First published by Mamamia on September 4, 2015
Police aren’t the bad guys, are they? Don’t parents want their children to have respect for the law, and its upholders? So why do parents regularly try to convince kids that police are scary? Why do they tell them that we’re there to lock them up and punish them? Why is it that every time we do a foot patrol through the local shopping centre, invariably at least one parent points us out to their young children and says something along the lines of – “Look, there’s the police. They’ll lock you up if you don’t behave yourself/ stop your tantrum/ do what I say.”
NO! Please. No. You do not want your children to be scared of us. We are the ones they should run to, not run away from. We will protect them. Please, do not use police as a threat. If you are unhappy with the way your child is behaving, then you be a parent and set the boundaries – don’t abuse our power and use police as a threat. We are not the baddies.
Of course, police should be respected. But there is a huge difference between respect and fear. People often confuse the two because some people can only gain respect through fear. But that shouldn’t be the case with police. We are the keepers of the law. The thin blue line that helps society be civil, and keeps lawlessness and anarchy at bay. We are the good guys.
I was once on a foot patrol through the local shopping centre with a colleague. She is a grandmother, petite and smiley. A lovely person who volunteers to do talks for community groups and local schools. Something caught her eye as we patrolled past a clothing shop, and she took the opportunity to duck in and have a look. It’s not called window shopping when you’re in uniform – it’s called a ‘stop rob’. Shopkeepers generally love police coming into their shops.
My colleague headed straight for a back corner of the shop, attention focussed on a particular top. I trailed along behind her. We hardly noticed a teenage girl of about sixteen browsing in the same corner. Then the girl saw us and quickly drew our attention. She looked at us in utter horror. She froze in her tracks and her bottom lip started to quiver. My colleague and I immediately thought we had sprung her shoplifting. My colleague attempted to engage her in conversation, ask her what she was doing. She was terrified. She started to hyperventilate and sat down on the floor.
My colleague tried to administer first aid. I went looking for anyone the girl might be with. I found her mother, and tried to explain what had happened.
“Oh, she’s scared of police,” the mother replied, matter-of-factly.
Scared? What an understatement. We were simply in the same place as her and she just about passed out in fear. What will happen to this girl if she ever needs police help? How will she be able to tell us about a crime committed against her if she hyperventilates at the mere sight of a couple of women in blue? I guarantee she grew up with someone telling her police would lock her up. And she’s not the only one.
Please, for the sake of your children (may they never need us) – if you see the police, by all means point us out to your children. But say “Look there’s the police, give them a wave”. And if it’s me, I promise I will wave back.