The Changing Image of the Police
by James Glaser
April 25, 2012
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Growing up, the policeman was my friend. We had "Police Boys" who helped us get across the street at busy corners on our way to and from grade school. The real police back then drove the ambulance if you were in an accident. If you were lost or needed any sort of help, you always knew the policeman was there to help you.

Even as a teenager, I didn't think any differently of the Police. If they stopped you for a driving violation, they might write you a ticket, but you had a 50-50 chance that they would just chew you out. You got caught with a six pack, and the police either took it or they made you open each can or bottle and pour the beer out. That was early in the night before you started drinking. Later on, if you were not belligerent, they would take you home instead of down to the station. Of course being taken home seemed a lot worse than going right to the police station. Anything seemed better than facing your dad with the police telling him what you did.

Back then you got the feeling that the Police were on your side, and they were actually looking out for your best interest.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but sometime between when my kids were being born and now, the police changed. No, it isn't just my impression of law enforcement. True, there has been a total change in the way I think about the police, but that has been caused by the way the police now act toward me. They no longer act like they are looking out for me. In fact many law enforcement officers seem to distrust us and think we are in the wrong, even if we are looking for some sort of help. They appear to have an us versus them attitude now.

No, I haven't been accosted by the police, but I have seen the police accost others. I am law abiding, even in my driving habits, but when a police car gets behind me I stiffen right up. I am sure many people have that same reaction when they see that car behind them has a light track on its roof. For me though, this is something new.

Maybe it is seeing all the people who are pulled over by police and beaten. We see that on our nightly news, and on You Tube videos, and we read about it in the papers. Then there is the way Hollywood, and television so many times portray some policeman or detective as crooked or angry and mean.

Here is one thing I have noticed. The policeman of today does not look like the policeman of my youth. Growing up every policeman seemed to be in shape. Now, many policemen are fat and look out of shape. Their uniforms are different. Today's Police don't wear a dress uniform. They don't wear a fancy hat, and their belts are now filled with all sorts of new equipment. Now they don't have a holster with a six shot 38 revolver. Now their gun is something huge with a big clip, and they don't have a belt with extra bullets. Now they have a few extra clips in a shiny leather packet on their belt next to their taser and pepper spray. Sometimes they are holding a pump shotgun, and they are wearing a flak jacket. All-in-all they look more like they are in the military rather than in law enforcement.

I think that old style hat changing has made a big difference. The police of my youth were dressed up. Their hats looked a lot like what a Marine in his dress blue uniform would wear. It had a shiny leather visor and a brass shield on the front. Their shirts were white and they had on ties. Their shoes were polished and none of them wore the combat boots we see today.

I think what has been lost is the policeman's bearing that set him apart, and you just knew he was a professional. You knew it by his style of dress, his posture, and the way he spoke to you. You still see that in Highway Patrol officers, but city police and most Sherriff's Deputies seem to want to give you a macho look or like I said more of a combat military presence.

I don't know what brought on this change. More crime? Maybe. Whatever it was it sure has given law enforcement a bad image. If the police have an "us versus them" attitude, the same goes for all the citizens who have to deal with the police.

If I am driving down the road and squad car is coming at me, I always wave and smile. Most of the time the policeman coming at me takes no notice. When you walk into a gas station and see an officer and try and engage him in conversation, most are very stand-offish. I don't know if they are trained to be that way now or if that is the type of people who are taking that type of job. In years past, policemen always seemed to be friendly, an least until they had something professional to do, and then they were polite, but all business like.

Like I said, I don't know why this change has come about, but you can see it almost every day some place on the internet: police pepper spraying some young kids, tazering or shooting some mentally retarded teenager, or handcuffing some five year old in Kindergarten. None of that makes sense to me.

I remember my two uncles. One was a police officer, and one was a ATF agent. Nice guys, great family men, and liked by the whole community. I don't know what they would think today, but our law enforcement has changed, and that is a shame. Like they say, "it takes a village." I just don't think the people in law enforcement are villagers anymore.

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