sledjockey makes very good points about police becoming detached from the communities they serve. Back in the 60’s when I was a teeny bopper and my older brother was 14 or so, he and his buddies spray painted something on the large cement sign at the entrance to a park in our neighborhood. The cop figured out who did it and came to our house. My brother wasn’t home but he didn’t need to speak to my brother. He simply told my parents what had happened and that he expected my brother and his buddies to get down there and clean the paint off the cement pronto. He knew my parents would make sure the boys did as he said and that it would never happen again. The cop wasn’t a friend of my parents but he knew the neighborhood well enough to know that he could handle it in this manner. He most likely knew that my brother would have preferred facing a judge over facing my mother’s tears over him having shamed the family in that manner. These days there is no question but that my brother would have been arrested, and in many jurisdictions the arrest would have involved a SWAT team.
The flip side to the above is that whereas my mother was beside herself with shame over the family being publicly humiliated by my brother’s actions, these days the cop is most likely going to be faced with parents saying their precious angel wouldn’t have done such a thing, and then they’d lawyer up. Enough instances of parents refusing to parent, and many cops are going to stop trying. Just arrest the kid and let the courts handle it. Back then all that mattered to my parents was that he did it. Right vs wrong. Today, far too many parents would be looking for the technicality or extenuating circumstance to get their kid off the hook. My screwed up nephew that I have agonized over is the product of a two lawyer household that made sure he was never held to account for anything.
Do not construe my comments to mean that society brought this new police treating the public as the enemy mentality on ourselves.What I am saying is that the general public owns a piece of the change. We didn’t get from where we were in the example I used from the 60’s to the militarized police approach we have now over night, but there were changes on both sides of the equation along the way. Not 50/50 by a long shot. I think the police own the larger share but they don’t own 100% of it.
Admittedly I have had very few encounters with police myself. In only one instance did the cop overstep his bounds but I understood why he was doing what he did and politely just went along with the charade. I knew he was trying to act in the larger community interest, though it would have been nice is he were quicker on the uptake sizing up the situation. Back when I still had Massachusetts license plates I was headed to the dump here in Vermont one Saturday morning. As I was coming down the mountain on a steep windy road that you typically ride your brakes on to not get going too fast, the Sheriff’s Dept patrol car passes me coming up the mountain. I instinctively look at my speed to confirm I’m not going too fast but then I see him pull into a driveway to turn around. I think he’s going to pull me over and sure enough the lights go on. I give him my license and registration and he asks me what I’m doing in town today. I tell him I own a place on such a such a road on the other side of the mountain. He then asks me if the address on my license is current. I say yes, that’s my primary home, this is a 2nd home I have here. He asks me what street # the house is here and I tell him the # and then describe the house and its exact location, knowing he’ll know which one it is because everyone knows my place. I knew he only asked the question looking for me to hesitate to signal him that I was lying. I also knew the only reason he stopped me was because I had MA plates and he wanted to check me out in case I was a drug dealer. He just wasn’t the brightest bulb so as to quickly assess that I was way too old, much too white, and not coming from Holyoke (Puerto Ricans) or Springfield (Blacks) that comprise most of the local drug trade, and I was driving a low end pickup truck to boot which is absolutely not the style in Holyoke or Springfield. Then he tries to trip me up one more time by asking where I was headed, as if the garbage in the back of the truck and the broken bird bath wasn’t enough of a clue. I tell him “the dump” and then he finally realizes he needs an out for why he stopped me and he tells me I need to slow down coming down the mountain. Perhaps he figured out quickly that I wasn’t a drug dealer but I confused him anyway by not fitting the stereotype for a 2nd home owner either. They typically have higher end vehicles than I was driving and usually they don’t bring their own trash to the dump. Though I am sure there was not a legal basis for stopping me, I was polite and didn’t escalate the encounter and so he was polite in turn and didn’t escalate the encounter. Sadly he died of cancer at 30 something years old a few months ago. Before he died there was a community fund raiser event for his benefit which I took to mean he was well respected in the community.