Sunday, October 25, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: A Reporter’s Observations on a Drug Raid

Brian Boesch

I have reported on many aspects of the local Athens community during my time with Athens MidDay. This past Wednesday, I received an assignment that triggered some playful jealousy on the part of my colleagues and strong nervousness from yours truly.

I was going on a drug raid.

For about five hours, Athens MidDay reporter Craig Reck and I had a chance to follow Lieutenant Bryan Cooper as he and about 40 other officers from 11 different agencies teamed up to fight heroin use in the Athens area.

There is no way I could sum up the entire experience into one word, one blog or one story. It was intriguing, eerie, eye-opening, informative and emotional, sometimes all at once.

My final product on the story is available here. Other publications, such as the Athens Messenger and NBC-4 in Columbus, covered the event as well. But “Operation Busted Balloon” (what a great name, by the way) deserves some more coverage.

A Few (of the Many) Observations
I could talk to someone for hours about this day. The five hours taught me so much about law enforcement, Southeastern Ohio and society as a whole.

Here are just some of the many thoughts that went through my mind during the journey:

• I had never been in the backseat of a police car until Wednesday. Craig and I sat in the back as we drove out to Glouster. It was a surreal experience. There is a barrier in front of you, fencing in front of the windows, and holes where the locks used to be. What an eerie feeling.

• Everyone has an opinion on the police, and many people (myself included) get nervous around them. But I must say that every cop we encountered was personable and willing to talk with Craig and I. Lieutenant Cooper even treated us to a soda as we were heading back home.

• The operation, which had been planned for about two months, was executed with intense caution. In the middle of our time with the raid, we waited for about a half-hour at the State Highway Patrol building as almost everyone involved in the process discussed the plan for the next raid.

• I now know why some people want to become law enforcement officials, whether with a sheriff’s office, the State Highway Patrol, or the FBI. The day flew by, and there was never a dull moment.

However, the most lasting memories from the raid came during the two arrests I witnessed.

When Emotions Enter Reporting
I have never been arrested. In fact, I have only been pulled over once in my life. So my encounters with the police are few and far between.

However, on this day, I saw cops put handcuffs on two people. Talk about a culture shock.

When I saw both of these people, my naturally sympathetic nature took over. These two men had not done anything to me, and they looked innocent enough.

Not only did I see two people in handcuffs, but I saw the family of one of these men watching it unfold. The man said, “Go tell mom,” and, "Love you, babe," as he was walking away.

I know the effects and the issues associated with heroin. This website does a great job of detailing them. I understand that what these people were supposedly doing is terrible.

But still, I do not know the whole story. I do not know these men’s backgrounds.

If anything, by going through this experience, I feel a little differently about the world. When I saw both of these men, I never would have guessed that they could be taking part in dangerous, illegal activity.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
The phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” certainly applies to my experiences during the drug raid.

Police officers often look intimidating and emotionless when, in reality, they can be animated, captivating people. On the flip side, those who seem harmless may actually be taking part in activities that could be quite harmful.

The pot of gold at the end of this journalistic rainbow? Always be open to new knowledge and new experiences. And this is not a journalism-only lesson. Everyone should, at the very least, consider this approach. It helped make a drug raid a valuable lesson for this young, aspiring journalist.

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