Prejudice

Prejudice:

a: 1) a preconceived or opinion : 2) an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge

b: an instance of such judgement or opinion

c: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

– Merriam-Webster online dictionary

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I’ve been yelled at, spit on, punched, kicked and bitten.  I have been called names, challenged on my personal views and have endured a litany of anonymous insults from those too cowardly to speak to my face.

All this from those I have sworn to protect and serve.

For the most part, this behaviour does not overly bother me, as it’s an expected part of this sometimes very difficult job.  Acts of kindness, well-wishes and heart felt ‘thank you’s’ from citizens make up for the other, less desirable side-effects of being a law enforcement officer.You simply cannot dwell on incidents when a person makes your job more difficult, and I’m usually able to adhere to this mantra.

But this past weekend, I had my patience tested.

It was a very busy night and police units were pulled taut in every direction all across Vancouver.  As a dog handler, my job is to respond to any situation where the services of the police dog may be used, and to cover/assist patrol units. I spent the night going from call to call, covering units, and making the occasional traffic stop (road criminals were everywhere).  With the exception of a spectacular roll-over accident where the driver and single occupant survived, the majority of the night was uneventful.

Until the witching hour – the last hour of shift.

A stabbing, a foot chase, a theft from auto in progress, a violent domestic – everything happened at once.  I went to the stabbing and the other dog handlers went to everything else.  I was not required at the stabbing, so after helping out with what I could, I cleared the scene and headed towards where the other handlers had their hands full.  I had not driven far when a patrol unit, on a different call, asked for a unit to cover them as they were dealing with two belligerent suspects.  They had responded to a 911 call of an altercation on the street where the caller identified the aggressors by physical characteristics and clothing, so it was clear who was who when the single police car rolled up.

When I arrived at the scene, one man was in handcuffs, another was conversing with one of two officers, and three additional people were standing off to the side.  Both men dealing with police were loud, verbally aggressive and posturing.  The three people standing off to the side were quiet and had a confused and mildly concerned look about them.

I stood by with the second, un-handcuffed male while the officers went to work putting the pieces of the story together.  After all was said and done, we discovered the two males were verbally assaulted by an unknown group of people who threw racial slurs at them before leaving in a taxi.  The two men took offence.  The three people standing next to the insult-slingers did know anyone and were in the wrong place at the wrong time .  The two men believed they were involved and challenged them.

In the end, it was all a ‘misunderstanding’.

But while speaking with the one man, he challenged me, saying the only reason I was ‘jacking him up’ was because of the colour of his skin.  He accused me of not being able to see past ethnicity to the real person underneath.  He called me a racist and pointed to the shoulder flash on my uniform with the comment that police were always ready to crucify a coloured man.  He said, not without some pride, of how I had no idea who I was dealing with, and I had better start treating him with respect.

I responded by making a similar comment to him, saying he was obviously prejudiced against police, as he had clearly not looked past my uniform to see he was speaking with a reasonable person.  I told him he was as prejudiced as he was accusing me of being, and I made a point of telling him I was there only because of a 911 call.  If the call turned out to be unfounded, he would be on his way.  Until then, the police were duty bound to identify everyone involved.

The man was not to be convinced.  He continually mentioned the fact he and his friend were coloured and that two of the three attending officers were white.  He also pointed out the third officer, who was of South Asian descent, looked more like a gang-banger than he did.

It was at that point I felt like I was trying to reason with a pouty, insolent child.  The man said we targeted them because of their ethnicity and not because of the way they were conducting themselves.  That’s when I finally lost my temper.

I told the man he was acting like a fool.  It bothers me when someone accuses me of something simply because of my uniform, but it really gets under my skin when my accuser is deaf to all reason.

I asked him if he knew the definition of hypocrisy.  He demanded clarification, and I voiced my opinion of him hating the colour blue, regardless of who was wearing it. I repeated the same line he had slung in my direction, and quoted, “You don’t know who I am.”

What I did not do was ask him to ‘start respecting me’, as I’m not sure he even respected himself.  Besides, if you have to ask for respect, you are guaranteed not to get it.

It seemed to work, at least for as long as it took us to sort out why the 911 had been made in the first place.  The two men apologized to the three witnesses and all of them went on their way. We three officers convened to talk about what had happened when loud voices from down the street were explaining to anyone who would listen that the ‘cops had nothing better to do than to harass them’.

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4 Responses to "Prejudice"

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