IF YOU BURN YOUR ASS, YOU’LL SIT ON THE BLISTER …
This is an unplanned article. It is born out of frustration with the behavior of a few of my brother officers. Please allow me to set the stage for you.
I travel the country, training police officers on issues of officer survival and using technology safely in their patrol cars. I often find myself driving unfamiliar streets far from home. As a devoted people-watcher, I am engaged to see the way people behave and drive.
I was recently driving in a community where the demographics vary from very upscale (pronounced rich) folks, university students, and the not-so-well-off.
The town also has its share of dirtbags, dopers, and other assorted miscreants. A good chunk of this town could be described as anything but pristine.
Today is Saturday about 9:00AM. I leave a mid-sized strip shopping center. Turning onto the roadway, traffic is at a standstill. That’s right, a dead stop.
I’m about 12 cars back from the intersection of two major state roads. Both are divided highways, six lanes of travel in each direction, and turning lanes for every conceivable direction of travel. It is one of the largest intersections in town.
I can see ahead that there are police cars in various locations around the intersection. However, I do not have a clear vantage point and am unable to determine exactly how many units are present or what the nature of the problem may be.
After patiently waiting in my car for 15 minutes with no movement, I decide to approach the intersection on foot to learn more. My appearance: I am wearing my department sweatshirt. I just got my high & tight haircut tuned up yesterday. It would not be a great leap of faith to think that I may be a cop of some sort.
As I approach the intersection, I see that the police department has positioned units to block all vehicular traffic. There is a survey crew at work.
As I arrive at the front of the stopped cars, there are two civilians who, like me, have emerged from their cars and are visiting with each other while they wait. There is a patrol cop standing in the immediate area, near his vehicle.
I politely inquire: “Is there an estimate on how much longer the crew will be?”
The cop looks straight at me, but as though he doesn’t see me, turns around, and walks a short distance toward his patrol car.
To say that I was perplexed at this behavior is fair.
When the cop takes up a new position, I make the same inquiry again. He proceeds to look away as though he doesn’t hear me.
WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?
I was pissed at his behavior. The agency has a reputation for being arrogant, often displaying a ‘smell me’ attitude with the citizens and other cops, alike.
But, this was simply rude beyond anything I could have anticipated.
A street cop decided to piss away an opportunity to make a civilian friend. The cost of a smile and a polite response would have been zero. I would have accepted, “I don’t know,” as an answer. But, I certainly expected an answer. It is simple manners and courtesy. Was this guy absent the day that manners were taught in school?
I’VE BEEN STEWING ABOUT THIS ALL DAY
It is the citizens who help us solve crimes. Did this cop forget that?
Cop shops all across the country are coming under severe budgetary pressure. It is the citizens who have the power to vote on taxes. Did that fact escape this cop, as well?
Our authority comes from the community. As cops, we don’t pull the power of arrest out of our ass. Without the support of the community – and yes individual citizens – we have nothing. Zero. Nada.
THIS IS THE KIND OF BEHAVIOR THAT GETS COPS KILLED
I was taught that every time a cop has contact with a citizen, he is setting that citizen’s attitude and expectations about their next police encounter.
For someone with a chip on their shoulder, this rude treatment could push their attitude over the edge. The next time he is the subject of a traffic stop, he may just choose to use the gun that’s wedged under his right thigh because the last cop pissed him off.
The law enforcement community cannot afford to throw support down the drain. There is too little of it right now to go around.
The uniform gives no sanctuary to people who lack the basic interpersonal skills of being polite.
Remember that you might just be pissing off the guy who would otherwise save you when you’re getting your ass beaten on the side of a road on a traffic stop gone bad.
Based on my observations with many other officers from the agency, this problem attitude seems pervasive there. Hence, I suspect it starts at the top. When a fish rots, it starts at the head.
This behavior needlessly angers people who would otherwise be supporters. It creates an environment ripe for criminal activity because citizens won’t report it to unappreciative cops. It engenders the risk that we will add a name to the Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. that doesn’t need to be there.
This department isn’t alone. The cop I ran into today is not one-of-a-kind.
If this shoe fits your foot, it’s time to wake up.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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