So I have two friends who are currently police officers.
One was my best friend all throughout high school, but over the years, we’ve grown apart. The other one was a former colleague and a damn good reporter, who became a patrolman in Camden County and is steadily moving up the ranks.
We mostly follow each other through social media, throw the occasional like or comment on a post of our kids from time-to-time but what was a tight relationship has wavered. The one thing I believe caused the relationship strain was that both are devout police officers who generally arrive with a sense of cynicism and a slight disregard to anyone that is a non-conformist.
Both have to deal with unspeakable tragedies on a daily, with one of whom was former Philadelphia Police but left the city’s forces to become a cop in the suburbs – the risks too great for a father of two to remain in a collective constantly forced to watch its back.
Now he’ll readily admit that busting underage parties, monitoring DUI stops and writing speeding tickets is more his everyday norm. Which personally, I’m happy for.
However, there are things we collectively just don’t see eye-to-eye on. Where I view Black Lives Matter as a movement, they see it as a literal statement and see it as nothing more as an organized fight against police fueled with powder keg potential, the type we saw in St. Louis, and the kind that turned Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri into veritable war zones.
When we talk Birds (which is the only thing I think we collectively will always agree on) we don’t touch the topic of Malcolm Jenkins. Mainly because, where I would see a civil conversation about taking a stand for injustice is seen as complete disrespect for a country that both believe offer citizens, – legal and undocumented – so much opportunity.
“You can’t pull the shit people pull here in so many other countries,” my one friend said once during a back and forth group text conversation. “People don’t know how good they have it in this country and then you want to disrespect that? If you don’t like the way things are, there’s plenty of other countries you can go where you aren’t given the liberties we have as Americans. People died for us to be free, so dissing the flag is dissing them. It’s just wrong.”
The other believes “the media” (and at times definitely aimed directly at me) plays a role in people’s hatred of police and in turn the cynicism that arrives from cops. They feel they have to always be on guard given the current climate between citizen and race relations.
Here’s the thing. I genuinely value what they do. I told both countless times that I understand having to deal with the scourge of our society more times than having to deal with a larger majority of upstanding citizens would irreversibly change one’s perception. But to me, having that amount of disdain for a certain group, movement and in some cases a certain ethnicity is a little unnerving.
Look, they’re my friends, I got their back, the same way they’d have mine in an instant, but I despise what being a police officer has done to their outlook on society. Am I alone in this? Have a cop friend that you feel the same way about, or if you’re a member of the force – first, thank you – and second, would love to continue this conversation.
Shoot me (pun not intended) an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.