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Police: Ordinary People
by Michael Giardina

The irony can be stated as plain fact: We love the police when they protect us and we hate them when they make our lives difficult. But we tend to forget that police are humans too, are as imperfect and driven by passions as much as the rest of us.

In hopes of digging up some column material, I decided to spend 12 hours in a police car to roam the streets with an officer to get a firsthand account of what these men do. We tend to see them as overambitious, power-hungry individuals that are out of touch with real society.

Trust me, it is not that simple.

Our first call led us to a rich, quaint little neighborhood, where the horror of horrors was taking place. That's right, we were sent on a barking-dog call. Some bitter old woman was upset at a barking dog and called the police to take care of it. In-between frustrated mumblings, the officer got out of the car, tossed a tennis ball in the backyard, and left. That is effective problem solving. Apparently, the lady couldn't take care of the problem on her own.

Calls to the police can be ridiculously unnecessary, incredibly urgent or even completely unexpected. The last type is the most frightening.

As we drove through a college parking lot, the officer spotted a car with a cracked windshield. He asked me whether or not he should pull them over. I don't know why, but something felt ominous about the situation. I told him to pull the car over.

There were eight children in the car, some without seatbelts. He asked the lady if the children were hers and she responded in the affirmative. He told her to fix the windshield and she nodded. Then he talked to the children.

He asked the first child where he lived. Mountain View. He asked the second: San Jose. The third: Sacramento. The officer then handcuffed the driver and called each of the children's parents. Each one of these parents knew the driver, but not a single one knew that their children were with this woman.

What could have happened if I told the officer not to pull over that car? Sure, she could have been taking them for a stroll in the park, but she could also have been in the process of kidnapping them, raping them, murder!

We don't understand every human being's motivation. The police are no more omniscient or psychic than we are. They have seen things like this and worse, and have dealt with the grime of society.

Police are in the unfortunate position of being imperfect, while having to deal with us citizens who are equally imperfect. The world is dangerous and they put their lives on the line whenever they make a decision to trust an individual.

I can't say that I am glorifying the police. There are good and bad officers. One officer that I drove with complained for 10 minutes about his hate for "slack-jawed homosexuals." He complained about having to be "tolerant" of all these "radical" ideas. He then yelled "yee-haw!" and sped up to 98 miles per hour on the mountain roads of Saratoga Hills on his way to break up a noisy teenager party.

We have to take such an incident into account. We come to understand that an officer could as easily be a Ku Klux Klan member as they could the next Mother Teresa.

But nevertheless, we owe respect to our brothers and sisters who try to keep this world in equilibrium. Just respect yourself. Respect those around you. You will make an officer's job less essential; they will appreciate it.



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