I remember as a kid living in Raleigh, North Carolina, the police rolling through our neighborhood. All us kids loved when they did. When these officers came through we would flag them down, and every time they would stop. These cops would roll down their windows, ask us how we were doing, and take a minute for a nice little chat. Best of all, they had basketball cards!
Basketball is king in North Carolina. Duke, the Tarheels, NC State, Dean Smith, Coach K, Jimmy Valvano, Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, and many others were our heroes. The cops who gave us their basketball cards were our friends.
Today, California cops have blindly opened fire on 2 pickup trucks that resembled the description of an ex-cop who is telling stories of police abuse. In both instances, the police fired on the cars of innocent people unrelated to their case. Two were injured and sent to the hospital, while the police attempt to silence one of their own who knows too much.
Monday we heard a story from Cleveland, where over 50 officers chased a car, 13 officers, fired 137 rounds into a car killing both unarmed occupants inside. The police in this case were so violent and reckless they also managed to shoot their own patrol cars with friendly fire in the process.
I do not write this to bash the police. Many officers are good people who would never take part in incidents such as these. My assessment as an outsider looking in and from my conversations with off duty police, facebook observations, and other 2nd and 3rd hand accounts is that the culture of the police has dramatically changed in the last 20 years.
It seems that there is a huge Us vs. Them mentality in today’s police force. No longer do they assume you are a nice kid hanging out on the corner with your buddies, talking about basketball, now you are a street thug looking to push crack onto the first unsuspecting middle school kid who happens by. Every person with headlight out on their car is a terrorist or DUI. Anyone who dares question their authority is resisting arrest, threatening, disorderly, trespassing, or any other vague criminal sounding term used to violate the rights of the ‘accused’.
It’s not entirely hard to understand. Cops are called on to deal with many of the worst people in society. They do have to risk their lives occasionally in a domestic dispute where one person may be attempting or already injured another, who may be armed, and may not care whose life they take. It happens. Additionally, when you do have to deal with those types of people as part of your job instead of say kindergarteners, I can see where a cop might tend to become jaded.
That however, is the problem. When you begin to see everyone as a scumbag, you begin to treat everyone like a scumbag, and then in turn, they will act more like scumbags. I am sure that the majority of the people that police encounter are not murders, terrorist or wife beaters. Most of the people the cops run into on a daily basis are good, hardworking folks, who may be late for a meeting and driving a few mph over the speed limit. They may not even realize their headlight or turn indicator isn’t working properly. When they were on their way home after a long week in the office and rolled through that stop sign in their neighborhood, it wasn’t to disrespect you or the law, they just wanted to see their kids a moment sooner.
These circumstances do not violate the rights of anyone. No one is harmed if you roll through a stop sign. No one is harmed if you go a little faster than the sign says you are supposed to. No one is harmed if you decide after a long week at work to relax in the hotub on your back porch and smoke a little weed.
There was a time not too long ago when the police were ‘Peace Officers’. At that time their motto was ‘To Protect and Serve’. Who is served by a speed trap? Who is served or protected when a cop is hiding on a residential side street waiting for someone to roll through a stop sign? What happened to the cops who drove through neighborhoods handing out basketball cards? Why do cops use the term ‘Law Enforcement’ now? Is that all they care about? Is that the new mentality? “I am here to force you to do exactly as we say you should! Stop Resisting!”
We do not need more law enforcers. Many of these silly laws were written for no reason other than to collect revenue. Today’s cops do not seem concerned with ‘protect and serve. Their motto is now ‘collect and arrest’. Law enforcement is just a fancy name for tax collector or revenue generator for their jurisdiction. Sure, it makes some people feel safer, but they have not yet been on the other side of the blue lights. Meet the quota, or get penalized. Cops have no choice but to write bogus tickets and create scenarios that would not normally exist to meet the stats their superiors require.
I hope one day the ‘law enforcement’ mentality, the ‘do as I say’ mentality and the ‘everyone is a criminal’ mentality goes away. I would love for the police to once again become Peace Officers, friendly neighborhood guys who take the opportunity to talk to the kids in the neighborhoods they patrol. I still have good memories of cops from my childhood, but the more I read and see today the faster those memories are being wiped away.
When I have had need to contact the police I am happy they were there to answer the call, and happy there were able to assist with my issues. The police I personally know are not bad people, and I am sure that the people who know the cops involved in these recent incidents would say the same thing. I long for a day when we can all be treated equally. When cops do not do for each other what they would not do for any of us. If a cop or his wife would be let go for speeding, the same courtesy should be extended to the taxpayers that pay his salary. I hope the Us vs. Them culture can one day be overcome and we can all be part of society together instead of against each other.
It is my hope that my children will one day reflect on their childhood and remember the cool cops from their neighborhood, church, and school that took the time to talk to them, and do not remember all the violence, corruption and abuse that seems to be more prevalent today.