This is a question and a problem that I care about. But I understand that it’s not the most dire when you consider other people’s issues in dealing with law enforcement.
One Good Apple
When I lived in Montana, I dealt with a stalker. The first time I reported him to the police, a female sheriff’s deputy came and took my statement. She then went to inform the creep that he should leave me alone. She called me afterward and told me that he did not seem to be taking her seriously, that he tried to say I had led him on, and she recommended that I get a restraining order. And that was the best experience I’ve ever had with the police.
My friend Heather’s father is a former police officer. She told me that there is a huge problem with cynicism among police officers. They learn to take it for granted that people are lying to them. Maybe that’s understandable, but I hated being treated like a liar or a criminal. Every time I tried to report my stalker again, such as for breaking the restraining order, I got zero help from police.
In fact, one officer asked me, “Did you have a relationship with this man?”
“No,” I said, “I’m married.”
“Because if you did, we’re going to find out.”
Uh, I didn’t. And even if I had, a restraining order still protects me.
That kind of thing was typical in my experience with the police. They wouldn’t take me seriously; they would take his side; they would not arrest or stop him when he broke the law meant to protect me.
I want to be charitable. I don’t like to judge an entire group of people. But, of course, it has become more and more obvious that our law enforcement system is riddled with systemic problems, especially racism.
I know, I know, a few bad apples. But why do people keep saying that? The full saying is “One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.” So, maybe the whole barrel of police is spoiled because of those bad apples.
And when people of color are dying from cops and incarcerated at a massively higher percentage than white people, I am inclined to believe it is due to oppression and racism.
And when people of color tell me the problems they experience in dealing with the police, I am not willing to invalidate their experience. They say there’s a problem, so there is.
Please consider this tweet:
An Artist’s Responsibility
So, can I still write stories about cops? Should I? If so, how?
I love Law and Order: SVU. I wish Olivia Benson was there when I woke up to a man watching me sleep in my NYC apartment or when I had to report a stalker. I love Brooklyn-99. I’d love to have Rosa Diaz, Amy Santiago, Raymond Holt, or Terry Jeffords protecting me. To me, those shows are aspirational; they are what law enforcement should be.
But here’s the problem. Not everyone sees it that way. In media (such as TV shows or movies) cops are usually the good guys. Instead of seeing that as aspirational, we see that as factual. And too many people excuse cops’ bad behavior based on the assumption that the police are always the good guys and that they always have a good reason for their actions.
I’d like to include police in a story I’m writing–a superhero story. But should I? If so, how should I? Some people seem to be avoiding cops in stories at all. It doesn’t seem right to glorify them.
I have a lot of thinking and research left to do. I know what NOT to do, but I want to be smart and thoughtful about what I do choose to do, if anything.