Students participating in the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program visit many different local and state community and government organizations during their stay in the United States. The NWCCI students attending Whatcom Community College recently visited the local police station in Bellingham. Here, Nadir Jailani, a Tourism and Hospitality student from Pakistan, shares his observations about touring the station and learning about law and order in the United States:
For the first week of my stay in the US I had not seen any policemen and I was wondering if there were any in the city. I wanted to see some to lessen my homesickness because we see a lot of them in Pakistan every day and almost everywhere: roads, parks, shopping malls, stadiums and every inhabited place. I had a picture of the station in my mind that resembled those I had seen in Hollywood movies. To my disappointment, that picture was nowhere near what the station really looked like.
The presentation was very informative; it was very interesting to know about the history of police in the Washington State. We were also shown some statistics about the population of Bellingham city which included ethnicity, financial status, means of income etc. any in the city. I wanted to see some to lessen my homesickness because we see a lot of them in Pakistan every day and almost everywhere: roads, parks, shopping malls, stadiums and every inhabited place.
The officer who briefed us had a fully packed belt: handgun hostler, radio pouch, handcuffs, taser, magazine pouch and a knife pouch. He told us about the procedures that the department follows in performing its responsibilities. He also highlighted some laws of the state and elaborated the difference between federal and state laws.
As we walked out of the building we came across walls that had portraits of Germen Shepherd dogs. They were members of the police department and were as equally valued as other officers. Those dogs had rendered valuable services for the department. That was very interesting because I had never heard of anything like that.
Later the officer led us to a yard where the police cars and bikes were parked. We were shown the inside of the car, which looked like an airplane cockpit because it had so many machines and buttons. The backseats were totally different and looked like a cage. It was separated from the front portion and there were bars on the windows; it was the strangest car I had ever seen!
I was amazed to learn how technology is used to help maintain law and order. The police in Bellingham have every modern necessity and they are making good use of it. I understood why I could not see a lot of policemen around the city; everything here is in control of the police and their presence is not mandatory.
The biggest difference between the police here and in Pakistan is how every procedure is carried out. Back home everything is done differently: we do not have a very refined system. Although every practice is defined by written laws, the way those procedures are carried out has not been modernized. Records are kept through blotters (police charge sheets) and most of the documentation is still handwritten. Vehicles do not have the required applications and weapons are as old as the 303 Rifles of 19th Century! However, the government has rendered special attention towards police in the recent years and things have started to improve for the better.
The short tour of police station helped me gain a lot of knowledge about the system in Washington. Although I am far from understanding the overall set up of the police here, I am in a better position to describe how law and order is controlled here than I was earlier. I hope developing countries like Pakistan will also follow the example and make use of the modern technology in ensuring the safety of their people.