The first interaction I had with law enforcement happened before I reached double digits in age. The sight of a police vehicle became synonymous with losing all that was familiar to me. While the fault was not the cops, they bore the brunt of my ill content. I spent years doing all that I could to never have to be in the same place as a cop.
The first positive interaction I had with those who protect and serve happened because my job required me to talk to them. Even today, I can remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach as I walked into a conference room with three police captains and a chief. With my hand on the door, I desperately tried to convince myself that I could walk into that room and not suffer debilitating consequences.
It’s not rational and I know it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but the fear is real. The anxiety is genuine. Even though I haven’t been that scared child for over three decades, the deep-rooted, powerless feeling was still tethered to anyone with a badge and a gun.
Recently, I went to an event for first responders to get content. During the twenty minutes I was there, I spent most of the time talking to three members of law enforcement. When I got into the car to leave, my son remarked that he’d never seen me laugh with police officers before. While he didn’t have a negative or positive connotation with his remark, it left me with the sinking feeling that I’d perpetuated a fear by giving it to my children.
How does one disconnect present day emotions from traumatic events that happened during formative years? How effective could I be at my job if the thought of talking to law enforcement filled me with such anxiety and dread? In the end, frequent interaction allowed me to see each police officer as an individual person. An imperfect person, just like myself.
Society can’t decide whether it backs the blue or throws them under the bus at the first opportunity. Law enforcement is the latest political ping-pong ball used when it benefits and ignored when it doesn’t. The trauma of childhood may never leave me, but the police will no longer be the target of my fear. It may take me a second to work up the courage to start a conversation, but the conversation will happen.
We hold people accountable collectively, but want to be treated as individuals. If a cop in a city three states away does something bad enough to make national headlines, the community holds their local law enforcement responsible. When crime waves happen, the citizens hold their law enforcement responsible for policing the crime and keeping the peace. Politicians love making slogans out of the work by those with a badge, or to vilify them when it’s convenient to do so.
The least I can do in this life is to treat people with respect and compassion. With age and therapy came clarity that allowed me to see my hypocrisy. When my house caught fire… I called the police. When my son was jumped… I called the police. I sleep well at night knowing there are others out there keeping the rest of us safe. I have finally reached a point in my life where I have replaced fear with respect.
In the beginning I was a daughter, a sister, and then I became a mother. Time flew and I'm finally learning how to be a person. As I enter a new season of my life, it's time to finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I've written seven books over the course of ten years, and while I may not be famous, I write because otherwise I'd be insane.