How will this experience help you in your job search and career?
Prior to this summer, I had limited grasp of the law enforcement career field and options within it. My internship within MPD has provided a view of policing from both the ground and organizational levels, from riding along with officers on patrol to watching command staff deliberate on changing departmental policies. The internship experience prompted several realizations about my own interests and values. Going around the D.C. with MPD officers as they responded to calls was exhilarating. Seeing officers’ ability to help people, from recovering stolen property to arresting abusive partners, left a deep impression. Moreover, working within MPD has given me a deeper appreciation for the role of policing in national security. Overall, the internship will prompt me to give law enforcement career options more serious and informed consideration as I finish SSP.
How does your internship sponsor or agency contribute to the mission of national security?
MPD, and police departments in general, do not contribute to national security in the same sense that the military, intelligence community, or federal law enforcement agencies do. Police departments have taken on roles as local partners in domestic counterterrorism, particularly since the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. MPD itself has a Homeland Security Bureau that conducts intelligence and operational functions to protect Washington, D.C. However, counterterrorism is only one aspect of policing, and day-to-day police operations do not focus on traditional national security issues. Nevertheless, police departments do make a foundational contribution to national security. Policing enables rule of law, creating a society in which people generally can live their lives without serious fear of danger, and in which committing crime bears a considerable chance of penalty. Without the basic degree of public safety that law enforcement provides, “national security” could not be a meaningful concept.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from this experience?
The biggest lesson for me has been that community relationships with the police are complicated. Several MPD officers and command staff have told me that in their experience, appreciation for the police is often stronger in Anacostia or Trinidad than in Georgetown or the Palisades. Certainly, there is substantial animosity towards police within the lower-income, predominantly African-American neighborhoods that are among the city’s most violent. But in these neighborhoods, MPD officers often address shootings, stabbings, beatings, and other violent crimes that seriously endanger local residents. These residents, trying to make lives for themselves and their families, are the people who need and appreciate MPD’s help the most. By contrast, MPD officers occasionally find themselves facing irritation and impatience when they interact with members of the public in D.C.’s more affluent and placid sections. This lesson and other lessons have reinforced for me that law enforcement and crime are much more nuanced than mainstream narratives suggest.