I talked about the militarization of Law Enforcement awhile back. I got to thinking about what shapes our feeling on law enforcement. I think our feelings are based upon a combination of personal experiences and good/bad press the law enforcement community gets.
Today I realized that my personal experiences and feelings thereon about law enforcement in whatever community I am living in are based upon one main thing. They are a ratio of how much the cops inconvenience/ annoy me and how much I perceive they do a good job that makes my life safer. If they are keeping the serious crime situation (as much as anyone can) under control a traffic stop now and then doesn't bother me. Conversely if they are doing a miserable job of keeping crime at decently low levels or there is no job to do (no real crime to begin with) I do not feel so great about getting hassled for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.
That brings me to the fun topic of traffic stops. Traffic stops are by far where normal citizens have the most interaction with cops. I find it amusing that we all have inherently selfish views of traffic laws. We think it is just fine for us to do whatever we want but generally want safe reasonable roads. (Those safe reasonable roads come precisely because of laws being enforced. If you disagree try driving in a country without traffic cops or mandatory licensing.) We will get mad about a guy driving irresponsibly or too fast in our neighborhood but then turn around and also get mad if we get a ticket for some infraction. We just can't seem to remember that last Tuesday when we were running late and had to do an errand before work we drove about as fast as that jerk driving like it was the Indy 500 in front of our house. I am not going to pretend for a second that I don't do the same thing. I think all of you should follow cautious and responsible rules but I should be able to do whatever I want to. Your actions should be well enforced but I should be able to drive 75 in a school zone while talking on a cell phone, drinking coffee and eating a bowl of cereal.
I read a lot of crazy "Only One" stuff. Heck I even post a funny video now and then. I do think it is worth noting that maybe it isn't so much that cops have started doing more ridiculous stuff but that via some bloggers and news sites the info is getting out. Prior to the world wide web getting to its current hugeness the word of a city cop in Centerville, NJ being a jerk didn't go any further than a degree or two of separation from the people involved. Once in a blue moon it would make a city paper. Vague tales of a crooked cop or one who was just a jerk are nothing new. However 30 years ago it was more of a rumor among a certain group that you don't want to argue with the cops in Middle Creek, Arkansas. Nowadays an article from a local newspaper goes all over the world. I am not saying that some cops aren't jerks or that they should not be appropriately punished. I am just saying that I am not so convinced that the overall percentage of unacceptable behavior has radically changed.