Ride Along: Inside look of Salisbury police department

By Stephanie Chisley

Staff Writer

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While I was nervously sitting in the Salisbury Police Department waiting for an officer to approach, there were numerous thoughts going through my mind.

The door swings open and Officer Kelly Oppel walks in, standing at about 5 feet 3 inches tall and wearing a gray and navy blue pant uniform with a low ponytail.

A single mother of two, Officer Oppel has been working for the Salisbury Police Department for three years and is the only female officer that is a part of the B-squad shift.

Officer Oppel stated that being a female within the police department is a good thing because there are not a lot of them. One piece of advice that she shared for women who are interested in the police department was to make sure that it is something that one can handle.

“You have to have tough skin,” she said. “You have to be able to handle a situation as it’s presented to you and make quick decisions.”

Ride-Along

After taking off from an injury during a fight, Officer Oppel is back on the streets, patrolling within her beat in south Salisbury. Within the first 15 minutes driving down Camden Ave., she received her first dispatch call of the day to Prince St., stating that there is a subject down.

Officer Oppel stated that they contacted a man who was laying in the middle of the road and that he could not tell them what year it was or his date of birth.

“He needed help we were able to provide it for him,” Oppel said. “If not, he could’ve been ran over because he was laying in the middle of the road.”

As five teenage boys were riding their bikes along the sidewalk, Officer Oppel drove alongside them, speaking her thoughts aloud.

“Aren’t they supposed to be in school?” Oppel said while staring them down trying to see if she recognizes any of them. “Who we got?”

Officer Oppel slowed the car down as she tried to make out who the boys are.

“Naw, that’s not what’s-his-face,” she said as she sped the car up.

On the Job

Before joining the Salisbury Police Department, Officer Oppel was a veterinary technician for 11 years. Determined to try something new, she decided to become an animal control officer.

After being on field training for three months, she was offered a position to become a cop a week later. With a family history of aunts and uncles being cops, she had no intentions of becoming one.

“I had to go through the academy,” Officer Oppel said. “I did not know if I wanted to do all that, but I ended up doing it and I am glad I did it.”

Within the media, cops are portrayed as the “bad guys” when handling situations, especially when it comes to race. Due to the numerous amounts of deaths, cops are looked at as villains.

Officer Oppel shared that it does not matter what it is that you are doing—someone has a bad opinion about someone no matter what job they have.

“It’s like they let one bad cop or a few bad cops destroy how they let people think about them,” she said, “because I know I’m not bad, but people do not get to see that side.”

As the topic developed, confusion and shock showed on Officer Oppel’s face as she shared that when showing up to a scene to help, people are not saying, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Instead it is, “Why are you here?”

“When I get out on a scene everybody’s like, ‘Oh they sent you?’” she said in a mocking tone. “I’m like ‘okay, I may be short, but I can get something done.’”

Though Officer Oppel has a passion for working on the force, there is one thing that she finds distasteful.

Growing up, she said that she always saw cops as good people and would always want to go speak to them.

“Nowadays, you just don’t have it,” she said. “The respect and the things that I grew up knowing and doing; it’s not the same anymore.”

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The Other Side

Although Officer Oppel may be a cop, she still has another job when getting off duty: returning home as a mother.

On the days that she is off, Officer Oppel spends time with her two boys at the trampoline park. She even visits her mother, father, two brothers and two sisters.

“Your only time off is to spend time with family,” she said. “All of my other time is spent here at the department.”

Final Thoughts

Just like other civilians, Officer Oppel has goals that she would love to accomplish.

She sat in the driver’s seat, reminiscing as the excitement showed on her face.

“In all reality, what my goal is is to become a detective,” she said.

Officer Oppel shared a short story about being assigned to a case at the La Quinta Inn where a room was charged for $16,000 and the guests skipped out on the bill.

Oppel said that she figured out who they were and got them charged.

“It’s just the feeling of actually getting someone who think they are going to get away with something and they don’t,” Oppel said.

With all the chaotic crime and backlash from the media, Officer Oppel still reports for duty when scheduled.

“I love my job,” Oppel said. “I love knowing that I am going to help someone today and someone is going to remember me.”

“It’s frustrating and agitating at times but, at this point, since I’ve done it, I wouldn’t want to do any other job.”

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