Uniforms, blue lights, sirens, tickets. These are the things that most people think about when they think of cops.
After going through the Citizens’ Police Academy, volunteering by role playing, and going on ride-alongs, this is what I think of cops: a brotherhood (with sisters) of people that want to keep you safe, want to keep the community safe, and want you to stop doing stupid things. These people just want to get home at the end of their shift to be with their loved ones.
Do I agree with how every officer handles every situation? No. For the most part, officers do things by the book, because they want to keep their job and if it goes to court, you don’t want any problems. But since I have friends on multiple forces, I will side with them for the most part, and will defend them until I’m blue in the face. Every officer is different, they have different thresholds of when they will pull you over and when they will give you a ticket. But if you are actively endangering others around you by driving drunk, or going ridiculous speeds, you will get a ticket or you will be taken to jail.
A few lessons for you…if you are pulled over, don’t make sudden movements, stay calm and be polite. It may just get you off with a warning if it wasn’t something too bad. Don’t argue. Sign the ticket (it just promises you’ll show up in court or pre-pay your ticket) or they can and will take you to jail.
These folks are people. They need to eat, they need to multi-task, and they need to stay safe. So, stop judging every cop you see, and realize there is a reason for them to be doing what they are doing. They want to go home at the end of their “day” just like you, except they put themselves in positions that you will never have to. They walk up to a car not knowing who is in it, if they have a weapon, and if they have a problem with police. This is why they do things you may not understand…to keep themselves and you safe.
A few things you may not know: You may see a bunch of officers somewhere eating. They get breaks too, and businesses tend to like police presence. You may see them go extremely fast with no flashing lights or sirens. For certain situations they need to make a quiet approach. If you get pulled over and they are looking in your car from the outside, they are allowed to do this. If they see anything suspicious, they can pull you out of the car and detain you until all is determined to be clear. You can be handcuffed and not be under arrest, this is called being detained and is for their safety while they are not able to watch your every move.
Example of just never knowing when danger will happen: In Harrisonburg years ago, an officer pulled someone over. Across the way someone saw this and had a problem with police. I don’t remember if it was personal or a family member was in jail, but either way, he wanted to harm this officer that he doesn’t know because he was angry. He got a gun (a rifle I think), put it out the window of the apartment building and shot at the officer a couple times. The officer was uninjured, as was the person pulled over. But that just goes to show that it can be random and it can be dangerous.
Please respect these people that keep you as safe as possible. Know when you are in the wrong. And try not to do anything too stupid. This is their job, just like your job is yours.
To my friends who have taken the oath to keep us safe: Thank you, I respect you and look up to you more than you know. The occasional cupcake doesn’t even begin to show my appreciation. But you know I’ve got your back just like I know you have mine!