Photos and story by Emily Sunblade
My weekend in Murphysboro was spent at the Murpysboro Police Department.
The days leading up to the workshop had left me a little uneasy; journalists always seem to have this weird thing about cops. We don’t know whether they are going to help us or hinder us, either with shooting our photographs or writing our stories. I didn’t know if they would embrace the fact that I was there or if they would dictate the story that I was trying to tell.
I arrived at the police station Friday morning just in time to find Police Chief Jeff Bock sitting down with a hot cup of coffee. Within the next few hours I had been given a tour of the station, taught about some pretty intense dispatching software, was taken on a personal tour of Murphysboro by Bock while he explained to me the processes of a routine patrol and then enjoyed some delicious BBQ wings in the company of the officers during lunch. Obviously, it wasn’t going to be difficult for them to handle me being there.
That afternoon I went on a ride along with officer Jeremy Kranawetter who explained to me the ins and outs of the best way to photograph while on a patrol, which I would need later that night.
After checking back into the weekend headquarters, I returned to the station just in time to get in the squad car with Sergeant Phil Royster on his way to the scene of a car accident. We arrived on the scene to find a rolled over mini van in the center of the road with a crowd of people standing on the corner. Although Royster was not the first officer on the scene, he seemed to jump into action. His light-hearted demeanor changed to serious as he figured out where his help was best needed. Finding that no one was seriously injured and other officers were processing the scene, that left him with directing traffic.
Later that night, I got to practically fly down Walnut Street, the main street in Murphysboro, in Royster’s patrol car in pursuit of a vehicle. I remember looking at the speedometer as it approached 100 mph. Shortly after the officers caught up with that vehicle, Royster was called to a local bar where a fight had broken out. From the window of the car I could see bar stools soaring through the air.
Over the course of the weekend I learned that an officer’s job could be much like this. You could get a 911 call and rush to the scene only to have it be a minor incident or you could show up on the scene to something completely unexpected.
I learned that being an officer can be a big game of hurry up and wait. Saturday I spent most of my day with officer Jeffrey Bishop. Much of the time was spent on patrol but it was just one of those days where there wasn’t that much activity. It was a great way to get to know someone that I might not have known otherwise though. I heard about his years of playing college ball at Milligan and since he was also attending classes at SIU to get his Masters, we had some good conversations about school and future plans. It was a great way to understand how there is more to a police officer than just a badge and a ticket book.
From being at the station for the weekend I also found that the officers see themselves as a family and that Murphysboro is their home. A lot of them went to grade school together and many live within the same neighborhood on the west end of town. Since the officers are from Murphysboro they also know many of its residents. Many times while on patrol an officer will run into at least five or six people that he has a personal relationship with.
Bishop explained that it’s the people of Murphysboro and his fellow officers that make him like his position.
My weekend finished with a couple of good photographs but also with a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes aspects of police work. And although I had been to Murphysboro many times before the weekend I left with a comprehension of the strong personal relationships of those in small town southern Illinois.