Giving police respect *UPDATED*

I’ve been following with interest the discussion about police power.  I agree with OldFlyer completely that police authority versus identity politics is not the main issue here, especially because of the fact that all evidence surrounding the Gates arrest is, to date, self-serving ex post facto data.  Instead, OldFlyer is completely right that the important issue is Obama’s strikingly divisive and unpresidential behavior, followed by his narcissistic inability to admit that he erred.  Nevertheless, the discussion about police power is an interesting one.

Thinking about it during the night (insomnia is a great spur to deep thought), it occurred to me that I have no problem giving police respect because I don’t see the relationship between civilians and police as a demeaning “they have power, I don’t” situation.  Instead, I give police respect because they’re doing a difficult and necessary job.  I don’t deny that police officers have a great deal of power, but I recognize the necessity of that on-scene power because they’re willingly entering dangerous situations most of us would flee.  Without power, they’re just fish in a barrel, waiting to be shot.  Ultimately, I am grateful for their service, and I admire what they do.  More than that, I appreciate that we’re lucky enough to live in a country in which most police officers carry out this job with dignity, decency and honesty.

Unlike me, people who show respect to police officers only because the latter are in a power position don’t actually respect them at all.  Instead, they hold them in contempt.  Rather than viewing cops as an admirable front line against anarchy (“thank you for taking the time to make my world safer, even if it means casting a suspicious look on me”), they view them as power-hungry control freaks (“you’re just holding this job because you like to feel important, but I’ll make nice because I’m scared of your power”).  It is these civilians who, when they get obstreperous, find themselves hauled in on “disorderly conduct” charges — and this happens because the police recognize the contempt motivating the behavior.

UPDATE:  It turns out I’m not the only one who approaches law enforcement with genuine respect.  (Not that I speed, so I haven’t yet had to talk myself out of anything!)