cronechronicler

Exploring the poetry of everyday life

Police Matter

There is always a police officer standing near the entrance to the grocery store where I shop. I’ve shopped at this store for years and this was not always the case. I know from reading the “Police Blotter” in our weekly regional newspaper that shoplifting is a regular concern of merchants in our area. Other crimes reported are stealing cell phones. breaking into homes to steal electronics and jewelry, and people’s wallets and laptops being stolen from unlocked cars in their driveways. After watching countless episodes of Law and Order I think things seem pretty tame here. This is a good thing but I often wonder what the police officer in the grocery store thinks while he watches us collect a cart and push off toward the produce section.

I found out. After the recent horrendous killings of people being arrested and policemen being attacked and killed in retaliation, which has resulted in a tinder box of fear and anger ready to explode, a woman in the apartment building where I live asked herself what she could do. She is an extraordinary ninety-seven year old social justice activist who isn’t “going gently into the good night”. She called the Mayor and invited him to arrange for a meeting of police officers and the inhabitants of our apartment building to talk about the current situation. A date was set for us to gather in the Party Room of our apartment.

The residents here are diverse. We are a congenial mix of age, race and religion. The night of the meeting we filled the Party Room. Five police officers, most of whom have been on the job twenty to thirty years, told us about their roles on the force. The Director gave us a history of the changing culture of police work from “warrior” to “guardian”. Our police force were preparing for changing times long before things caught fire this summer. Our police force has moved to think of us as the people they work for and to listen to our needs. Some of the older members of the force call the new environment social work, which is not what they signed on for. When questioned, the Director said the biggest part of their job involved traffic and keeping the roads safe. They also go into the neighborhoods to check out garage doors left open and even cars left unlocked. The goal here is for officers to know and to be recognized by us before they are called for an emergency. The officer in the grocery store is being a recognizable face inviting us to approach him with questions and feel comfortable. I think this is like the beat cop of years gone by who was a regular feature of the neighborhood.

We were invited to share our past experiences with the police, good or bad. I told my story. The summer my¬† oldest son finished high school he was out partying and drinking beer one night. Coming home he was pulled over by a policeman and charged with a DUI. He was taken to jail to spend the night. Next morning he figured out how to call a bail bondsman to get him out of jail. When he made it back home his first words were “Mom, I’ve done something terrible.” He said he now realized the law had teeth and he was scared. The next weekend while he and his two brothers were away camping with their dad, a police officer came to my front door with a warrant for my son’s arrest. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was really upset. I had met the officer a few weeks before at a large Boy Scout outing where he was acting as a security guard. It helped when he let me know he was sorry to be the one to bring the warrant.

When I finished telling my story one of the police officers said that is exactly what they hoped to accomplish in developing their Guardian culture. The experience my son had being arrested taught him to be aware that his actions have consequences. I have always been grateful for that. And I understand the significance of having a police officer at the grocery store. He’s one of the building blocks of developing a police culture hand in hand with the people whose well-being they guard.

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