Criminal Justice major
Fall 2016 internship, Altoona Police Department, Altoona, PA
Hands-on learning. Real-world experience. Applying classroom knowledge. Internships provide these invaluable opportunities and much more, serving as a stepping-stone to your first job. Michael Marley shares experiences from his semester interning at the Altoona Police Department.
I was very excited to do my internship at the Altoona Police Department because I knew that Altoona gets a nice, wide range of police calls. It’s a department that doesn’t have a huge staff, so I also knew that I would have a good chance of really seeing what police work is like.
I was at the station twice a week for twelve weeks, mainly observing, but I learned so much just from doing that. I shadowed officers as they conducted things like traffic stops, field sobriety tests, and field interviews. I was also able to go out on a lot of calls with officers. Many of those calls were domestic disputes, which can actually be pretty dangerous for police. There were also overdose and suicide calls, and we responded to burglar alarms, so I experienced the very basic to the very dangerous.
One call we responded to was for a woman who was trying to break into a house with a machete. The officer I was with that night and I were first on scene. It was probably five minutes or so before back up arrived, which was at least twenty officers. The lady wanted the cops to shoot her - a suicide-by-cop attempt. They managed to get her to drop the weapon and calm the situation down. It was a pretty stressful event for everyone involved.
Before that happened, I hadn’t really thought about how fast things can change for the police. That night, we were doing traffic violation stops, and it all changed just like that. Over the course of the internship, that happened many times, and I saw how officers were able to deal with that stress. I think that being able to handle so many things happening at once and being able to shift from one duty to another quickly is critical to officers and to the success of their job.
Crime scene investigations were very interesting for me to observe. I saw that there are steps that must be taken, that you can’t just storm into a scene or you risk destroying evidence. I watched perimeters get set and scenes secured, and saw everything within them documented and photographed. It was fascinating to see detectives formulate ideas of what occurred.
I also liked watching officers serve arrest warrants. On a few different occasions, the suspect refused to give himself up, resulting in a standoff. Seeing how the officers responded to and diffused those situations is something I can draw on in the future when I find myself in similar circumstances.
I believe my classes at Penn State Altoona helped prepare me for some of what I experienced at my internship. For example, I had a policing class with Michael Arter, who's a former police officer. We talked about police stress in that course, so I knew that it is a big thing in the profession. I paid a lot of attention to that aspect during my internship. There is so much of it between the job and the tedious paperwork, so I appreciated learning first-hand from them the best practices of how to deal with it.
Some things, though, you just can’t prepare for until you’re actually there seeing it in person. Going out with officers on calls was extremely helpful and gave me so much insight.
I’m really happy with my internship and I’m pleased I was able to do it at the Altoona Police Department. Police are viewed negatively by some of the public in today's world, so I was having some doubts, but after completing this internship, I know becoming an officer is definitely what I want to do. It solidified my desire to pursue a career in law enforcement.
I encourage other students to do an internship. It's an unbelievable experience, and you learn so much.
To learn more about internships, please contact Tom Shaffer, academic internship coordinator, at [email protected] or 814-949-5789.