Editor's note: Reporter Olivia Ingle participated in the Missouri State Highway Patrol's six-week Community Alliance Program, which helps inform people of the functions of the Highway Patrol.
We all have our own idea of the stereotypical police officer. I had two.
One was a tall, stiff, intimidating man who stops at nothing to catch people in the wrong. The second was a complete 180 - a short, stubby man who sits in his car eating doughnuts all day.
As far as the Missouri State Highway Patrol is concerned, my preconceived views were wrong.
I blame my assumptions on pop culture.
I discovered that while some troopers may be tall, some may be short and maybe some of them do like doughnuts, they're just people. They're just like you and me, and they truly have the best interests of people at heart.
Troopers are recruited for possessing eight core values, and are expected to uphold those values throughout their employment.
The values include integrity, responsibility, respect, professionalism, compassion, resourcefulness, character and commitment.
"From day one, it's been about courtesy, yes sir and yes ma'am," said Col. Ronald Replogle, Patrol superintendent. "That's the way we want them on the road, too."
Participating in MSHP's Community Alliance Program allowed me to see troopers as individuals. Even though they all wear the same French blue uniforms, drive similar vehicles and have the same aforementioned core values, their individualness allows them to find their niche within MSHP.
For example, a trooper who enjoys boating or being on the water may apply for the Water Patrol Division, one who likes to interrogate and watch people sweat may apply to administer the polygraph test, one who dreams of being a pilot may apply for the Aircraft Division or one who likes techy gadgets may apply to the Bomb Squad.
A trooper must work as a standard trooper - on the road - until he or she has been with MSHP for three years. Then, they may specialize.
It was apparent that each trooper who spoke to Community Alliance attendees was passionate about his or her function within the Patrol.
Whether it was Sgt. Dave Martin talking about blowing stuff up and playing with toys on the Bomb Squad or Cpl. Eric Stacks describing interrogation and the polygraph test as an "art" and a "liar-liar business," I had no doubt that the troopers were speaking about a job they love.
After getting a glimpse of the functions of MSHP and the training troopers undergo, my views of law enforcement are changed forever.
I will no longer greet troopers with fear and intimidation, but greet them with gratitude and appreciation for their difficult and complex profession.