Editorial: Take advantage of chance to get to know officers

Published 10:32 am Thursday, July 28, 2022

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They see us at our worst.

Maybe we’ve had too much to drink and get behind the wheel of a car. Maybe our addictions get the best of us, and we get caught. Maybe our decisions to take something that wasn’t ours catches their attention. Maybe we take out life’s frustrations on the ones we love.

But most likely, if you’re ever in one of these situations, you’ll wind up talking to a police officer, or a sheriff’s deputy, or a highway patrol officer. It is also likely that this interaction with that officer will be your first (If it isn’t, you may want to take a long look in the mirror).

Wouldn’t it be better that when we do wrong – or report someone else’s wrongdoings – that we know the officer beforehand? Of course, it would. It would help the officer, too.

Realize that when an officer is called to a scene, he doesn’t know what to expect. People are emotional and don’t always think straight when their emotions take control, which is often the case in traumatic situations. If the officer knows the person, it presents somewhat of a calming effect on both parties, and there is less a chance of a blow up.

The Davie County Sheriff’s Office is taking a step in the right direction with the National Night Out promotion on Aug. 2 in Downtown Mocksville. They’re inviting us all out for a night of food, music, inspiration and getting to know one another. No cost. They just want to get to know you. And they want you to get to know them, as well.

I’ll share a few of my interactions with law enforcement. Believe it or not, not all were positive. My first was when I got a speeding ticket. Going way too fast, I got caught. The patrolman – a local guy who is still around – was kind, wrote me a ticket for far slower than I was traveling – warned me about the speed and sent me on my way.

I was lucky. And I left with a good impression about law enforcement. Hey, these guys are just like us. As Junior Brown says in the song, “I’m just doing my job … I’m the highway patrol.”

My next interaction with the police came when a highway patrolman put his pistol about a foot from my nose as I opened the glove box to get the registration for my friend, who was driving. This officer was courteous but business like, which is fine, and he taught me a lesson. Ask first before reaching for something.

The next officer wasn’t so nice. He, apparently, had spent weeks investigating a break-in at a motorcycle shop in Murfreesboro, NC. His conclusion? I was the culprit. He came to arrest me. It didn’t help that I had hair well below my shoulders; that in itself made officers suspicious back in the day. It didn’t help that I drove a car that could go fast and had an enhanced stereo system with a seat filled with Ted Nugent and Black Oak Arkansas tapes (It was that car that had been spotted driving by that shop that led the officer to me.). It didn’t help that I carried a bad attitude. Innocent, I let the officer know it. I laughed at him. I let him search my car, and he threatened to arrest me because there was a coat hanger in the back seat. I laughed again. I was a college student who went back and forth to home on weekends to do laundry. His last words: “Boy, if I ever find out you had anthing to do with this I’m going to hang your @$# from the highest tree in Murfreesboro.” It was a good line I’ll never forget, as was my response before walking away. “I’m not worried because I didn’t do it.”

Believe it or not, I had another run-in with that officer less than a year later. I had been parked on someone else’s land when my battery died. Going back the next day, that officer was there with the landowner. All the doors to my car were open. The trunk was open. The hood was up. I told them what had happened, and the landowner just laughed it off and didn’t want to press charges. The officer left, obviously mad.

That same officer set me up for an arrest a few months later, an arrest that cost me a lot of money to get out of. It was a set up, so it wasn’t hard to get out of – just expensive.

I wonder what would have been different if I had met that officer in a social situation before that first meeting. If I had been nicer, would he have still set me up? If he had been nicer and truthful, would I have left thinking that all officers are crooks? Probably not.

That’s why National Night Out is a good idea.

– Mike Barnhardt