In 2023, Detroit had the lowest amount of homicides in nearly 60 years, a drop by over 18%
Though crime is declining
, many officers and the public are still thinking differently about policing after the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, and the force — for many reasons — is changing. A survey from the Police Research Forum
saw a nearly 5% nationwide drop in sworn officers from 2020 to 2023. While hiring increased by a similar amount during that span, resignations went up 47% from 2019 to 2022.
Oak Park’s Office of Public Safety
provides police, medical, and fire service to a diverse metro Detroit suburb. This year, the city is looking to do more community policing to protect its citizens. Metromode sits down with public safety officers Amanda Bishop and Anthony Carignan to ask them what it’s like working in Oak Park following the transformative shifts in law enforcement in the last four years.
Why did you decide to join the police force?
Well, originally my whole life plan was to be a nurse. I went to school and everything for it. When I was in college, there was a two-year wait to get into a nursing program. So my counselor actually recommended that I do the EMT and paramedic program. I did that on and off for 10 years. As an EMT we work closely with police officers and firefighters and over time I just found myself way more interested and intrigued in the police side of things.
I have quite a few firefighters in the family and I've wanted to do some type of public service, so it was between that and police work. When I came to Oak Park it was the best of both worlds since [they] were public safety. So it made my decision a lot easier.
Describe what an average day is like for you.
I've been on midnights for a while now, and typically our call volume, I would say, is less than a day shift. That allows for us to do more proactive police work. If I'm not responding to dispatch calls, I like to get out there and conduct traffic stops and patrol the city and look for any type of suspicious persons or activity.
I also like to check out the local businesses that are open, you know, whether it's a gas station or store that is open 24 hours. You kind of develop relationships with people that work there overtime. I like to stop in and see how they're doing and just kind of make a presence there. And that seems to benefit everybody involved.
Anthony Carignan / Photo suppliedAnthony Carignan:
It's pretty insane. I start off my day and sit in roll call to see if there's anything that has transpired over the dayshift or night that wasn't reported. And then after that we go out. We respond to dispatch runs, anything that comes in, whether it's medical [calls] or in-progress type crimes.
What keeps you coming in everyday? What's your favorite part of the job?
The excitement and the freedom. I love that no two days are the same. Everyday we get to meet new people, we encounter different challenges. With us being public safety we're triple certified in police, fire, and medical. So there's no shortage to the variety and types of runs that we go on. There's never a dull moment. It’s cool that we can actually make a difference.
I do several different things for the department in regards to instructing and I love being able to train newer officers coming in. But I also love learning from them. I've been here going on 18 years and they're learning new tactics and new things through the academies that I may not be privy to.
Oak Park is a very diverse city. What strategies do you use to approach the different communities and engage in problem-solving?
Honestly, conflict resolution is pretty diverse in itself. Something that works for one person may not work for the next, I think what it really boils down to is just treating everyone like a human being. Just being respectful, maintaining professionalism and talking with people. If you just do your job the right way and be a human being while treating others the same, then you can actually pull that whole aspect [of diversity] away from the equation.
That's exactly it. Through my career, I've realized that if you just talk to people like they're human with respect, you'll get the same respect and you'll get the cooperation on both sides of it. They'll feel like they're being listened to, and we're able to do our job more effectively regardless of who we're dealing with, period.
Following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, there was a public shift in how the public viewed the police. How has that impacted your job?
Honestly, I don't really know what policing was like prior to that. I worked in the public on the medical side of things. The way I was treated was probably a lot different than somebody who was in law enforcement.
It probably affected more so how police are viewed than how police officers in general do their job. Just because I wear the badge I am viewed as the same person, in law enforcement, that might have done something wrong. But it doesn't depict the whole. The majority of officers throughout the U.S. just want to do our job, do it well, and protect the people that we serve.
What do you want the public to know about your job and experience?
I would say overall, with my experience working here in Oak Park, I feel that we're a very lucky department. Oak Park is really big on community policing.
As a police officer, we are out there trying to help people. We'll be there for people in many different seasons of their lives. Sometimes we see people at their worst, but underneath the badge, we are still human and we can relate to people.
And just to piggyback off of that real quick, depending on what we're going to, some of the stuff is traumatic and it is very hard to deal with, we may not be presenting in an emotional manner where your average person would, but that's not because we don't care. It's because we have a job to do and if we let our emotions get in the way then we're not going to be able to effectively do it. Sometimes people might see us robots but we’re not.
There are reports of decline in police recruitment and retention across the country. In 2024, is it still worth it to be a police officer in America?
Absolutely. This is my career and I think this is the best job in the world. Right now, we're seeing officers retire by the masses, which is in turn opening up countless positions. There's so much room for promotions and growth within the department. So I think that now is a great time to get in and start a career and be able to put forth different ideas and improvements.
When you first sign up to do this, you know what you're getting yourself into. You know what you want to do. And as long as your heart and your head is in the right place in regards to doing this job, it's rewarding in itself.
What advice do you have for people interested in joining the Office of Public Safety?
I always recommend if they're truly serious about considering a career in law enforcement to do a ride-along. Is this something that you're willing to do? Do you think you can handle this? Do you think you got what it takes? Because it’s not what you see on TV.
You could talk to a person about all the perks of the job, you know, pay pension, things like that. But when it comes down to it, it's whether or not somebody wants to make a difference. You can either sit at home and do nothing and complain about what's going on in the world, or you can get out there and actually try to make a difference.
*This story has been shortened for brevity.