The Police are Mean

We’ve all been pulled over by a cop. Most law abiding citizens only deal with police officers a handful of times in their lives, but at some point – it happens.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have only been pulled over twice; for speeding and for sporting expired registration tags. In neither instance was I harassed, beaten or killed.

So where do I get off saying that police are ‘mean?’

In my experiences — they have been. They slinked up to my window with their hands on their holsters, weren’t at all friendly with me and treated me largely as if I was a child in need of a scolding. Me of all people! A white guy with no criminal record!

And I loved it.

I loved it not because I fetishize law enforcement or have a submissive personality, not because I’m pro-government and certainly not because I enjoy interactions with folks who come off as cold and uncaring. I loved it… because those officers were doing the job that you and I pay them to do — and they were doing it well.

I’m always amazed when someone shouts racism with no evidence of racism. It’s the classic tale of the boy who cried wolf, multiplied by the millions. When I was pulled over for speeding I never once thought it was because I was young, drove a bright red car or had a ball cap on backwards. But if public opinion is to be believed, those are all more likely reasons for the cop stopping me than the fact that I was, you know, doing 49 in a 25.

Police profiling is real. I didn’t grow up black, but I have family who did. Police officers are human just like the rest of us. They have subconscious prejudices, make mistakes and fall victim to cultural influences. Expecting them to be infallible is absurd. But generally, with very rare exception, law abiding citizens who encounter police officers go home unscathed at the end of the day.

Police departments aren’t hitting the streets playing a realized version of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game. There aren’t scoreboards of “black kills” up in the office. The targeting of blacks by police isn’t a sweeping problem in the United States. But blacks think it is. And that is undoubtedly a problem.

What if I had thought my speeding ticket was really a backwards-ball-cap ticket? What if the media told me every single day that because I wear my hat backwards I’m more likely to get pulled over by a cop? Not only pulled over, but harassed, beaten, raped, shot… maybe I’d start believing it. Theoretically, what if – believing that for my entire life – it eventually boiled over into manifested anger?

It’s plausible. No — it’s happening.

Police officers are ‘mean’ at your car window so that they can make it home that night and not be ‘mean’ to their families.

Let’s stop pretending they’re only ‘mean’ to those of us who wear our hats backwards.