Cops and Compassion
In my early 20’s, I would have made an awful police officer.
After college, I moved to NY and worked in New York City. Two years later, at the age of 23, I left because I was turning into someone I didn’t like. I was becoming harder, more guarded, suspicious, and more ist—classist, racist, educationalist, and probably several other ists.
NYC is a place where you see the best of people and the worst of people. When faced with extremes, we start to think in extremes.
When we constantly see people under stress, living difficult lives, it is easy to put them in a box. We have no curiosity about who they are, and why they are doing what they are doing.
In our minds, they become what we label them.
The great child psychologist Jean Piaget wrote, “every problem behavior was once a solution.”
We can’t have compassion when we see people as bad, rather than people trying to solve problems (even when those actions create problems).
When we lose our compassion, we lose our humanity.
I don’t know what it would be like to be a police officer. I do know they are often called into people’s lives at their worst. They see people who are hurt and who hurt others. Given my experience in NYC, I know how difficult it would be to maintain compassion if I faced people at their worst on a daily basis.
At a Rotary board meeting once, I heard about police officers taking supplies like diapers when they go on domestic calls. They pay for these supplies out of their own pockets.
Right before I sat down to write this, 3 police cars raced by, lights flashing and sirens blaring. I sent them a silent prayer, wishing them grace under pressure, and the ability to think and act clearly, and with compassion.
I’m still not sure if I would make a good police officer.
I do know these humans–whether they are the police or the people they are there to arrest, or to help–can use all the compassion and love they can get, and that we can give them.