I didn’t realize until I reached adulthood that people could be anti-cop. I didn’t know about racial profiling, and I didn’t know about the murders of defenseless African American teenage boys. And yes. That is white privilege.
I didn’t know that there are police officers who treat psychiatric patients like criminals or worse like animals. And I didn’t know that there were police officers who questioned women’s rape stories as stories and not as fact.
I also didn’t know the large number of people who identify themselves as “anti-cop”. But I do now. I have a smidge of understanding now having witnessed horrific behavior by police officers in the emergency department and on an inpatient psychiatric unit. I know a psychiatric patient who died because a police officer tased them to death, and I know that killed me inside a little.
I know countless stories from my clients of negative interactions with police officers in their professional and personal lives.
I know that I am not a Person of Color and will never know the fear that community has ingrained in them from a young age because of racial bias and racial murders and I also recognize that is privilege. I don’t have a solution for that in this moment. But I think it’s important I acknowledge it.
I know I was shocked the first few times I had clients make disparaging remarks against police officers in front of me, and it was work for me to keep my mouth shut and not challenge those beliefs because that’s not my job or role. Instead I try to understand their narratives and journeys and how they came to this space of distrust and fear.
But I also know that there are a lot of police officers. According to stats on a government website there are roughly 750,000 officers at any given time in our country. That’s a lot of individuals. Within any large number of people carrying guns there are going to be bad people. People who make bad decisions. And mistakes.
But I’m not trying to convince you to be pro-cop. I’m just going to explain why I am. Because it’s something I’ve struggled with; trying to reconcile my own experiences positive and negative, and the negative experiences- including murders and wrongful deaths- of others.
When I was eight a police officer lived on my street and played football every day with all the kids. His parents still live there and we have now known him and his family for over thirty years. When I was growing up a girl around my age had a father who was a police officer- he was at one point my basket-ball coach. When I was sixteen I got into a car accident (I was driving and going straight and a car turning left rammed in the drivers side of my car).
The responding officer was my DARE officer when I was in fifth grade. He saw the cut on my head, saw that I was terrified, in shock, and alone. I basically fell into his arms sobbing and looking back I can see that the other driver realized he was screwed.
I have seen detectives come in to detect shit (Shout out Bad Boys II;) while working in the ED and inpatient. I have been in the room with them when they see the body of an abused child for the first time and seen the horror and weight of it on them as they leave. I’ve worked with law enforcement around sexual assault and rape cases and seen them work their ass off to get enough evidence to prosecute the perpetrator and not rest until they know they’ve done everything they possibly could do for justice.
I’ve worked with officers who are just as infuriated and injured as I am when we don’t see justice done to perpetrators.
I’ve seen officers go above and beyond to protect and serve children and victims.
As I said, I’ve seen the bad side. I’ve experienced the bad individual police officers. But I’ve seen the good too. I’ve seen the fighters who fight for those who are weaker, for those who are considered “less than” in our society, and those are who I respect and those are who continue to solidify my outlook on police officers.
Law enforcement officers have, in my opinion, the hardest job available. They are underpaid, understaffed, hated in some cases, and yet they continue to press forward. There is corruption, there is greed, there are horrible outcomes including wrongful deaths that should not be excused or ignored.
But as a society we depend on law enforcement to serve and protect. And in my own personal experiences the serving and protecting I’ve witnessed gets me in the gut. Because it is authentic and honest and something I truly admire.
To reconcile the death of a psychiatric patient who was wrongfully targeted and tased with my experiences with other law enforcement has been the most difficult for me. Because that person did not deserve to die in that manner. But for me, hope springs eternal and I chose to incorporate a DBT skill to stop wracking my brain about it. It’s called radical acceptance.
I decided I am going to radically accept the world the way it is in this moment for me, and that means there is a grey area. There are good cops and bad cops quite literally. And I refuse to let the wrongful actions of some overshadow the brave and solid work of so many others.
Last thing. I know that every one has different personal narratives and you may strongly disagree with everything I’m saying and that is your right and privilege. Like I said, I’m not trying to change your mind, I’m just making peace with my own.