ESCANABA - Reporting on police incidents for the Daily Press is not an easy job but I'm glad I'm not the one handling the cases, the suspects, the fires, and the accidents. And let's not forget about the victims.
As part of my job, each day I go to Escanaba Public Safety and the Delta County Sheriff's Department to look at daily entries of police incidents. I also make daily calls to other police agencies in Delta, Schoolcraft and Menominee counties. Additional calls may be made depending on what's happened in the region.
Throughout the day, I have to be ready to cover different emergencies that may occur like fires, rollovers, personal injury accidents, crimes, and weather-related property damage. If I'm not in the office, my boss will phone me or send someone else out on the call.
When I hear about the emergencies, often over the scanner, I know I have to go out to the scene. Though it may make for some excitement in my day, I don't look forward to knowing what I'll find at the other end - someone's home destroyed... someone injured... or possibly someone who has lost their life.
When I get there, I try to stay back from the scene, out of the way of the police and emergency personnel. I don't want to be another person they have to worry about, even though I know I am at times, just because I'm there.
I take photographs of what's going on, mindful of the injured. I normally don't ask fire or police officials questions at the scene, knowing I can usually followup with them after they've returned to their departments.
Last week, I was assigned to cover a vehicle accident on North Lincoln Road. It came over the scanner as a several-vehicle personal injury accident. I drove the back roads and made my way to the scene where I took photographs.
I also took time to notice how the emergency medical personnel and the police officers, including those in fire gear, all worked together to help the victims while others controlled traffic. Though they were from different departments, they knew what they each had to do while maintaining control of the critical situation.
Many times, I've said to myself and often to bystanders, "I wouldn't want their job. I don't know how they can do it."
When I think of what these police and other emergency people have to do and what they have to see close up, my job doesn't seem so difficult. I just go to the scene, ask questions later, and write about it in time for the next edition of the Daily Press.
I don't have to care for the bleeding injured, endanger myself by putting out a house fire, break up bar fights, pull over a drunk or drugged driver, interview a battered woman, question a sexually-abused child, chase after the bad guy who has a gun, or investigate a suicide.
Hearing about all of this is bad enough. Oftentimes, when I've been given the details of an incident, I've told the officer, "Too much information, too much information." There are some things I've been told, I just wish I never knew.
There's a lot that goes on "behind the scenes" that people never hear or think about. Like what the medical personnel, the police officers, and the firemen have to witness as a regular part of their jobs. What they have to deal with psychologically. What they have to take home with them.
And they're not alone. In addition to police, firemen, and emergency medical personnel, there are also the 9-1-1 dispatchers who initially deal with the callers who are often the victims. The dispatchers keep each situation under control while organizing police, fire and medical personnel to respond to emergencies.
They also have to deal with reporters, like me, who call to find out what's going on. I wait to make the call, but sometimes my call comes too soon. I understand perfectly when I'm told they're busy.
I wouldn't want their job. I don't know how they can do it.
- - -
Jenny Lancour is a staff writer for The Daily Press