Just feeling like it’ll be healthier to get something off my chest. Or at least help clear up any possible confusion about my feelings on something.
I sure do seem to see a lot of mentions about the police lately. The Fuzz. John Law. Da Man. Tha Po-Po. Flatfoots. Five-O. The Heat.
Yeah … I’m going to talk about “them”.
Between being a plain ol’ regular citizen and some years spent in the media, I’ve had my encounters with a variety of law enforcement. I’ve hung out with several to one degree or another, broke bread with quite a few, even drank with one now & then.
At least two of those that come to mind are dead now. Both gunned down in the line of duty. One caught a shotgun blast while trying to rescue a hostage. The other, arguably the best officer I ever saw, was more simply murdered in cold blood during an otherwise routine traffic stop.
Ah, those media encounters. I ended up with a pretty hard shell about the stories I covered, it’s a way of allowing yourself to function and deal with any emotions later, after the job was done. But every once in a while, you’re overwhelmed.
That was the case on a quiet weekend morning when I left the radio station to cover a serious two-car collision that sounded pretty bad. The scanner didn’t really prepare me for the sight that awaited. A head-on crash just before lunch, killed a young mother when her relatively new car didn’t stand up to the impact of a solid steel early 70s model. She was killed instantly, her two screaming pre-schoolers pinned in the wreckage were in pretty bad shape.
I’d rather not go into the details of what extreme measures had to be taken to extricate those children from the mangled car. It was gruesome, tragic, horrifying, and I basically lost it. I stumbled to the side of the road and puked. I was honestly embarrassed by that, I’m supposed to be a professional after all, but as I tried to regain my composure I became aware of hearing someone else in the same situation. I looked around to see a veteran state trooper from the local post just down the road having the same experience. He shortly joined me on the sidelines, and we sat there in silence … and wept.
We cried even harder as we watched the occupants of the other vehicle being prepared, uninjured, for transport. Three youths, drunker than the proverbial Cooter Brown … so out of touch with reality that they were giggling. They didn’t even seem to realize they’d crossed the centerline in their morning stupor, much less the hell and misery they’d caused. Or maybe they just didn’t really care.
Cops and reporters seem to get along surprisingly well at times. While our jobs are occasionally at odds, we often have a similarly dark sense of humor or maybe sharing a similar seen-it-all feeling about life, so I’ve talked to a few officers after hours, off-duty. What stands out to me about those times aren’t the stories they tell, it’s the stories they start to tell … but don’t finish. The cloud that overtakes their faces, it always seems to be the same, no matter if they’re young or old, black or white, from a big city or small backwater.
Of course not every officer is the same. Nor a saint. I’ve known more than one megalomaniac that ended up with a badge. I’ve been pushed around a few times, been threatened with a choice of arrest or bodily harm, seen authority abused for personal instead of professional reasons. In other words, pretty much the same behavior I’ve seen in every other profession. Bad cops do exist, same as bad anything else.
There’s occasional great ones, some good ones, a wealth of average ones, some bad ones, once in a while a really bad one. Same as pretty much anything else … except, in my observation, not really the same.
See, unlike the vast majority of professions, they’re expected to run toward danger. To stand between the innocent and the predators. They’re held to a higher standard of conduct than John and Jane Doe, with greater expectations heaped upon them. When things go to hell around them, they’re expected to be THE final line between civilized people and the savages that steadily seem to increase in number with every passing day. And they get it right the vast majority of the time, I’d even argue that they make significantly more errors on the side of caution & restraint than they should ever be put in position to endure.
When push comes to shove, when the rubber meets the road, when there’s a decision to be made in a split second … I trust them more — exponentially more — than I trust “the average citizen”. They’ve proven themselves for generations, and continue to do so. The “average” citizen? Not nearly so much so as far as I’m concerned, and the bar for “average” has been in precipitous decline for a very long time.
Give me facts about a situation, all of them, and I’ll draw a conclusion on an individual basis. You won’t see me taking a default position of backing criminals, thugs, scofflaws, or the legion of useful idiots that seems to be without end. That motley collection of miscreants that seem to ally themselves frequently has earned my contempt but that’s about it. For the initial assumption, an expectation, the benefit of the proverbial doubt … I’m going with blue (or tan, or khaki) every time.
They’ve earned it.