Criticizing THE police

Whenever I read a remark like, “The police are out of control,” it seems too much like the scofflaw rancher in Nevada, Clive Bundy, characterizing “The Negro.”

Bias is revealed.

“THE police” is not something that exists–except in the mind of those who feel perfectly free to slander an entire category of people.

As a pastor, I have worked with police departments in three states.  The officers that I met never acted like bullies–in fact, made an effort to de-escalate any problems.

I keep thinking of that line from the movie The Untouchables.  Playing a cop on a beat, Sean Connery meets a downhearted Elliot Ness.  Ness has flopped in his first day at work in Chicago.  The beat cop encourages him with this advice:  “You’ve just fulfilled the first rule of law-enforcement.  When your shift is over, go home alive.”

That is what police officers face every day.  Will they go home alive?

A moment’s hesitation could result in children without a dad or mom, and a partner widowed.

I think this is why officers respond with deadly force in the news stories we’ve been witnessing.  They all know stories of a cop who pulled somebody over for a seemingly routine traffic stop–only to be gunned down.

There are bullies in every profession–police, sports, even the ministry.  Anybody who has authority is human enough to overuse it.  “Mister Rogers,” a Presbyterian minister, faced the temptation.  When the Rev. Fred Rogers would be asked a question like, “How is it that don’t you get puffed up with all of the power you command?” he would respond the same way:  “I know who’s in charge.”

I have known police officers to be equally aware in their dealing with people.

If I am in any danger, I feel free in calling them THE police.  But not when engaged in conversation about the present controversy.

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