I had an interesting conversation through Facebook this last week. I shared a video of reporters going through interactive decisional shoot scenarios to try to understand what it’s like for police officers. The reaction is almost always one of surprise. "You have to make that decision right then, right there...go with your gut and you do what you think will get you home at night," said one of the reporters after having gone through a scenario. Reporters take away a new perspective after having been thrust into situations and confrontations and then forced to make life-altering decisions in a split second.
After my sharing the video, a man made a comment that read, “Nah, police are paid with tax dollars. If you pay your taxes then you have the right to say anything you want about the police.” I responded to him by challenging and encouraging him to be open to a new perspective. He replied that he didn’t have any interest because he did not choose that career and reiterated that because citizens pay the police’s salary, they are entitled to say whatever they like.
Here are my points regarding this ever more present attitude of apathy:
You can’t say anything you want- None of our rights are absolute, including free speech. It’s against the law to speak words that threaten to injure a person or destroy property. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. You even break civil law for slander by speaking falsities about another that causes damage to their reputation.
Paying taxes doesn’t entitle you to anything extra. It’s your duty- Just because tax money pays for something doesn’t mean you should view it as your personal property. Our taxes pay for roads, bridges, education, infrastructure and so on. It doesn’t follow any of that belongs to you and you are not entitled to control it nor can you do anything you choose to in regards to such things.
Just because you didn’t choose a certain career doesn’t mean it should be of no interest to you- I didn’t choose to be an airline pilot or a doctor, yet I’m very concerned about the people that did. I expect a high degree of knowledge, abilities, skills, and professionalism out of them. I also care what people are saying about them. Police officers are no different.
Apathy is the grim reaper for any relationship- If I’ve learned anything about relationships, it’s that the moment you stop caring, it’s the beginning of the end. But I believe you really do care. After all, you took the time initially to stop and comment. You again took the time to comment on my response. And, it’s OK! You should care! The relationship between cops and citizens is very important!
Police work should be of interest to all Americans- Without the thin blue line of law enforcement, the entire country, in less than a day, would be instantly transformed to New Orleans post hurricane Katrina. There would be violence, looting, rapes, and theft. Violent gangs would take to the streets reeking havoc.
Raise yourself higher by being respectful and not treating others like a doormat- Inherent in your tone was a condescending attitude. Talking about people dismissively as if they are beneath you isn’t the high road, no matter who they are. Police are human beings with feelings, families, lives, goals, dreams and hearts.
Being truly OPEN and WILLING to hear another’s perspective and being willing to evaluate and challenge our own beliefs is so important- Where did I come to believe that? Is this something I really believe? Is it possible I’m wrong? Did I just accept this belief because I learned it from someone else? Is there another side I haven’t considered? This is where real personal growth begins to take shape.
So, to the gentleman with whom I exchanged messages, I’m hoping you’ll read my book, From Boy To Blue Becoming One Of America’s Finest, and do your best to remain open to a point of view I’m almost certain you haven’t heard before. At a bare minimum, I would encourage you to listen to my podcast entitled "Why Are Cops Such Dicks?" under the podcast tab at www.SteveWarneke.com. If not, well, I’m hoping that for every one person who remains closed I persuade a few others into being open and to seize this opportunity to understand a new perspective. When that happens, loving kindness and compassion prevails and we all win.
***Steve Warneke is a retired Sergeant with over 15 years experience in law enforcement. To hear more from him, head to www.SteveWarneke.com