OK, here’s the task: Name someone who deserves more credit than they get. And for bonus points, how to change things so they get more.
I actually have two candidates for this task. One is a subgroup of the other, and neither is popular, but I’m old enough not to care much what others think.
The primary group is cops. Yes, we remember them when one falls in the line of duty, as has happened all too often in this past year, and we’re grateful when we need them and they show up. The rest of the time we sit around making donut jokes and complaining, “There’s never a cop around when you need one” (the implication that they’re crawling out of the woodwork when you don’t need them — and that would be when???).
This is a sore subject for me because twenty years ago, my family and I actually got driven out of a church when our daughter announced she wanted to be a cop, and was given to understand that cops were the Oppressors of the Poor and Marginalized, and she was “too intelligent” to be a cop. (I don’t know about you, but I like cops with brains.) What is especially galling about this is that this was a church. Churches aren’t supposed to judge other people, for one thing, and for another: The average cop sees more pure evil in a week than the average clergyman sees in a lifetime.
I’ll say it again: The average cop sees more pure evil in a week than the average clergyman sees in a lifetime.
Think about that.
The subgroup of the main group — here’s where I squander all the warm fuzzies I’ve just built up in any cop who randomly came across this blog — is Internal Affairs. If being a cop is a thankless job, being on the Sneaker Squad is like inviting target practice. That’s a shame, because IA walks an impossibly fine line: On the one hand, their job is to police the police, and on television, at least, they’re always portrayed as the scourge of the Good Guys, fangs barely hidden as they persecute some poor schmuck just trying to do his job. And on the other…
Well, frankly, on the other, they’re in a position to protect innocent cops from getting gnawed to pieces by yahoos trying to make a name for themselves. I don’t have to name names. Just pick up a copy of the New York Daily News. What they do is investigate. Period. An allegation is made, IA investigates it. They actually do keep an open mind, at least in my experience. They actually do hope, again in my experience, that their investigation comes to nothing. And when it doesn’t — they grieve.
Or maybe I just worked for the best of the best, men who actually did grieve when an allegation was proved to be true. It wasn’t something they wanted to know about their own kind.
Having identified these two groups, and explained why I think they deserve more credit: How do you change things so that they get more? I’m not sure that’s completely possible, given the deep-seated suspicion that this society has of Authority (and why that should be, I have yet to figure out. What’s everybody doing behind closed doors?!). But if we can’t see to it that they get more credit, I’ll tell you what you can do to at least help them feel good about helping us:
1. Pray for them. See a cop car, pray that its occupants get home in one piece at the end of their shift. If your church has one of those periods where people shout out their prayers, shout out the name of a cop you know.
2. Obey the law. Sounds so simple, but — how many of us text while you’re driving? (Don’t look at me, I don’t even talk on the phone when I’m driving.) How many of us break the speed limit, not by just a couple miles an hour, but ten or fifteen miles an hour? How many of us fail to pull over when we hear an emergency vehicle behind us?
3. If you’re lucky enough to have some kind of street patrol — mounted cops, or a bicycle patrol — smile and wave, or at least smile and nod when you see the patrol. What’s it going to cost you?
4. Donate to the local police charity. Most stationhouses have meals or clothes going around Christmas, but find out how you can donate to funds that are in place for police widows and orphans.
And if you are a cop, try to maintain at least a neutral attitude, if not a civil attitude, towards the Sneaker Squad. Try to keep in mind that they really are in your corner.
Come to think of it, that’s something all of us should keep in mind about our police. ‘Cause they really are in our corner.