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Monday, November 8, 2010

Stereotypes does cops disservice

I haven’t had my coffee yet so please bear with me as I spew forth some of my pet peeves through my lens as a police officer.

As in many professions, I’m sure there are things that get under your skin as it pertains to your work at hand. For example, those who work for the United States Post Office likely have abhorrent feelings when they hear the phrase, “going postal”. It’s an unfair generalization and a negative stereotype that those in the postal profession must endure.

I’m sensitive to these generalizations because I have had to sometimes smile politely after telling others what I do for a living. When I inform them I’m a police officer, I’m often met with, “YOU, are a police officer? You’re so small!!” My canned response is generic laughter with the playful comeback, “I may be small but I can maim you in 17 different ways.” Surely I jest but it is quite frustrating to be judged on physical stature. Now that I spend more time in an office, I tell people not to worry because I leave the real policing to the muscular police officers on the street. (The only thing I have wrestled with since entering a management position is a stubborn staple and a staple remover. I always win though.)

While I’m venting, I speak on behalf of all police officers when I say that parents should stop telling their young children that the police will arrest them if they don’t behave. I have been enjoying a meal while on duty when parents at the next table point to me and say, “You see that police officer, Johnny? She’s going to arrest you if you don’t clean your plate!” This is just one of the many examples I’ve heard over the years. (My favorite was a father who told his son that I had handcuffs and would use them on him if he didn’t stop wetting his bed at night.)

I realize that this may seem like a harmless threat imposed upon children with the intent to get them to fall in line. In reality, it only serves to make children afraid of the police. We work very hard to teach children to trust police officers so if they find themselves in danger, they will seek us out. The conditioning that occurs by well-meaning parents is counter-productive and actually does us and your child a disservice. If children fear we will put them in jail for not cleaning behind their ears, they won’t come to us when they are in trouble. If you are a parent that has done this at some time, don’t worry. Just make it a point to set the record straight. It’s your job to get your kids to eat the green stuff and brush and floss - not ours.

My coffee is still brewing so I will continue my rant…

If you ever have the unfortunate experience of getting pulled over for a traffic violation, please don’t ask the officer if they have better things to do. Furthermore, please do not utter, “Why don’t you go after the real criminals?” If you ask any police officer, you will most likely hear that the least favorite part of their job is writing tickets. Unfortunately, we have to uphold all of the laws - not just the felonious ones. This means that if you are caught speeding or running a red light, we must use enforcement. I realize that committing a traffic violation does not make you a dangerous criminal. However, traffic laws are enforced to prevent serious injury or death from car accidents. Although it may seem like we are targeting law abiding citizens, I assure you that we do it with your safety in our minds and try to convince you to correct your behavior.

My coffee is done brewing and I am done spewing.