To the Editor:

In light of recent events surrounding race and the law enforcement community, I felt it appropriate to tell a personal story as peaceful protests accompanied by organized and violent riots have erupted in the streets across the United States. When I was 16 years old I was stopped by an officer on Route 2/26.

Although my encounter with the officer was cordial I felt as though I was targeted because of my age (Something I could grow out of and am not labeled with for life) and the fact that, like most 16 year olds, I was driving around in a vehicle that barely got an inspection sticker.

During the stop, I was questioned and had my vehicle searched. While the stops (yes stopped more than once) ended in “stern” warnings for various things I couldn’t help but feel a little sick to my stomach. I felt as though the officer was rude and rather unforgiving and had targeted and intimidated me for the aforementioned reasons.

Now, many will say things like how you can compare being treated rudely to being killed or seriously hurt? The truth of the matter is you can’t. The severity of my story with the severity of what’s being seen and heard around the country today are not comparable. What is comparable is the solution.

Getting back to my story, I left the traffic stops feeling disheartened and frustrated. The feelings and frustrations stuck with me for days. I realized I had no idea who this officer was or what he had been through. I didn’t know what his training and experience was or what stressors he had been through. I soon realized I truly had no idea what his job was like. I took those encounters and used them as motivation. About 8 years later, I finished college, graduated from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and began my career in law enforcement where I remain today.

In doing so I’ve had the opportunity to walk in that officer’s shoes, and have a much better understanding of the job and how that officer handled my situation. I’d like to believe I have a much better understanding of the job and have managed to aid in making things better as I progress through the career today.

To those of you out protesting in the streets whether it be the peaceful (respectable) protesters or the violence eliciting rioters, I offer a suggested solution. Law enforcement agencies all around the country are hiring. Job applications are down and there is a major shortage of qualified applicants. Get trained, get educated, become an officer and walk a mile in their shoes. After you’ve done that make the changes you want to make. If you think you can do the job better, the opportunities are out there.

In closing, the law enforcement community in the State Of Maine is a great community. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the finest people I’ve ever met over the years. To the vast majority of law enforcement out there giving it their all and doing it right, I proudly stand with you.

Andrew R. Whitney
Bethel


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