I dropped off a video the other day and the clerk asked whether or not I enjoyed it. I told her it was okay, but I hate movies about dirty cops. In a serious tone, she looked at me and said, “Well they are, aren’t they?” Frankly, I was shocked. I mean this was a nice young woman who had been my video store clerk for over a year. I’d ask for her opinion and she’d recommend which movies were worth watching. Judging from her response, I guess she didn’t know I was a cop.
I rolled my eyes and told her they weren’t all bad. Realizing she might have “stepped on it,” she stammered, “Well, I mean those cops in LA.” I nodded and left, still a bit dismayed. Why did she have such a clear conviction that all cops are dirty and untrustworthy?
So I asked my neighbors if they thought cops were dirty. The retired engineer said no, but they do take free coffee, so technically that makes them dirty (what an egghead). The housewife next door said she always saw three or four units at a particular restaurant and wondered who was patrolling the streets. The third neighbor told me she constantly saw cops speeding and passing stop signs. To my surprise, practically everyone had a complaint.
So I talked to my dog Gunny and he set me straight. He explained that folks just don’t like to be corrected, especially Americans. They don’t like tickets or being arrested for domestic violence, even when they deserve it. Crooks and gang bangers especially like to call us dirty because they want to discredit us. Crooks know in their hearts that they are the evil ones and it’s cops who bring them to justice. They would like nothing better than to bring us to their level.
Folks may not like us cops but they need us. I mean, even the thugs call us when they’ve been shot or stabbed, so they want justice too. The following week I asked my video store clerk why she said that. The girl was embarrassed, but she admitted she didn’t really think cops were dirty — it was just the popular thing to say. In fact, after talking to me, she threw away her “Don’t Be a Rat” and “Snitches Get Stitches” t-shirts. Her generation is pretty mild compared to prior ones who wore slogans like “Question Authority” and “Kill the Pigs.”
So I think I’ll take my dog’s advice. Being a cop is a noble profession even though it can be thankless. It’s about doing the right thing, even if they don’t like us. As Lt. Col. Grossman put it, sheep don’t like sheepdogs but they’re happy to have them when the wolves show up. My dog told me people are entitled to their opinions even if they are wrong, so let them talk. My video store clerk said cops were dirty, but what does she know? I shower every day.