I read an interesting editorial in today’s Virginian-Pilot by Coby W. Dillard addressing the interaction between the police and the citizens. It got me thinking.
My father was a police officer, although he threatened to disown me if I followed his career path. As he approached retirement, he commented that too many of the younger officers thought they were Starsky and Hutch. After retiring he told me that he was proud that in over twenty years on the force he never fired his gun except on the training range. Not even once.
He had his biases, as we all do:
- People in the richest neighborhoods look at the police as beneath them—almost as servants, and inconvenient ones at that.
- There are other neighborhoods in which the occupants believe the way to settle any dispute involves using firearms.
- No matter what you catch someone doing, it’s not their fault, they’re innocent and it’s all a misunderstanding.
I remember when cops walked a beat, and really knew the people. I remember my father stopping home for dinner when his patrol area included our neighborhood. We lived on a dead-end street and all the neighborhood kids would pile into the police car for a ride to the end of the street and back. He didn’t run the siren and lights all the way, just for a few seconds, to the delight of every kid in the car.
These are my opinions, biases, and suggestions. I’ve never been a police officer, but as a veteran I’ve borne arms in dangerous areas among people who weren’t to be trusted and were intent on hurting or killing me. I’ve seen death up close and personal a hundred times over. I’m old enough to perhaps even have a little wisdom.
- Everyone—both police and non-police—has forgotten that police officers are citizens. It is not police OR citizens. We are all in this together. It’s us; there is no “them.”
- Our country has an excellent military. On the other hand, people who are not in the military but who tromp around in military-like regalia don’t impress me. This ranges from the open-carry self-appointed militia bubbas to small town police with government surplus MRAPs (mine resistant ambush protected vehicles) and grenade launchers. By the way, MRAPs get about six to eight miles to the gallon, paid for by us taxpayers. They weigh about eighteen tons, which tends to collapse small bridges, crack roads and even collapse the sewers and pipes buried beneath the roads—requiring repairs also paid for by taxpayers.
- We’ve forgotten how to communicate. Chanting slogans makes great video for the twenty-four-hour-news monster but does nothing to support a dialogue. By the same token, no one “exits their ve-HIC-le.” We get out of the car. We need to talk with one another, not at one another.
Life is hard enough as it is. Let’s not make it harder.