Life is……complicated. Too often I (and perhaps we) are very quick to decide how things are based on limited knowledge or even limited scenarios. Sometimes scenarios help us to avoid things in the future, but sometimes they could create prejudices or even judgments in our hearts.
Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about.
I was raised to trust authority, to believe they may not always be right, but more often than not, those in authority knew the best and wanted to do the best for me. About 15 years ago, I was driving in my super sexy Dodge Grand Caravan with my then husband and Kenny, who was about 6 years old. We were driving through an intersection, had the green light, when suddenly a truck that had a red light to our right entered the intersection to turn right and ultimately t-boned us. Thankfully, no one was injured by the damage to my sexy mini-van was bad. We pulled over, I called the police, while the older couple in the truck remained in their vehicles. They did not ask if we were alright, the woman/passenger in fact continued to read her newspaper as if nothing had happened. As our son was on the side that was hit, his father became very upset at the lack of concern on their part, though I encouraged him to wait for the police and see what happens.
The police came, took our story, and then spoke to the male driver of the truck. We still had not interacted with the other driver. The policeman came back to me (I was the driver) and told me the other driver was a retired police officer, his account matched mine, and therefore recommended no police report be filed as “then the other driver would not have to be fined”. I trusted the police officer, and despite the lack of concern shown by the other driver, trusted his account and word due to the fact he was also a police officer albeit retired.
Big mistake. When all was said and done, the other drive told his insurance I ran the red light and it was 100% my fault. I, of course, told my insurance what really happened. Since we had no witnesses and no police report, we were each charged as 50% responsible. The truth, however, was that he was 100% responsible. He lied to his insurance, he lied to the police officer implying he would not dispute what happened (though he DID tell the truth to him about the events), and he changed my view of SOME police officers – more on that later.
Flash forward to last year; Deana was driving to work in downtown Atlanta and an off duty police officer driving to work decided, in his personal car, that he needed two lanes to turn into his work’s parking lot. From the left lane, with no signal, he turned right and didn’t bother to look to see if he was clear to do so. He wasn’t – Deana was driving to the right and just behind him and he ended up turning into her left door just inches from where she sat. This happened right in front of the police station, so when she called someone walked out almost immediately. Very quickly in, both the off duty officer and the officer taking the report tried to convince Deana that no police report was necessary – “I agree with what happened, it was totally my fault.” Off Duty told Deana. “I have already called my insurance company and they will take care of this.” His co-worker backed him up, stating he would get a ticket or points on his record if a report was filed and that there really was no need for a report. Knowing my history, Deana called me to get my opinion, and I told her to absolutely get a report because “you never know who you’re dealing with. Just because the guy is a police officer doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy. Humans are humans and some humans are not honest.” So, she insisted on a report and one was filed.
It was GOOD that the report was filed, because Off Duty never called his insurance. Our insurance, since it was not Deana’s fault, didn’t really get involved and just said “contact the driver’s insurance.” That insurance company didn’t dispute Deana’s claims per se, but they refused to proceed without speaking to their client. They left him over 10 messages, but he never returned their calls. Finally, after about a month of this, we tried to call the department he said he worked for in the police unit. That too was a lie. I finally got hold of someone who was kind enough in the police department who looked up where Off Duty worked and sent me to his supervisor; I left a message there and explained how this employee of the City of Atlanta was not being honorable. In the mean time, Deana had to pay for a copy of the police report, send it to his insurance, and pretty much brow beat them to fix our car. I am not sure which path was the fix – his boss or Deana’s Latina attitude – but we finally got the car fixed and they accepted it was 100% his fault. But bottom line, if we had “just trusted his word” we probably would have been screwed.
So, first of all, some police officers are dishonest. They are human and bring forward weakness and selfishness and bad decisions and perhaps even lack honor. We ALL have those attributes at times, so I have realized just because they have a badge and gun does not mean they’re above board across the board. Fortunately for me, these two situations did not involve guns or violence.
Just like with everything else in life, these two police officers do not represent all officers. And even though many of us SAY things like that, there is this reality that we are impacted by negative experiences more so than positive ones. At least, that’s what I seem to see in our society. So, when so many police shootings against blacks or aggressiveness or whatever else, my first reaction in my heart was “there is another bad cop…..so many lack honor”. And when I put that through MY experience filter, it makes sense. I mean, TWO TIMES I dealt with dishonorable men and that made me feel that there might be more in the force than I realized. Pretty soon, without me realizing it, my heart was really processing it like this: “All cops are dishonorable, and only a few truly can be trusted.”……even though I said and I thought I believed “most police are honorable”.
The increase of fear and division and violence and rhetoric in our daily lives the past year has made me so………I lack the word. It is like I wanted to sit in a small room like a bunker and wait it out with no windows for a decade and see what might be left. Then the shootings on police started and I was sickened. I was in shock and cried out to God, asking why violence was so prevalent in this world – why we thought murder would make things better. I considered some comments a friend of mine made – an officer and an honorable one – and I had no place to go but prayer. I wanted to run, but instead the very filter I didn’t know existed was exposed. I was ALSO a human, and I was judging.
All to say, there’s nothing wrong for “being smart”. If you are in an accident, get a police report. Always. People are people. If you have been abused, avoid the situation in the future if possible. If you are a majority, be a force for the minority. If you’re white in a community that has institutional racism – by citizens or officers, be vocal. If you are straight and you witness someone in the LGBTQ community being harassed, be vocal. If individual officers violate the law, hold them accountable. If citizens in the community violate the law, hold them accountable. If you are oppressed and treated differently, don’t give up, stay vocal, but avoid allowing your anger to become violent (and hear me, the shooters of police are NOT associated with Black Lives Matter just as the bad cops don’t represent the rest). But let’s ALL take stock of our filters – let’s admit we probably all have them and possibly don’t even realize they exist, and determine to try not to apply them broadly. Let each individual be measured on their own actions and not the actions of a few (or their skin color…..or their religion…….). Let’s not lump all – black, white, or purple – into behaviors that are not fair. And, if someone does that to you or you realize you have a filter that has been doing that……don’t become violent. Don’t let hatred dwell in your heart. Acknowledge it, change it, and move on.
Peace and thanks for reading.