PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING — I have always been interested in the job responsibilities and perceptions of policeman in different states and foreign countries. Therefore I spent one month working alongside the Bavarian Police in the inner city of Munich at Police station 11. In October 2012 during the book fair in Frankfurt, I listened to a presentation by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Governor of the State of California, as he explained his Austrian experience in the “land of unlimited possibilities”—or the United States. His speech reminded me of my ancestors from Salzburg and awakened my interest in obtaining an internship with the California Police Department.
Despite very few prospects, I started to mail my resume with a formal letter of interest to several different Police Departments in Los Angeles. A couple days later, I received a response from the Santa Monica Police Department that stated they had never considered international internships before but the Department was open minded to the idea. To show how serious they were, the Department assigned Lieutenant Mike Beautz as my primary point-of-contact to arrange all the details of my visit. For example, the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt had to complete a background check on me and Mike facilitated this process. In addition Police Officer Steve Salandez, Third Vice President of the IPA Section Los Angeles, contacted me and offered for me to stay at his house in Santa Monica for the duration of my internship, and I gratefully obliged.
On May 31, 2013, I flew to Los Angeles for a three-week internship. The city of Santa Monica has around 90,000 inhabitants and is completely surrounded by the larger Los Angeles County. Santa Monica City has its own government and Police Department that consists of more than 460 total staff members, including 216 sworn-in Police Officers. The Chief of Police, Ms. Jacqueline Seabrooks reports directly to the Mayor of Santa Monica.
At the start of my internship, Ms. Seabrooks and Mr. Beautz welcomed me. Ms. Seabrooks announced that the Santa Monica Police Department would fully integrate me into all types of daily operations to ensure I got a thorough understanding of the local police structure.
My internship was extremely eventful and showed me several daily police operations. For example, I spent the first few days on patrol duty and witnessed a taser operation. Next I supported the Secret Service during Barack Obama’s visit to Santa Monica. In addition five people were killed at the Santa Monica City College in a nationally-publicized mass shooting. I was also assigned to work with the following police units: K-9, Bicycle Policing, Detectives, Narcotics, Water Police, and Traffic Accident Investigations. I even spent a day training with firearms and tactics (an AR-15 and a shotgun) on a shooting range in the Santa Monica hills. Lastly I accompanied the LA Air Unit in a helicopter flight to understand air support of patrol cars on the ground. Steve Salandez organized the flight.
I made several insights during my internship. First I noticed strong camaraderie among all Police Officers in Santa Monica. I also noticed a high level of technologically advanced infrastructure, such as patrol cars equip with state-of-the-art information and communication technology, rifles and shotguns, and special appliances to transport arrestees and detainees. The Santa Monica Police Department’s multiple facilities and properties were spacious and clean. At the same time, I was impressed by the commendable and professional behavior of the members of the Police Department.
I also noticed the hierarchy of the Police Department with a clear and respected leadership structure. All managers were required to pass higher qualifications and take on more responsibilities. For example, a higher ranked officer has more sophisticated or complex tasks to complete in a given day. Good leadership culture and strong camaraderie seemed to further strengthen the great atmosphere.
I was also impressed that the job of a policeman can be performed without being bound to a desk. Much to my surprise, policemen do not spend a lot of time at the office, and yet they continued to maintain high job efficiency.
The internship with the Santa Monica Police Department was extremely beneficial for my career track because I learned a lot about the daily operations of the Police Department and gained inter-cultural know-how. For these reasons, I am extraordinarily thankful that the Santa Monica Police Department enabled this great experience and I recommend that my federal state of Hessen in Germany offers a similar type of internship for American Police Officers.
Maximilian Langecker is a 2nd Lieutenant at Police Headquarters Frankfurt am Main, 1st Police Station