Despite scorn, officers strive to serve and protect
by Charlie Sewell
October 07, 2012 12:15 AM | 1436 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While traveling south on Interstate 95 near Jacksonville, Fla., I was stopped for speeding by a state trooper. As I was receiving a deserved traffic citation, a northbound driver shouted the word “pig” and extended a hand gesture out of his car window as he passed. The tension of being stopped by a police officer was now topped by an adrenaline rush expecting the officer to erupt in boiling anger. Surely his neck veins would swell and his eyes would bulge at any moment.

His lack of reaction to the insult, however, prompted me to ask “Aren’t you going to do anything about that?” He replied, “What, and prove him right?” The trooper’s words are as poignant today as they were when I first heard him 41 years ago.

The insult offered by the other driver was probably just one of several “rewards” that law enforcement officer received for doing his job that day. As an officer myself, I never expected to ask a motorist to sign a traffic citation and hear “Thank you officer, can I have another?” Traffic citations are appreciated as long as they are given to someone else.

Most of the people a police officer comes in contact with have been involved in a traffic accident, been the victim of a crime, been arrested, or received a traffic citation. This mix of adverse events can add a flavor of negativity to any officer’s tour of duty.

Imagine taking your car to a tire mart because a nail is in one tire, only to have the mechanic tell you that all four tires are dangerously slick. The mechanic’s work is now going to cost you more money because he did his job exactly the way he was trained. Do we accept his effort as professional, or do we sneer, jeer, and call him a profiteer? Do we recognize that we are at fault for failing to provide proper vehicle maintenance, or do we try to blame the mechanic for our new financial problem?

Dealing with the elite of our society and the lowest level of humans can create conflicting emotions for a police officer. Regardless how hard police officers try — and no matter if they do their job in textbook fashion — they often are the brunt of cynical and snide remarks.

Studies of automobile crashes and fatalities clearly list driver behavior among the top ten contributing factors. Speeding, running traffic lights and stop signs, as well as other traffic violations are usually not happenstance. Many drivers do not accept their responsibility to obey traffic laws, just as they don’t accept their responsibility for vehicle maintenance.

Putting their own lives on the line, police officers save countless lives every day and are scorned when they perform exactly as mandated by law. Kind words for police officers are treasured but not expected. So sleep tight tonight, because words will not stop police officers from coming to your aid. It is their job.

Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs occasionally in the Marietta Daily Journal.
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