Social media is an interesting armchair style warrior. Lots of opinions and sometimes zero experience or knowledge on a subject. The problem is we Cops don’t always know what someone else might have experienced or what their personal Law Enforcement story is. One reader today regarded this page as a “circle jerk LEO” page which made me remember something. Cops aren’t just Cops anymore we are Diplomats and Ambassadors to society. There is a certain responsibilitiy which goes along with the ideal and is inclusive in the duties of a Law Enforcement Officer.
People who are not cops and have never been cops might never fully understand every facet of our calling. Why become angry with those who are under a differing opinion? Obviously it’s ridiculous to think that Law Enforcement Officers are all racially motivated or on the flip side of the coin that we are all “the right hand of the democratic party’s agenda.” Ignorance can be bliss but I would rather enlighten than insult. All may not be enlightened I realize yet in some occasions it is well worth the extra effort which may benefit the Police Reputation.
I teach my children to ask questions and not simply obey commands given to them by someone claiming to be a leader. I also teach my children to be respectful in the asking of those questions and most importantly to listen to the answer and make their own determination. When people put forth ridiculous ideas regarding cops we should seek to answer those accusations with logic and truth. We can also do it diplomatically if the misguided person isn’t too hostile. We may not reach all using this method but less will also be turned away.
When working the streets I usually allowed the public to ask any question they wanted, so long as it was safe at the time for me to do so. In one particular incident I had made a felony arrest on a subject with a warrant. Several people came out of the buildings nearby and began yelling at me. I feared they would surround me so while I was mentally prepared to kill all of them if needed, I also politely told them to give me a minute and promised to answer their questions.
I put the bad guy in the back seat of my car and secured him safely while asking for a cover unit. The potential mob was still angry but at a safe distance. Once my cover partner arrived I had him keep an eye on my prisoner and I approached the group with a smile. I asked what questions they had and It turned out these people were relatives of the man in my car, or so they claimed to be. It really didn’t matter, at this point I felt a small obligation to attempt an explanation as to why in their eyes “the government was taking away their friend for no reason.”
It was calmly explained I had a warrant for his arrest, explained the booking process and provided information on how they could contact the jail to schedule a visit with the subject. I was then asked about the court process, this time they were much less angry in asking the question. I explained the court process and the likelihood the subject would be in jail until his first hearing which would probably occur on the following Tuesday. I was thanked profusely by most of the group and they returned to their homes. One guy even tried to give me a hug and stated: “now that’s respect.”
Later in the day I had a discussion with my partner who told me it was pointless for me to address the small group. I explained I had only done this when it was safe to do so yet he believed I was wasting my time. It was difficult for me at the time to articulate my reasons for doing so but in short I told him this particular neighborhood might be more cooperative with Law Enforcement in the future if we treated them with a little more respect. I tell this story because I believe it is not a waste of time to explain circumstances which the public may not fully understand. Hell, the whole point of writing here is to hopefully enlighten and educate not just to complain. Otherwise our words only serve to rally those who are supportive and turn away those who may be on the fence.
I started a text conversation with one of my favorite and most trusted beat partners regarding this subject and he summed it up quickly and accurately while heading out the door. In a short text message which took him less than a minute to write he hit the nail on the head and went on to prove my point here. Examine the following text message:
“I think we have a responsibility to speak rationally and logically when we speak for the side of law enforcement. It becomes obvious that we are cops in these discussions, so why portray ourselves as irrational asshats. We both know that law enforcement officers in general are not out there hunting minorities and just trying to f with people, but there are people out there who legitimately think otherwise. We have legitimate arguments which carry serious weight. I think we do us and the real issues a huge disservice when we just yell and down talk people. I think some people start seeing the validity of our points when we calmly explain them.”