We’ve all heard that the police are here to serve and protect us. I want to devote this post to the first of those two missions.
Have you ever needed to return something you purchased to a store? You changed your mind, it’s too big or too small or it doesn’t go with your chartreuse shoes the way you thought it would. And there you are, annoyed because you have to waste your time going back to the store, waiting in line with all the rest of the customers who are as annoyed as you because they’re doing the same thing.
Then you get to the desk and find a young lady who is thinking that it’s only another two and a half hours until she can get lunch and she’s had a morning filled with nasty customers who believe that she is responsible because their purchase doesn’t go with their chartreuse shoes. But you’re confident in your ability to expedite this entire process. You’re going to be pushy and cranky and demand a refund – no store credit will be acceptable to you.
It’s an immovable object and irresistible force kind of thing.
I would be willing to bet that many of the people who work in customer service entered that line of work because they are “people persons.” Or at least they once were. But as they listen to never ending complaints, especially when they are expressed without the civility of a “Please” or “Thank You,” well, it does takes its toll on the human spirit. Illegitimi non carborundum be damned. And who are the perpetrators of this destruction of the human spirit? They are nice, everyday, “normal” people like you and me.
Now let’s consider the police and their mission to serve the public. On the light end of things, we have those who are assigned to traffic duty. I’ve known quite a few people who were caught committing a moving violation. When they’ve explained this experience it is generally done by using rather salty language, thoroughly interspersed with expletives. I have yet to hear someone describe their arrest by saying, “You know, I had the best morning. The nicest policeman, an Officer Friendly, pulled me over for doing 65 mph in a 40 mph zone. I am so grateful to him that he reminded me that by travelling at that speed I was endangering other motorists, pedestrians and myself. I’m certainly going to take this to heart and stay within the speed limit in the future.”
The prudent motorist while awaiting the arrival of his ticket and the return of his registration and license is probably not cursing out the arresting office aloud. But I am sure many of those in that circumstance aren’t thinking about buying tickets to the Policeman’s Ball either. And I’m sure the body language is sufficient for the officer to pick up on their antipathy toward him or her. And they get that every day, every time they stop another abusive motorist.
But as I said, that’s the light end of the job. Take those who work in drug details or are assigned to a unit that specializes in trying to track down those who rape children or commit murder. Dealing with that sort of depravity on a daily basis has to take a toll on a person’s spirit and humanity. I know that’s a job that I couldn’t handle for very long.
Has any member of the police force ever made a mistake – one perhaps that resulted in an innocent person’s death? Of course. We all make mistakes – or there would be no need for a police force or a court system or jails. But the current narrative that the police are some sort of occupying force whose goal is to beat the citizenry into submission – well, I just don’t see that.
To those who do work on our police forces, I am grateful that they have accepted the responsibility to serve the public generally and me in particular. And I wish them well and offer a heartfelt, “Thank you.” Perhaps if more of us took a moment to say those two words to the people we meet, we could help reduce the hostility that seems to have enslaved so many of us. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?