Saturday, October 13, 2007

In praise of gentle cops

Gayle and I were walking along Bird Farm Road in Los Serranos late this evening when up the street we heard a couple of thumps and saw a car going nowhere. Then Stephen called to be picked up and we had to hurry back to get him, and so we arrived at the scene just as the San Bernardino Sheriffs did.

A young kid, very drunk, had hit a car, then slammed several times into a wall, and then tried to flee the scene. Four cop cars arrived.

The striking thing was how they arrested the kid. They had cuffed him of course, but the cop took care to help him gently into the back of the car, as though helping a frail old lady to her seat. I was greatly moved by the wisdom in this.

This kid is in a lot of trouble. The cops had the sense to remember that, though a fool, he remains a human being. They didn't pile on. Without actually being brutal or violating any rule, they could have frogmarched him up and thrown him in the back of the car, instead of carefully and respectfully placing him there.

Besides remaining human beings, by such gentleness the cops avoided becoming the issue. The kid won't have any folly but his own to remember. They didn't offer the kid or his parents any distraction from reality by any bad behavior of their own.

"I looked and received instruction," says the proverb. I want to learn some of that wisdom for myself. Like those cops, I will sometimes have the duty to handcuff somebody and deposit him in the back of a car for a ride to a cell. But if so, I need not to pile on, not to throw him in the back of the car, not to forget he's a human being, or even to forget that God will sometimes need to have me cuffed and hauled away. When that's so, may I be handled like that kid, having learned to do likewise to others.

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