everyone has welcomed me, and they even feed me! And I made no-bakes for them. We take care of each other, and I think it's great.