When my siblings and I were younger, we lived in a big old house with a big dark old-school basement.
One day as my dad was down there working, one of my younger brothers trotted down there after him. He was pretty young, probably 4 or 5. As my dad worked, my brother casually told him, “you know there’s monsters down here.”
My dad, sensing that maybe he wanted to talk about a fear, responded: “And are you afraid they’re going to come upstairs?”
Without missing a beat, my brother says “Nope. Chelsea eats ’em.”
Chelsea was our giant black Labrador-Chesapeake Bay Retriever-German Shepherd mutt, and she slept on the landing between the flights of stairs leading up to our bedrooms.
My little brother slept easy at night, utterly convinced that there were monsters in the basement, and equally as convinced that Chelsea was eating them before they made it upstairs.
At any rate, his mind was at ease because someone was standing guard.
Police officers do that for us, for REAL, every day of the week. Many a night I’ve nodded off to sleep, with the sound of a siren in the distance—knowing that these sheepdogs would put their life before mine in a heartbeat.
Remember when we used to teach our kids that they could run to a police officer for help if they ever needed it? Remember when we used to teach our kids that police officers were society’s cape-less superheroes?
Still, thousands of people across the country don’t feel that way. They’ve been convinced that it’s the sheepdog they should fear, that this sheepdog is so blithely unaware of the struggles and trials of the communities they serve, that they can’t possibly care about them.
The police officers in Northampton, Massachusetts decided to do something about it.
“High Five Fridays” was their way of fighting the wildly inaccurate, demonstrably false—yet terribly common—stereotype that cops are the bad guy. They’d head to the local elementary schools weekly to stand on the sidewalks as kids walked into school, greeting them all with high fives. They believed that community outreach should start with the smallest members, the ones most likely to be affected by the violent rhetoric on TV and the blanket fear that some adults in their lives might exude about police officers.
It was a simple gesture.
And yet, it was slammed by some parents “who said that their children — especially minorities and those who have had difficult experiences with the police — were uncomfortable with the officers’ presence.”
Guys. They’re high-fiving kids on their way into the school. Yeah, somebody call The Hague.
Question: how exactly do police break down these perceived barriers and address these perceived fears if their very presence is offensive?
What do you suppose it teaches these kids when the parents baselessly believe that all cops are such scumbags that they feel they can’t even let their kids in their presence?
I know, I know. I’m going to get the token “Yeah, but I had a bad experience with the .000001% percent of cops who turn bad/racist/abusive… therefore let me project that experience on the entirety of the police force” email.
Ok. And I’ll raise up this:
Who is it that answers the call when your kid’s life hangs in the balance (in this case, literally)? Who is it pulling your drowning kid out of the water? Who is it tearing glass off the window of a flaming car to save you? Who is it covering your kid’s body with theirs as bullets pour into it?
Who does these things if not for these sheepdogs?
Let’s not raise a generation of kids to fear these heroes. Let’s raise them to want to be like them.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, M-F, 3-5. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree