Many (most) cops mean well. I get that. I do. Really. It’s just that you don’t know which one you’ll draw. Your specific exposure to the random pool of police officers is a crap shoot.
I’ve watched attitudes progress from “serve and protect” to military gear and bad attitudes that kill, injure, and hassle law abiding people, trash people’s houses, and burn babies in their crib. You’d have to be a world class moron to expect badges to come with a halo. Cops are just people. Some are wonderful, all have flaws, a scant few are thugs.
Maybe things were better in the past? I don’t know. That’s irrelevant. If Andy Griffith has become RoboCop (or Tony Soprano) I accept that as simply the world as it is. Again, before everyone gets all atwitter and submits comments ranting about revolution, I’m not about that. I’m not saying all police are swine. I’m not an oppressed peasant facing Stalin. I was just meeting a cog in a system and systems do what they will. Logic, kindness, and justice come from people but not from systems.
The most likely “bad scenario” would be a traffic infraction or fine; even if the justification would be shaky. That would piss me off but I’ve got a checkbook and would readily make a hobby out of fighting city hall. Bring it. (The moral hazard of police financing through fines is something I saw young and long before cops owned tanks.)
What else might happen? Well… anything could happen. I’m as law abiding as a Boy Scout, it’s legal to tow a woodsplitter, and there’s no law against flat tires. So maybe he’d be real nice and show me pictures of his grandkids. Then again I look like a serial killer, wouldn’t cower before Voldemort himself, and it was a dark lonely road.
The middle option? I might have to listen to a mind numbing lecture about public safety. Ugh! I’d almost rather get shot.
The least desirable outcome was the very extremely unlikely (but not impossible) draw of the “thug lottery”. A serving of “respect my authoritah” is something I don’t fear but it wouldn’t be fun. Of course that outcome is out of my hands so I’ve long ago made peace with it. There’s a non-zero chance I might be tazed, shot, and tossed in the hoosegow over something that’s not a crime. That’s simply true. (I said “made peace with”, not “looking forward to”.) Your mileage may vary but I’m perfectly prepared to say take a hit if one comes and never raise a hand back or flee. I’ll smile as long as it takes to spit teeth on the ground and lawyer up the next day. All that really matters to me is that I won’t babble something like “don’t taze me bro” because that’s whiny bullshit. (To a thug, that’s a good enough reason to taze me. Ironic no?)
Yes, I’m cynical and paranoid. Then again it’s true that your cell phone is tapped, your car can commit a crime while you’re not in it, and the cop had already run my plates before he decided to blind me with his flashlight and approach so I couldn’t see him.
I pressed my truck’s key fob (locking the doors) and waited. If you want access to my truck you can break a window like a thug or get a warrant like a law enforcement officer. Of course the only thing my truck holds is maps, tools, and insurance papers so carefully organized that the Gestapo couldn’t find fault with them; but it’s the principle of the thing. I was not carrying at the moment and I set down the breaker bar that was in my hand.
I tried to smile. I’m not sure if my smile is appealing or reminds people of the Joker. At least I tried.
Would today be the day?
“Dude, that sucks!” The officer exclaimed.
He aimed his flashlight at the woodsplitter, spoke like a real human being, and examined the melted fender like someone who cared.
I breathed a sign of relief. Today was not the day. (Maybe the day will never come?) Great news!
In one second he’d gone from “cop” to “officer”. There’s a lesson in that and every officer in every force should learn it.
“It’s been that kind of week.” I agreed (as I relaxed).
“I’ve got a can of fix a flat?” He offered. Then he saw the tire which was literally split in half and shook his head sadly. A magic wand wouldn’t fix that tire. “You’re going to Ed’s?” (Ed’s is the only tire store in town.)
“I’d love to but I don’t want to leave my splitter where it can be stolen.”
“I can wait here.”
I felt a ray of hope. “Really? That’s about the nicest thing…” I was blown away. A simple, helpful, logical solution, born of an honest desire to help.
“If there’s another call I’ll have to go.”
“Fair ’nuff.” I agreed. “Thanks officer.” I shook his hand and got moving.
That’s how you do it! Every time a bit of bitter cynicism gets chipped away by a good police officer doing well, the ghost of Sir Robert Peel gets a free beer in heaven.