The Thin Blue Line

I’m a law abiding citizen (at least for most of the last 25 years, or so) that doesn’t cause too much trouble in the course of the daily grind. But something happened today that kind of sticks in my craw.

Moving down Calhoun Street to the West this morning (an especially pretty day), my line of cars eventually got to the area of MUSC and Roper Hospital. Doing my safe driving scan, I noticed a knot of people on the south sidewalk. Closer examination revealed that a policeman was being interviewed by a camera crew and reporter. She (the reporter) was pretty, the cop looked very squared away, and my gaze lingered on the scene.

My gaze was distracted by another policeman, not in the shot, who was pointing at me with the famous v, as in pointing at his eyes and then me and then the street. I got the message: quit gawking and pay attention to the road.

Well, his gesture irritated me. I gave him the v back. He didn’t like it, but what could he do?

As I proceeded down the street, slowly in line and towards the red light, I thought about the situation. Something has happened in the last couple of decades; I don’t know who or what is to blame, but our relationship with our police force has changed.

It seems like they used to exist as a protector for the average citizen, the blue line that stood between the people and the criminals. Now, it seems that they are our monitors, making sure that we all don’t do something we’re not supposed to do; or they are our 3rd grade teacher, telling us that this behavior is not good for us. Apparently the typical cop thinks we all need to be told what to do, how to do it, and we’d better not give him any lip.

That guy doesn’t know me from Adam’s house cat, he doesn’t have a clue about the fact that I have never had an auto accident in my life, or a speeding ticket in 20 years. He doesn’t know about the defensive driving I do every day, but he knows that it’s perfectly within his rights to chastise me for my driving.

Three cops standing around while a fourth is being interviewed for TV. But I need to be told that I’m out of line. Sheesh.


5 Replies to “The Thin Blue Line”

  1. Agricola, the policeman was a little mad because he was directing traffic and missing a revenue opportunity. In Charleston it’s not about traffic control,safe driving or parking violations it’s about money. I’ve crossed the Ashley River Bridge doing 35 because of the speed trap and had people behind me flashing their lights and blowing their horn–what’s safe about that? I’m forced to drive unsafe because I don’t want to pay the traffic tax..opps, fine.

  2. Agricola, you’ve made a very clear observation about the CPD’s drift toward the pedantic. It is the individual officers who present as arbiters of attitude and demeanor and not department policy. Perhaps it’s the influence of TV cops upon those in our streets. Perhaps it’s the absence of Greenberg. Before he spun out of control, he kept the public exercise of individual officer’s egos in check and a close eye upon their behavior in the street. The police are either the servants of the community or the community becomes the servant of the police.

  3. My point, Jeff, being that it’s not his job to monitor my scan. It’s my job to monitor my scan. His job is to protect me from bad people, not treat me like a child. And, since he was lounging around with a few of his cohorts, he wasn’t protecting me, or anybody else, for that matter.

  4. Each of the local police forces has something of a group identity, and cops from the other forces say the Charleston force tends to be the most arrogant.

    Now I’ll take arrogant over some other things — corrupt, vengeful, violent, etc. — but arrogant is still irritating. We’ve had pleasant and unpleasant dealings with the CPD, but I’m hopeful they’ll smooth out. For all his good points, Greenberg also was a self-absorbed maniac for much of the final 10 years of his tenure, and the force took its personality from him.

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