A few months ago, I took an informal survey on Facebook asking people what their reaction is to seeing a police car: positive or negative?
The majority answered, “Negative.”
This probably doesn’t surprise those of you in law enforcement. “We’ve been around 100-something odd years, and they still look at you the same way,” said a retired Connecticut state trooper I once interviewed.
When we’re young, we resent our parents because they dole out discipline. They tell us what candy we can’t eat, ground us, say “No!” to ponies and puppies, and make us eat our peas.
When we’re old enough, we leave our grade-school neighborhoods and strike out on our own. We get to decide how late we stay out, how many friends we have over (and who stays overnight), which ice cream we’re going to eat for breakfast, and what kind of puppy to buy.
But then, the moment we’re finally free of our parents, you come along.
You tell us we can’t drive faster than the speed limit. You put us in jail. You say “No!” to all the fun things that are illegal.
You replace the parents we had when we were younger, the ones from under whose thumbs we couldn’t wait to squirm free, and for that, we resent you.
But, that said, thank you.
Thank you for being the ones to show up when we’re getting our faces pummeled by a loved one.
Thank you for getting out of your cruiser and walking up to the driver’s side window of a car whose occupants are almost always a mystery to you.
Thank you for continuing with your work even when the apathy in the eyes of those you encounter on a fairly regular basis would make most want to give up.
Thank you for being patient when we’re underage and drunk and insufferably obnoxious as you try to cuff us.
Thank you for finding our stolen bikes and cars.
Thank you for finding our killers.
Thank you for helping us when we’re stranded on the side of the road.
Thank you for being the first to enter our homes when we think there might be someone dangerous inside.
Thank you for putting in the many less interesting hours of sitting and/or driving around, your presence at once a deterrent and an assurance of security.
Thank you for volunteering to be the barrier between criminal and victim, for your willingness to spend decades among an element the rest of us would prefer to avoid, and for doing it on a daily basis with the knowledge that not only will we often fail to appreciate you, but we’ll go one step further and treat you with scorn, too many of us probably even making a few grunting-pig noises with our cop-and-donut jokes.
Here’s wishing you a safe and happy new year.
If anyone has a particular “thank you” for law enforcement, I invite you to please write it in the comments. My list feels woefully short.