CHARLOTTE – When you represent the shield, whether that be for the NFL or local police, you're subject to generalizations.
Kenjon Barner knows what that's like as a running back going into his sixth year in the NFL.
"When you get those few bad apples – just like they do with athletes – everybody is grouped together," Barner said. "Not every cop is a bad cop. Not every cop is a good cop."
Barner, like so many of us, has been affected by the images of police brutality he's seen on the news. It made him want to learn more about the difficult decisions police officers face.
"What we all see are the situations where someone loses their life," Barner said. "It's in those situations where everybody forms an opinion based off what they see – without ever really taking the time to see what it's like on the opposite side."
Just before the start of training camp, Barner visited the Corona Police Department – located 20 minutes away from the southern California high school he attended – to educate himself. He took part in a ride-along and also went through a series of simulations where he was tasked with diffusing hostile situations.
"I wanted to be able to step inside the shoes of a police officer to some degree to see what it takes to make those decisions," said Barner, who majored in criminology at the University of Oregon.
Barner described one particularly difficult simulation where he was attempting to detain someone in possession of a firearm.
"I'm telling him to calm down, calm down and then he jerks the gun. I shot," Barner said. "I'm thinking it's my life or his.
"That's as close to it as I can get making those split-second decisions," he added. "It's hard."
Barner said he's spoken to a few guys on the team about the experience. He hopes more people will see the value in gaining that perspective.
"It's something everyone should do if they have opportunity," Barner said. "It opens your eyes."