[230] Police Presence

Imagine you’re driving down the road. Freeway, highway, whatever road. You’re driving just fine along with the flow of traffic. Suddenly, everyone is driving at a snail’s pace. There are no accidents, but everyone is now going exactly the speed limit, or less. When you finally see, there’s a cop up front, and no one dares pass. How many times has this happened to you? Even leaving a stop light, people seem to be afraid of passing a cop. The officer could be driving 10 under the speed limit, and most people absolutely will not pass. What’s up with that?

Even worse yet is when there is a police car following behind you. You’re not doing anything wrong. Your phone is sitting on the seat or in its holder, you’re not speeding, but there’s still that uneasy feeling, like you’re trying to get away from a murder scene. A cop enters the road nearby, and everyone starts to behave themselves: make sure seat belt is on, phone is down and driving like 5 under.

Earlier today, I was driving from my house to the Walmart, and a city cop was driving behind me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I still, for some reason, got real uneasy. I turned at the first light I could to get out from in front of the guy. Though the cop had no intention to pull me over, I still hated the feeling of having one behind me. Why do most people feel that way?

I think it’s partly due to the attention the media has given in recent years to the race-related police incidents (usually white cop vs. black person). Police are constantly having a negative image cast upon them. Admittedly, most officers are good people just doing their jobs. Unfortunately, as with most everything else, the few bad ones ruin things for the rest of them.

Another reason for the distrust of cops is the feeling of the surveillance state we live in. As related in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, “Big Brother” is watching us—cameras are ubiquitous, capturing most everything we do from every angle. It seems like you can’t do anything anymore without there being a camera lens staring at you somewhere. Add to this the fact that nearly everyone has a smartphone with a camera or a dashcam in their car, or both. It’s almost like every second, on every square inch of the Earth during the 21st century (at least since around 2012, anyway) has been recorded and stored on a hard drive or memory card somewhere.

I don’t know if you have, but I’ve noticed that people’s feelings towards law enforcement personnel is on either extreme: people love cops, such as after a car accident when someone praises “thank god the cops are here”; or they absolutely hate them, especially amongst the non-white population. You don’t see very often in the media a story about the good things cops do. The media, be it broadcast, print or online, is completely biased, one way or the other politically, and does everything it can to sensationalize everything in order to gain viewers or readers. Is there even one media outlet anywhere that is absolutely unbiased, just reporting the news without a spin or political agenda?

“Most citizens viewing the tape of Rodney G. King being beaten by police officers were stunned and uncomprehending. Most citizens, that is, but the urban poor.”

Greg Boyle

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