An Open Letter to “Good Cops”

 

{From Bailey, Precariosities’ Director of Content}


 

To the ones who follow every procedure to a T. The ones who have families you leave at home every day so you can serve and protect the families of others. The ones who are misunderstood, underappreciated, and unnecessarily deemed enemies.

I see you.

In this world where we play a perpetual game of “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and often confuse the two, I see you. You deserve to know that there are citizens who notice when you do your job well. It is still possible to see mistakes without making generalizations. For every “bad cop,” we know one of you is working tirelessly to get your job done right.

That’s not how it used to be for me. Two months ago, I got assigned to work with the local police department for one of my classes. My experience with police officers was minimal. Every time you passed me on the road, I slammed on my brakes to make sure I wasn’t speeding (which was not a good idea, of course). Walking into a police department was intimidating. How was I supposed to fit in with a bunch of tough guys running around with badges and guns?

Looking back on that first day, I wonder why it ever seemed like such an intimidating concept. My most recent interaction with one of those “tough guys running around with badges and guns” involved me asking him if he could fix my fraying bracelet by burning the ends off of it. He told me he could do it without me even needing to take it off. When I blanched, he said, “Trust me.” And I did. Even when he was inches away from setting my wrist on fire.

It’s a small act of service, but I know there are hundreds of thousands of you just like him. You care about your communities. You care about the little things like helping out college girls like me, and you care about the big things like getting drugs off the streets. Being a police officer is one of the most dangerous careers of our time, but you’ve been through training to do it anyway. You put in maximum effort for minimum recognition.

I think we owe you an apology. We have a tendency to look at one news story and make a generalization about how all of you act. We encounter one officer who is having a bad day, and we think the rest of you are just like that one. If I draw conclusions about you, what does that say about me? What if people looked at me on a down day and concluded that I am a perpetually sad, anxious girl whose life is always falling apart? They wouldn’t see my joy or my talent. They wouldn’t hear my words or my heart. I don’t want people looking at me in one solitary moment of my life and assume I am all women. I am so much more than a single moment of my life. And you are too.

I’m sorry for the people who have made generalizations about you. I’m sorry for the people who are blind to everything good you’ve done, sorry for people who assume you are the whole rather than a part, sorry for the way we ignore you when you do your job well.

Admittedly, I can’t say I’ll be thrilled to see you if you ever pull me over for speeding. But it’s part of your job, and you have to do it. You watch out for your people because you’ve been entrusted with the lives of an entire community of citizens. It’s not all drug busts and stakeouts. Sometimes it’s paperwork and traffic stops. Whatever it is, you want it done right—no loopholes.

You are not the enemy. Sometimes it seems like we don’t even know who the enemy is anymore. I wonder how people can look at all of you and judge you for the sins of a few. If we can’t trust someone wearing a badge—someone who has sworn to make us safe—who can we trust? Maybe it’s naïve, but I choose to believe in something better: that you want to help, and you will do everything within your power to do so.

So to all the “good cops” who suffer through the backlash from crimes you did not commit: someone still sees you. I’ve watched you walk up to drunk people on a freezing night to make sure they can get home safely. I’ve watched your frustration after returning from the scene of a suicide you knew could have been prevented. I’ve watched you place the lives of others—both your citizens’ and your colleagues’—far above your own. I’ve watched you do your job, and do it well.

You don’t get a whole lot of media coverage for following procedure. But I know you do it on a daily basis. I’ve seen it. So thanks.

 

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