Cops & Robbers

19 Aug

 “Be good or I’ll have the police come and get you,” I overheard a mother tease her young daughter as an officer loomed in the distance. The little girl squealed like her mom had just threatened to sick the Boogie Man on her. I chuckled when she burrowed  her head deep into her mother’s dress as the officer drew closer. In some communities, officers are a monster of sorts. Nearly a month ago, a Dallas man was shot by a police officer. Now, the man killed was no saint. He had an extensive record and was running from an officer while simultaneously fighting him, according to reports, when he was murdered.   

But the death nearly sparked a riot in the surrounding area, as word spread that somebody’s neighbor, son, brother, friend was killed at the hands of a police officer. Remember, criminals have families. They have friends. They have loved ones who mourn their loss just as strongly one would an angel. A cocktail of circumstances, choices and luck is the only thing separating an officer from the man or woman in custody. Justice is in the eye of beholder. I’m in no way justifying breaking the law: I’m just pointing out where the gray areas lie.

Last year, I interviewed a young woman whose father was killed by an officer when she was 10.

“The police had my mom wake me and my little sister up. My little sister was one at the time. We were all standing at the door and they killed him in front of us,” she stated.

Heavy, isn’t it? Any human who wields the power of life and death walks a thin line between good and evil, hero and villain, savior and bully. The officers in question were never charged. The case never made it beyond a grand jury.

One thing that undeniably contributes to the distrust is the fact that most men and women in blue in Dallas don’t actually live in the city. They commute to and from its suburban borders to patrol their assigned inner-city beats. This matters. To understand the key players in an area and their role, one has to know who they are.

One night, I sat in the car chatting with a friend. An officer, with a blinding flashlight, pulled up in front. It just so happened that the guy I was with was also a police officer. The two got into a bit of a spat. The intruding officer said that he didn’t know me and that the area had a high incidence of prostitution (Gee thanks–I’ve only lived here the last two years). My friend replied that we had a right to sit in front of my home.

“I’m just doing my job,” he returned.

I left them arguing outside.

Once, when I was running at a neighborhood park, I met another officer working my beat. With a grin, he rolled down the window and asked how I was doing.

“Fine,” I spurted, eying the vehicle suspiciously.

 When I finished my run and was walking back home, about 15 minutes later, he popped up again, wanting my number.

“If you tell me where you live, I’ll be sure to keep an extra eye out,” he offered.

Creeped out by the mere idea of this man keeping a close eye on anything of mine, I politely declined.

Now to be fair, I’ve also met some amazing men and women who put their lives on the line daily. I’ve interviewed Dallas’ chief of police, who is set on improving community relations and has implemented policies for foot chases since the July shooting. One pal is works in a police program that brings free sports camps to kids and teens in at-risk areas.

I respect them. But no uniform makes a person above the law. No uniform implies sainthood. And no uniform makes it wearer incapable of mistakes.


3 Responses to “Cops & Robbers”

  1. Stuart August 20, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    That was as usual a very good and engaging article.



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