by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon
I don’t have a kid, but I plan to one day. And I am a seriously excessive planner so I was thinking about it and something occurred to me. One is “supposed to” tell their child that if they are in trouble a police officer will help them. Thing is, I am uncomfortable suggesting that because someone obtained a badge they are actually a good person.
I have had overwhelmingly bad experiences with the police. Growing up my uncle was harassed constantly because of his oddly colored hair. The police in the parish I grew up in made dateline for their horrible civil forfeiture behaviors. (I included a video on that process below. It’s horrifying) As a result, my instinct has never really been “oh this cop must want to help” but rather “what is this cop hoping to gain.”
When I got into a wreck, the responding cop cursed at me for asking him to check the other driver’s brake lights (and refused to do so). About a year later, I got a call from an investigator. Turns out the other driver had been causing wrecks intentionally as part of an insurance fraud scheme. Maybe if the cop had checked the guy’s brake lights it could have been discovered sooner and some of the wrecks prevented. Instead he chose to curse at me.
And as far as my friends go, I know a ton of people who have been harassed and/or roughed up by someone who could only be described as a bully with a badge. One friend was beaten by the New Orleans Police for a reason that to this day remains unclear. His most vivid memory of the event is them screaming “where’s the PCP?” for some unexplained reason. He was drunk, but not driving. He was a passenger in a sober friend’s car. A sober friend who they did not harass. When he went to court for “crossing a police barricade” (there was no barricade, and clearly their vehicle hadn’t passed one or the driver would have been arrested as well), the officers who beat him weren’t there and he was told the case was dismissed. His lawyer told him pursuing anything related to the beating was pointless.
My ex once called the police to report a neighbor beating a dog with a shovel. He had also called animal control but they were unresponsive because it was a weekend. When the cop got there, he was very rude and started cursing at my ex (it is a trend I have noticed) basically saying that he didn’t care whether the dog was being beaten or not and that he was not going to do anything. Eventually after he told my ex to “shut the fuck up” my ex responded with “well why don’t you do your fucking job?” (admittedly a mistake but anyone would be emotional after watching someone completely disregard violent animal cruelty). The cop then very violently cuffed my ex – he was badly bruised- and told him he was being arrested for “interfering with a police investigation” despite the fact that he was refusing to actually investigate anything. The charge got dropped rapidly with the help of a lawyer but undoubtedly there were no consequences to the officer who responded to a call by harassing the person who called him.
I know not all police are bad, but because far more of my personal experiences have been negative than positive I tense up when I see a cop. In my mind, it doesn’t matter what I am doing, that person has the power to make my life hard just because they feel like it and overwhelmingly they would get away with it. We have a system that enables bad police to behave however they want with little to no repercussions. Heck, a big chunk of my (very brief) desire to go to law school was related to the desire to be able to defend myself and those close to me from the all to common abuses of power.
And I am not even a minority. I can not even begin to imagine the fear a person of color must live in given the frequency with which people of color are beaten or even killed by the police.
So my thought is this, you can’t tell a kid that a cop will always be on their side. Because it isn’t true. You have to tell them that like all people some cops are good and some are bad but that you should still go to them if you are in trouble because even the bad ones will want to help a little kid. That way when they become a teenager and one of the bad ones inevitably harasses them they won’t look back and feel like you lied to them.