There has been much negative press about cops lately. Possible illegal shootings, abuse of power, whatever. Americans are beginning to believe ALL cops in ALL cities are just bad eggs. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the vast majority of police officers serve with distinction, and in some smaller towns and villages, go through their entire career without ever having to draw their weapon on someone. One time, I got the opportunity to ask a Seattle cop what was the worst thing about the job. I thought he would say something like, "Every time I go to work, I don't know if I'll be coming home that night." Nope. He said, "The worst thing is that everyone lies to you all the time, even when they're not in trouble and they're not going to jail or anything. You really get tired of that." After I thought about it, it made perfect sense.
To try and counteract all the negative rhetoric, I'm going to list Four Great Interactions I've Had With Police Officers.
There are more, but I'll keep it to four, and in the order they happened. Feel free to add your own.
1) March 1970 - The very first day I got my drivers' license, I also had a motorcycle - a Honda 175 Enduro. Like the smart-ass kid I was, I thought it was cool to go racing down River Road in Puyallup, WA at sixty-five miles an hour with one foot on the seat and the other one stuck out straight in the air behind me. No helmet, no shoes, no common sense. A Puyallup cop going the other direction flipped a U-turn and came blazing after me with lights and siren. I pulled over when I saw I certainly couldn't outrun his cruiser. He's a big, old cop with a frown just as big. I was certain he was going to pull me off the bike and slam my face into the ground. But it never happened. Instead, he took a look at my drivers' license and shook his head.
"Well, kid. You just got this license today?" he said.
He said something into the radio about being busy or something and switched off the radio. For the next half-hour, he gave me a serious lecture that involved graphic details he had seen in traffic accidents during his twenty years on the force. And I mean GRAPHIC DETAILS; things I didn't even know could happen to a human being. I got physically sick just listening to it. At the end of it all, he handed me back the license and let me go. "Take that bike home and don't come out again with it until you get a helmet and some damn shoes," he said.
After that, I never drove like a maniac on that motorcycle again. And in the last 46 years, I have never been at fault in an accident.
2) Summer 1975 - A little less dramatic, but nice. I ran out of gas on the interstate. A Washington State patrolman pulled up behind me. Traffic was heavy, and it was over a mile to the next exit. Instead of letting me walk out and find a gas can and a station, he risked his own neck to do a quick maneuver. He pulled up next to me until the front of his car was right near my rear drivers' door, in the area of my gas cap. It was really dangerous. He uses his blue lights to alert drivers to switch lanes and go around us. Then he opens the hood on the patrol car, and uses a small plastic hose on a hose reel thing that was connected to a fuel feed. (maybe on the carb) He unreels this hose and sticks it down into my gas tank. He puts in about a gallon, and then shuts the hood and tells me to try and start my car. It starts after a bit. He waves and gets back into traffic as soon as it's clear. I drove to the next exit and filled up at the gas station. Later, I realized just how risky it was for him to do that. Before he left, he said if I wanted to pay it back for the gas, I should send it to the Washington State Patrol. I never did, but I have often wished I had.
3) Winter 1975 - My car died in San Francisco, so I decided to hitchhike back to Seattle, using the Interstate 5 freeway. I was dropped off at a real 'dead' exit somewhere near Mount Shasta. Two days, no ride. Only a few cars even used the exit anyway. At the end of the second day, a California Highway Patrolman pulled over on the exit to talk to me. I figured he was either going to harass me, (I had long hair back then) or just run my name for warrants. He did neither. He put me up front in the passenger seat and gave me a ride about twenty miles to an exit with an actual town. There was very little traffic that day, and he sped up to around 100 MPH and made that twenty miles in minutes, with the lights going but no siren. It was perfectly safe. Almost no one was around. When we got off the freeway, there was another CHP waiting in another patrol car. I still thought I was in trouble somehow when I saw the other cop. I asked the patrolman, "Why did you go so fast? Is there a problem?"
"Nah," he says. "We're just meeting for lunch. Good luck on your trip home," he said.
Nothing like a cop with a sense of humor. I made it back to Seattle a couple of days later.
4) August 2011 - It had been a while since my last interaction with the cops, but it finally happened again. I had recently published a book on a suspect in the unsolved 'DB Cooper' skyjacking case. For my hometown's annual festival, I set up a slideshow at the local Auburn Avenue Theater downtown to talk about the suspect, and answer questions. Someone (we figured it was a jealous civilian investigator of the Cooper case) called in a death threat to City Hall from a pay phone. The guy who made the threat (he was never discovered) said that anyone showing up to the theater would be 'hurt'. The Festival Director and the cops asked me if I wanted protection during the show. I was pretty sure it was just someone spouting hot air, so I said no. But this one cop took it upon himself to station himself inside the lobby anyway. He was real nice. He sat there through three slideshows. Nothing happened. I found out later his family had once owned the theater.
5) August 2014 - Three years later, I attended the same festival and was walking around downtown to see all the displays. The Auburn Police were sitting around in lawn chairs with their Urban Assault Vehicle on display. You could even go inside and look around, and they didn't seem concerned anyone would try to steal anything or mess with the contents. They sat outside talking among themselves. After I finished looking around inside, I went right up to them and smiled. "You want to know something?" I said.
They all looked at me. "What?"
"If that thing shows up at your house, do you know what it means?" I asked.
I gave them a big smile. "It means you are in big friggin' trouble."
They all laughed their heads off. "That's right," one of them said.
We have GOOD cops where I live, that's for sure. If YOU don't, then vote in some new city officials.
This is a much better answer than stupidly picking up a gun against them.