From the early stages of her life Mia Hughes, Woodinville High School’s all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball, has aspired to be a police officer.
So much so, she joined the King County Explorers Program as a youth and is a current member heading into her senior year.
“I attend meetings twice a month. We do a lot of community-oriented things and get to go on ride-a-longs with police officers,” Mia said. “It was there I learned what kind of a cop I want to be and why I wanted to be one to begin with.”
Mia said the Explorer Program teaches a lot of life lessons along with, “stuff you need to learn to be a cop” like community service, how to watch out for the people next to you and to watch out for people in your community as well.
“The instructors tell us they’ll support whatever choice we make when we decide to leave the program; whether you want to be a cop or not,” Mia said. “They say we’ll take with us the life lessons we’ve learned including how to be a generally good-hearted person.
“All of that stuff is important, but for me personally, I want to be able to protect people … be there for people who call 911 because of a particular situation or because they need someone to be there for them… I want to be the one they call.”
Mia has also obtained a lot of insight on what it’s like to be a member of law enforcement having spent endless hours talking with the Woodinville High School student resource officer.
“I was able to connect with him and got a chance to get to know him as a person — kind of like a dad — and what he does,” Mia said. “It was pretty interesting to me seeing all that he does from the perspective through a real person behind the uniform.”
She also had a personal experience that involved the police who were there for her in time of need.
High school students are encouraged to consider possible career paths prior to graduation. Choosing to go into law enforcement during a time of intense public dissatisfaction with the system, would likely not be on the Top 10 list.
Last week, Mia was on the receiving end of a negative tweet regarding police officers, so for those who know her it was understandable why she felt compelled to defend her career choice.
“With everything going on right now (George Floyd and BLM) people are posting their views on the situation on social media and basically saying if you are quiet you are not fighting for change (in the justice system),” Mia said. “I don’t have a social media platform and haven’t felt the need to voice my opinion on there. But there was a tweet I saw on my timeline that said All Blue Lives Don’t Matter, so I needed to respond.
“There is this stereotypical viewpoint that you choose to go law enforcement because you get bad grades in school and that you are a person who gets in a ton of fights and shows a lack of work ethic. I am a student with a 3.98 GPA, taking college classes in high school, while working 30 hours a week and fully committed to playing basketball.”
The tweet also prompted her to compile a list of personal expectations as a member of the police force:
“I will never grow up to be a cop who chooses to wear a uniform for control or power.”
“I will never be a cop who puts my knee on someone’s neck, attacks an innocent protestor or looks at anyone different because of the color of their skin.”
“I see the police brutality and discrimination. I see the issue and I see why people hate those in uniform. Yet this does not deter my choices to pursue a career in protecting people in a way everyone deserves to be protected.”
“I will grow up to be a cop who walks with you. A cop who not only avoids racial injustice but works to prevent it altogether.”
“I know by choosing to be a cop, 50% of the people would agree with what I’d say and 50% would completely hate on it. I’m not looking for a ton of approval from anyone. I just want to be a cop who tries to fix this kind of situation… not make it worse.”
“If my vision on this ever changes or becomes unclear, I will take off the uniform.”
Mia plans to continue in the Explorer program through high school and possibly into college, but said she wants her main focus to be on her studies and basketball.
As for the current politics behind the Black Lives Matter movement calling for the defunding of police forces around the country, Mia sees that as a slippery slope proposition.
“As a teenager, I don’t know much about politics …how everything works, but there is definitely issues with the current system regarding racial injustice and police brutality that needs to be addressed and change brought about,” Mia said. “But at the same time, 90% of cops that put on a uniform are there to help you. If you defund the police force, which would lead to a reduction of police officers, when you have an emergency and need to call 911 for help, you may just have to figure out how to get out of the situation on your own.”
Being a police officer is not a very lucrative career to pursue and can be dangerous. But that hasn’t been a deterrent for Mia.
“People look for careers wanting to make as much money as they can while functioning in a safe environment and I get that … being a police office is one of the most dangerous jobs you can have,” Mia said.
“Honestly, I’ve thought about that. I want to have a family when I am older… want to be able to protect my family and other people too. As of right now, I’m 100 percent sure being a cop is what I want to be.”