Seeing the man behind the badge

Earlier this week, I found myself parked in a church parking lot at one in the morning. Like any college student, I had found myself dealing with the stresses of college and decided to get out of the house and go for a drive.

I was parked in the lot, talking on my phone, when a patrol car pulled into the parking lot and turned on the lights.

No one looks forward to having a police officer approach their car. No one thinks about taking a drive and says, “I really hope a cop pulls me over!” In fact, if I see a patrol car driving beside me, I instinctively slow down.

That being said, the officer made the experience … enjoyable, if you can call it that. I suppose with all the negativity toward police in the last year, I expected him to be more assertive and callous. Maybe I was expecting to see a gun. I certainly wasn’t expecting what he ended up doing.

He quietly asked me if I was all right. He asked me my name and said, “That’s my name too!” He asked me if I was a student, where I was from. He did everything he could to make me feel comfortable. He chatted with me about schoolwork. After he had made sure I was OK, he asked me if I was in trouble. 

He was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

It has been a little more than a year since Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri.

Michael’s death caused protests and riots that have continued since then, culminating in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since Michael Brown’s death, America’s police have come under attack for being too brutal. I haven’t had many experiences with the police; I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never been pulled over, so maybe my viewpoint is a little warped.

But I think it’s difficult to remember that police are just people who want to protect and serve. They’re not a corporation. They’re people. They’re individuals. 

After all the figurative fire the police have come under in the last year, it’s easy to think that all they want is control.

After talking to the officer from the sheriff’s department, whose full name I never learned, I found it easy to remember that they’re just trying to do their jobs. Just like the folks in the military, these men and women have made a choice to protect the public with their lives if they need to. 

That wasn’t what I needed that night in the church parking lot. I just needed someone to talk to. That’s exactly what he gave me, and I think I’ll remember that for a long, long time.