Good cop,Bad cop
Why be a policeman?
I met him at a high school football game. He seemed to know a lot about football, so I asked if he had played the game. Yes, he had been a cornerback in high school, and he now coached the boys team, where his son was a player. I wondered how he found time to do that. Didn’t he have to work? Yes, but he worked nights, four days a week, ten hour shifts.
Unusual hours. So, I asked, was he a cop? Yes, he was, for the Los Angeles Police Department. The game was close and I benefited from his insights. We just talked football, but I thought it would be interesting to ask him about being a police officer.
The next week we both came back to the same seats. This time the game was not close - there was time to ask about being a policeman.
I started off speculating: there are good people and bad people, so there must be good cops and bad ones. Fortunately, there are, I believe, far more good people than bad, so it would seem the same for cops. But, I further speculated, guys that were bullies as kids would love to be cops. The ones that were bigger, meaner, perhaps sadistic, would have the perfect job, where they could use their authority to push people around.
My new friend agreed. He said that these cops were known by their fellow officers as “badge heavy”, and were shunned.
But most officers, we agreed, have better motives. LAPD’s slogan, as painted on their cars, is “to protect and serve”. They may not all be altruistic. Certainly, for most, that is not the only reason to make law enforcement a career. There is also job security, a decent wage, a good pension. Still, the desire to help others is part of being a cop - at least for most of them.
My new friend also admitted that adrenalin plays a part. Chasing a bad guy, who may have a gun, and would not hesitate to shoot you, has got to be exciting. For example, you can’t know when you pull someone over for something as relatively trivial as a broken taillight whether they are carrying illegal drugs and would do anything to resist arrest. He likened it to making a hard tackle on the field - only more so. So, adrenalin highs (my thoughts, and maybe his) can be addictive. Who wants to sit at a desk when you can have the challenge of arresting dangerous law breakers?
Whatever their motives, where would society be without them? Anarchy.
My best friend from grade school and all through life had been a cop. I remember asking him about having a female partner. I thought I would want to have the biggest, strongest guy possible to be my partner if I were riding in a black and white. I thought there would be an intimidation factor that a big guy could provide that even the toughest lady cop could not offer. I felt the “weaker sex”, would be best used to provide the brains for law enforcement, but perhaps not the necessary brawn. In fact, I felt the same about small guys being street cops. Little guys and women just don’t get the respect from gang bangers and other criminals as the big men do.
My life long buddy agreed. And so did my new friend. He remembered an arrest of a gang banger in South L.A.. When he finally apprehended the guy he asked him why he resisted. The reply was that he thought he could run right through the lady cop.
The third quarter was coming to an end. Our team was far behind and I was getting cold - and hungry. My friend had wandered off, It was time to go home.
And that was the last game of the regular season. We did not make the playoffs.
But I hope to see him at a game next year. I want to ask about prejudice on the force. Do cops really arrest guys for “driving while black”? Do you develop a bias when all the bad people you deal with are from minorities? What about men - and women - who go through the LAPD police academy at the expense of Los Angeles tax payers, but then end up on some other city’s police department?
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