Unless they’ve been a police officer, worked with them, or known one personally, people sometimes have misconceptions about what they do or why they do it. Many officers have experienced this firsthand, with members of the community forgetting that they’re real people doing hard work to do good things.
Dr. Nelson Andreu, MPA, is the chief of police at the West Miami Police Department, and he generously shared his thoughts on the misconceptions that are negatively affecting police departments across the country and the impact it has on the officers themselves.
Who Is Chief Andreu?
Chief Andreu was named the chief of police in the West Miami Police Department seven years ago in 2012, after working in the same department for more than sixteen years with roles including lead homicide detective. He also currently teaches as an adjunct professor in criminal justice at Barry University, Florida International University, and Carlos Albizu University.
Andreu did many things before becoming a cop, including receiving a masters degree in public administration and a doctorate in education and organizational leadership. He’s stated that despite doing a number of different things before his current career path, he always knew it was his calling and now wouldn’t trade it for the world.
In addition to loving his chosen career path, he’s an avid family man.
“Family should always be #1,” he explained. “We should always enjoy life, love our family and friends, and worry less, especially over the things we have no control over.”
If his background didn’t sound diverse enough, you can also catch him showing off his love of cooking on an episode of the Food Network’s competition cooking show Chopped or keep an eye out for his fictional novel about a Miami Homicide Detective Dead Red (and the sequel that will hopefully come next year!)
Common Misconceptions of Police Work
Like most other careers, there is a lot that goes into being a police officer than people who haven’t experienced it could imagine. Some of those misconceptions can be dangerous to workers.
When asked about the misconceptions that he felt impacted officers the most, Andreu had a quick answer: “That cops are paid to get hurt.”
This is, unfortunately, a notion that Andreu himself has come across in his years of experience as an officer. People believe that just because officers are willing to risk their lives that part of their job description means accepting injury or risk of death on the job and that the community shouldn’t be concerned when it occurs.
He also noted that a few bad cops can sometimes result in a negative PR effect for hardworking police officers everywhere.
“While there are some rogue cops that give the rest a bad name,” he said, “The overwhelming number of us are good people with good intentions.”
The job comes with risks that officers readily face in order to protect and serve their communities, and this is sometimes overlooked by community members.
How to Cope with the Dangers of the Job
Both the dangers of the work of a police officer and misconceptions about the job can be addressed in one simple way by each officer in the field, according to Andreu, even though it’s a skill not everyone expects to need when first signing up for the academy.
“Be nice to everyone,” he said. “Treat people with respect and be fair is the golden rule. Treating people with respect and fairness is paramount in our profession.”
He acknowledged that this can sometimes be a challenge in this profession with all the hard things that officers see daily, and that some cynicism can start to set in after a few years. He does, however, say to avoid the cynicism at all costs and urges the officers under him to do the same.
Andreu believes that having citizens understand the difficulties of their jobs and why they take certain actions could help to clear up some of the misconceptions. Alongside this, he also believes that providing officers with a stronger understanding the concerns and needs of the communities they serve could clear up misunderstandings and make it easier for officers to do their jobs well.
Andreu’s favorite part of the job, after all, is helping others and bringing closure to crime victims and their families, and that’s something all officers can relate to.