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Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009 02:56 am

Cops: Why we love ’em and hate ’em

We certainly have divergent opinions about police officers. Are they gallant knights or authoritative villains?

I am involved in an organization that assists family members of victims of drunk driving crashes. We provide an ear for them in their grief and do everything we can to assure that the offender is brought to justice. During this entire process, I see quite a few police officers. They are there to fill in holes about what happened at the DUI crash, sometimes to give the horrible news to families, and to testify at trials and hearings.

Police officers work hard and take incredible risks. But they’re human beings, just like the rest of us. In one case, a state policeman was the first to arrive at the scene of a horrendous crash where four family members were killed by a drunk driver. He made sure that emergency personnel were doing their jobs and that traffic was flowing. Then this 20-year veteran cop went home and cried. Yes, he was human.

A few weeks ago, my wife’s car was stranded in the turn lane of a busy road. Because there were no flasher signals, I stood in the rain and in the dark directing traffic. A local police officer came to my rescue. He put on his lights so that I could jump the battery. Then, he followed me to make sure I didn’t have further problems.

There are many instances when police officers have involved themselves in the community, on their own time, participating in nonprofit, charitable endeavors. One state policeman and two sheriff’s deputies worked beside us to help create meaningful legislation.

Police stop robberies, arrest drunk and reckless drivers, break up fights, respond to pleas for help from 911 callers, and occasionally deliver a baby if necessary. They do much, much more.

That brings me to one of their other responsibilities: stopping speeders.­

The problem is in the little cities and towns. Often, part-time cops give citations to drivers going 30 miles an hour in a 25-mile-an-hour zone. Why? Is it for safety? Is it to protect the public? Nah. Could it be that this ambitious cop is raising money for the small town?

As I know you guessed, I was stopped recently in a well-known speed trap community. So, here I am with this dilemma: I know all the good that police do, yet it is really annoying that this kind of face is put on the police rather than the one that should be there for the public. It is this activity of citing drivers for going over the speed limit a few miles that inflames the public and makes them forget about all the good that the police do. That’s a shame. Cops — love ’em, hate ’em.

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