-By Jacob Nunley
In 2005 officer Scott Vermeer sat in the Palo Alto courthouse next to a 19 year old girl. The two of them watched the girls life-long stepfather and sex offender walk out of the room, chained and escorted by two officers. “Those are the moments that make me love my job,” says Vermeer as he reminisces his proudest moment of police work. “I wanted to be a cop because I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to do something of service. I like the adventure part of the job as well as the service part, [as well as] the ability to make a difference in peoples lives very directly.” (Vermeer, Scott. Personal Interview)
Chief Vermeer has been in the business for 27 years, and has been the Chief of Mountain View Police Dept. for the last ten years. He is a father of three children; 2 boys and a girl. His oldest son is attending the University of Stanford just down the road. His younger son is my age. The two of us have played on quite a few baseball teams together, a number of which Vermeer had found time to coach. I asked him what it was like to change from being a chief of a police force to being a coach of a ten year old’s baseball team. He told me that it was no different for him as it was for other dads. “I’m a dad,” says Vermeer, “Being a dad is just as much of a job as being a chief.” I always remember Vermeer as my coach. His kind teaching skills and normal “Dad mode” he was in at practice made it surprising to me the first time he came to practice in his police uniform. Every once in awhile when I walk into my moms room and her computer’s screensaver is showing I see a picture of me being taken off the mound in a playoff game by coach Vermeer all dressed up, gun in holster. I was in tears and now I wonder how similar the two jobs Mr. Vermeer had were. All day he was correcting or ‘yanking’ people when they messed up. If the two are relatable at all then I believe Chief Vermeer is a very good Chief. When asked what people responded when he told them of his occupation, Chief Vermeer said, “Most people say ‘You seem to nice to be an officer.’ And i appreciate the compliment that people think I’m nice but i don’t appreciate the stereotype that police officers can’t be nice. The fact is that there are times in our job when we have to be stern and forceful and enforce the rules which many people don’t like but the fact is that the people that i work with are incredibly nice people and they do a great service for our community.” (Vermeer, Scott. Personal Interview)
I asked some of my friends to tell me what they thought about police officers. To my surprise, a number of my friends who I expected to have a completely negative opinion of COPs noted that “they keep us safe.” Others noted that “they sometimes give us strange looks as if we are doing something wrong.” To get a wider understanding of how my fellow citizens view the law enforcement, I went to our downtown in Mountain View and asked random pedestrians for their opinions. I found that it is a common understanding [you could say it is a fact] that policy officers are working to protect us. Catherine Gallagher of the International Association of Chiefs of Police wrote a research paper on the public image of policy. “Not surprisingly, the terminology used in public opinion polls seems to make a difference in measuring the general image of the policy,” says Gallagher. Another important element to consider in public opinion polls is whether citizens are voicing an opinion about their own previous experiences with the police, those of their neighbors, friends or family members, or simply general impressions based on a number of sources, from television and the media to opinions shared within the subcultures in which they are immersed. With all these questions in mind, it is difficult to come to terms with what constitutes the “general image” of police.” (Gallagher, Catherine. The Public Image of the Police.) Like I rode along in a COP car with a MVPD officer Jack Guerreva. I asked him similar questions that I asked Mr. Vermeer including how he feels he is viewed by the normal citizen. When I asked him what he thought about the chief he replied, “Oh, Scott?” (Guerreva, Personal Interview) He then went on to explain what and why Mr. Vermeer was a good Chief however I think the best description he gave of Mr. Vermeer’s relationship with his officers is explained when Guerreva said, “Oh, Scott.” The first name basis Vermeer has with his crew shows a lot about his leadership qualities.
I also talked to Chief Vermeer’s son, Grant. Grant is my age, and we had played on the same baseball teams, one of which I had mentioned earlier. He has recently been accepted into the United States Naval Academy, a terrific accomplishment. I asked grant what it was like to have a COP as a father, and how that affected his decision to apply to USNA. He told me that first of all he loves his dad. He said, “My dad was obviously tougher on me considering he is a COP that he would have been if he was not. It takes a stricter man to do the job he does.” “I love being a leader. That is a quality I undoubtedly acquired from my father. I applied to the naval academy because there I will be surrounded by people like me, and I will learn to be the best leader I can be.” (Vermeer, Grant. Personal Interview) As I was packing up my camera after finishing my interview with Chief Vermeer, he asked me about my family and about my brother. My brother attends the United States Military Academy in New York (the rival school of the Navy Academy). I filled him in on how we were doing as he showed me his autographed ball from the Stanford football team. I felt really comfortable especially around somebody with so much authority. As I left I said “Bye, thanks again, Chief!.” He responded, “No problem, and please, call me Scott.”