Generally speaking, I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never been pulled over. Heck, I’m not even sure I’ve ever even spoken to a police officer. But for some reason I’m afraid of them.
Maybe “afraid” isn’t the right word. Maybe I should say “intimidated.” I almost have the sense that if I don’t draw attention to myself by trying to interact with the police, I’ll go unnoticed, and that’s the most desirable outcome. I would never seek out an opportunity to interact with an officer of the law.
This weekend, I overheard a father pointing out an officer to his toddler and instructing her to give him a thumbs up, which really got me thinking. Thinking about how this dad was going out of his way to make a positive association for his child with the police, how he was teaching her to reach out and also show a subtle measure of thanks. And here I was, skulking by. I had nothing to hide and could’ve given my own kids the same message, but I didn’t.
So I started asking myself where this worry stems from, and sadly, the answer is the news. It’s not my imagination that every week there’s some new story (or three) about a police shooting in which the officer’s actions seem anything but defensive. And the more I read about these incidents, the more videos I watch of officers brandishing guns at moments that seem totally inappropriate, the more I fear the individuals sworn to protect us.
This conflict between how I know I should feel about the police and how I do feel reminds me of a bumper sticker from another era:
The fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t hesitate to dial 911 and ask for an officer’s help if I were really, truly in trouble. And I know they’d come. We rely on law enforcement in some deeply important ways, and I certainly don’t mean to diminish that, but boy, have they been getting some bad press.
So tell me, do you fear the police, consciously or subconsciously? What do you tell your own children about the police?