Tough economic times have hit the public service sector much like everywhere else. Pay raises are a thing of the past, benefits are being cut, and overtime is frowned upon. So, I'm taking certain precautions while seeking overtime from the boss.
Let me start this with a warning. Some of you may find the following offensive. I apologize in advance.
I am a detective for a city police department in Virginia. With recent events heavy on my mind, I would like to provide a cop's perspective on things. I do this because I love what I do. I find it to be one of the few honorable things in my life that I have been able to accomplish.
Before we label certain law enforcement officers as "racists" or "acting stupidly," I ask that you walk a mile in our shoes before passing judgment. We are normally programmed not to pass judgment from our religion or parents so why not apply it to police. I am not making excuses. There are racist officers. There are stupid officers. Then there are those officers who are not perfect, but just human (99% of police). I fall into the human category (at least the evidence says I do). I have made mistakes. Our local police departments and sheriff's offices are not hiring robots. They are hiring men and women with emotions, imperfections, and personalities. Despite this, most officers get it right almost every time. Sometimes we fail and we hear about it as we should. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. But, it sure would be nice to get that pat on the back every once in a while when we get it right. That doesn't always happen. Why? Well, if we get it wrong, people could die, criminals could go free, innocent people could lose their freedoms, we may not go home to our families. So we are held to a higher standard and that is how it should be. Doing things honorably and with integrity is a requirement. However, wouldn't it be nice if the rest of society would hold themselves to that same standard. Lets read a story.
Today we setup a sting operation on an armed drug dealer driving a stolen vehicle. The vehicle was a blue pathfinder and we had information on where that vehicle would be from a reliable source. BUT, things weren't perfect.. Shocking, I know. We didn't have a plate number. We didn't have all the details.
Next, we see a blue pathfinder approach our area and make a u-turn before pulling into a nearby park. I didn't have enough probable cause for the stop so I made consensual contact once the vehicle was parked. Now, lets understand that its not consensual contact if I approach with my gun drawn or if I order the guy out of the car at gunpoint. So to ensure that no one's rights are violated, I approached the parked vehicle (with a possibly armed suspect) and asked permission to see their ID. The subject complied, the vehicle checked out, and I gave a quick explanation with a half hearted apology and let him go (I had things to do, no time to give a shoulder rub, we needed to setup again). Now, what if he didn't comply? What if he refused to provide an ID? Would that make any of you suspicious? Knowing your looking for an armed bad guy fitting this description, do you worry for your safety or for offending someone of a different race? Things worked out and we arrested three bad guys later this evening. But, was I racist for approaching that first car with an innocent man of a different race?
Now, back up a couple of years. I am a patrolmen. I clear a fatal accident involving a teenager. It was not a pretty scene. Speed was a factor. The teenager is the same age as my niece. I think about what the parents, friends, and family are going through. I am in a foul mood. A couple of hours later, I am running radar in the same area. I stop a car for going 20mph over the speed limit. I ask for ID. The guy responds by asking why I stopped him and doesn't produce an ID. I get suspicious and explain to him that it is abnormal to respond to a question with a question. The guy tells me I'm racist. I tell him he is acting like an asshole and write a ticket.
So lets review.. Was my behavior appropriate? No, of course not because as a professional, you can't refer to people as assholes even though they probably are at that moment. Does that make me a racist? I sure as hell hope not... assholes come in various shades. Could you characterize my behavior as stupid? Maybe. But before you do that, put yourself at that crash scene, smell the burning rubber from the tires, listen to the sobs of responding family members, picture the broken body of a teen whose life has been taken way too soon without any justifiable reason.. Then tell me if you're going to be in a mood to put up with anyone's bs.
Cops deal with hundreds of people every week or so. We see people on their worst days. But most cops love what they do. We don't do it for the money or the wonderful hours involved in police work. We are held to the highest possible standard and that's how it should be. It is an honor to be involved in this line of work.
I just ask that when you catch a cop on a bad day, please realize you don't know what he or she has just witnessed or what past experiences are coming to light. Every perceived mistake does not make us racist or stupid. We are human like everyone else.
So I close with this. To the elite, to the highly educated, to those making policy... We don't give two shits about the color of your skin or if we offend your delicate sensibilities. We have bigger and better things to worry about.