I could never be a police officer. Imagine the type of control it takes just to make a regular, “Your blinker is broken,” traffic stop. You hit the lights and the big, black SUV with the tinted out windows slowly pulls off to the side of the road. You are pulling them over because you noticed they were swerving across the white line. Before you get out of the police cruiser to approach the vehicle, you gather yourself. You have no idea what’s waiting for you behind that tinted window.
Is it a teenager that was texting and not watching the road? A grandmother borrowing her daughter’s family vehicle while hers is in the shop? Maybe it’s a drunk man with a handgun. As you approach the window, you wonder if this is going to be a polite encounter or if the person in the driver’s seat will be enraged by the very sight of your uniform. Will you be writing a ticket, giving a warning, or getting shot at in a fight for your life? This is the daily routine of a cop.
Cops are humans. I know, you didn’t see that coming. For your entire life, you thought that they were perfect beings, capable of no wrong. They would never break someone’s spine, shoot someone in the back, or mag-lite someone into brain damage. However, regardless of what you thought, they are human beings. Was this an abuse of power, a lapse in judgement, or a shot of adrenaline to overcome fear? I couldn’t tell you. Like I said, I could never be a cop. I don’t know what causes these decisions, I just know a blatantly wrong decision when I see one.
It’s a human thing, you know? Cops are great. “protect and serve and drink coffee in their small town gas station.” They’re people just like you and I. They’re scared, imperfect people doing a job that involves constant interaction with other extremely imperfect people. Things will go wrong. We don’t have to accept the things that go wrong, just the fact that they will go wrong.
We have to understand that things are imperfect, people are imperfect, and find that proverbial middle-ground solution. Bad things will happen, and when they happen, the trust will be broken and hierarchies will collapse. Riots will ensue. More people will get hurt. The problem isn’t the police force. The problem starts when the solidarity of a police force protecting criminal cops who make bad decisions forces an intrinsic fear on law-abiding citizens.
When every officer stands up for what are essentially criminals in a uniform, how are we expected to be ok with a routine traffic stop anymore? Now you have an apprehensive cop, because of the everyday volatility of their job, and an apprehensive citizen, because they can no longer decipher the good cops from the bad. As with anything, one bad apple can spoil the entire bushel if it isn’t separated. To all citizens, I say this. Support your police force and solidarity. They aren’t perfect, but neither is the job they’re required to do. To police, I say please understand the fear you instill in people when you back criminal activity in your ranks. When you muddy the waters of right and wrong for a self-serving cause, you hurt yourselves as much as you hurt the people you’re sworn to protect. Our solidarity should be as human beings with human rights. It should be between officer and citizen, not officer and criminal.
Opinion and Blog By Ryan Kinasz