Apr 07, 2011 When a cop yells his head off in broad daylight over a minor traffic infraction, what does he do in the cover of the night?
Yesterday I wrote about how Ram Dass helped me move further along in humanizing police and having compassion for them.
Compassion and kindness are a two-way-street, of course. I cringed deeply early yesterday afternoon — on Ram Dass’s birthday — when witnessing the following in McLean, Virginia: Some police officers were re-directing traffic away from a closed stretch of road. All of the sudden, I saw a police officer run over to a car and start yelling at length at high pitch at the driver that he had made a righthand turn from a lefthand lane. The driver acted the whole time in a docile manner, apparently trying to say at one point that his car was not fully in the lefthand lane. I drove on when another police officer motioned for me to do so, doubtful that I could have been of any real help by stopping my car on the side of the road, nor by saying anything through my car window. That feeling of inability to help right then and there was not a good one at all.
Yes, a street-level police officer’s job is continually dangerous, stressful, and likely exhausting. However, we are not here for the pleasure of the police. Policing is a necessary imposition on our liberty until the entire society graduates to full enlightenment, which is not going to happen in our lifetime. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has allowed police so much leeway in encroaching on our rights (e.g., allowing moving violation stops intended actually to investigate for more serious crime; permitting Terry reasonable articulable suspicion stops and frisks to run amok; and allowing free searches upon whiffing marijuana odor) that ours is much too much of a police state.
Unfortunately, giving any person a badge, gun, taser, and power of arrest is going to lead to continued abuses of police power. This is one more reason for shrinking the criminal justice system by legalizing marijuana, prostitution, and gambling; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and the death penalty; and eliminating per se rules for drunk driving cases. Insodoing, we will have a smaller police force that will enable hiring more from the cream of the crop; better training, supervision, evaluation, support, and deployment of police officers; and paying and rewarding them commensurate with the quality of their work. Having a smaller and more just criminal justice and policing system will increase public confidence and respect for the police and policing, and that will lead to more positive relations between the police and public. In the current climate, so many people fear and loathe police that the so-often-thick tension can be cut with a knife.
Compassion and kindness are a two-way street between the public and police. Everyone has a role in that two-way street. One of my concerns about the police officer who yesterday yelled at high pitch against a driver for a minor moving violation is what the cop does when he operates under the cover of the night. Further, it is critical for colleagues of police officers to stand up for civilians’ rights and dignity when a colleague is stepping on those rights and dignity, and when the officer is unnecessarily yelling at a civilian.
Good resources are already in place for police to practice compassion in even the most stressful situations, and to decompress, including from police trainer and former police officer Cheri Maples, whom I wrote about last year here, and whom I subsequently met a few months thereafter. She is a phenomenal person.
Also of help to police, civilians, and everyone else in stressful situations are Tongue Fu and Verbal Judo.
For my part, when faced with a stressful situation — including one which I cannot immediately get away from (for instance the infrequent times when a police officer stops my car, and then lectures me unpleasantly) — I include silently repeating the odaimoku, Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo, which is the Nichiren Buddhist prayer for peace; I relax and sink, as with t’ai chi; and I try to send peaceful vibes to everyone else experiencing the stressful situation, whether or not they contributed to the stress. I have that acronym NMMHRGK on my license plate, to inspire my ongoing calmness as I travel the roads.