Search Box

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Effective or rude?

My son and I were in the left lane of the Cross Bronx Expressway the other day when a police car came up behind us, lights flashing. I moved over to the middle lane, then saw what the fuss was about. A black guy was walking on the very narrow shoulder to the left of the fast lane, right next to the divider.

One of the cops said over his loudspeaker, "Get the fuck off my highway or I'll run you over myself."

The pedestrian kept walking. I didn't see any way he could have weaved his way through the traffic to get to the side of the road anyway. The police then drove over to another car which was stopped in the right hand lane, which was probably the reason they had been called to that area in the first place.

I wasn't sure what to make of the incident. Was cop being unnecessarily rude? And why didn't he arrest the guy? The pedestrian was a hazard not just to himself but to any car which might have swerved to avoid him. Did the officer need to swear and claim ownership of the highway? His tone of voice was definitely not the one they use on those police reality shows, where the cops always seem to call everybody sir.

Was there a racial component to this? (You could tell from his voice it was a white cop.) Was the cop just showing off to his partner?

My son said it sounded like something a drill sergeant would say.

I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that sometimes you just have to come across like a hard ass. A polite request would have seemed completely inappropriate here: "Excuse me sir, would you mind not walking in the middle of the highway?"

Sometimes, to be effective, you have to be rude.

Was there a racial angle to all of this? Nah. I have to think the cop would have taken the same tone with anyone doing something that stupid. (Anyway, who would you expect to be doing that kind of thing, an Asian girl?)

There may have been an element of the cop showing off to his partner, but it was probably more just a matter of not wanting to appear soft.

And the cop probably didn't have time to arrest him, since the patrol car had been summoned to deal with the car stalled on the right hand side of the road.

My guess is, even when he's off duty, that cop is a pretty obnoxious guy. And yes, he could have been a tad more polite to the pedestrian. But, as my son once pointed out, who would you want to have doing that job, your average high school teacher?

No thanks.


Anonymous said...

I went through boot camp at a time when the leaders-"company commanders" they were, in the Navy-were allowed to use foul and insulting language towards their charges. I still remember some of the terms and epithets they used, and while they are funny now, at the time it was most certainly not. Navy boot camp was easy as compared to the Marines, I'm told (and well believe) but I understand what was being done and why. It was still stressful as compared to civilian life for most of us.

They had to get the attention of us young men-some were young men (and a couple of them were not as young-our oldest was 35 and two others were over 30) and some were boys, and some were straight out punks. We were doing stuff that had consequences. We didn't do all the stuff Army or Marine recruits did, but we were going on ships and would have to fight fires, stand important watches, and possibly have to abandon ship or recover an overboarded shipmate. Several of us went out to the fleet right after boot camp. (I was in an aviation A school and went four years without going to sea so much as overnight-I was part of the P-3 community, the best duty in Naval Aviation as far as I could tell.)

Later, when confronted by loud and foulmouthed cops, I never took it personally. I understood why, and it didn't bother me too much.

Now, my hair is gray going on white, and cops are mostly polite to me. I look older than my actual age, and I get the senior citizen discount sometimes without asking (and I never complain). But part of being an adult, to me, is being able to deal with authority from above as well as with being the authority. I have a boss at work and he has a boss and so forth.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Interesting. (You sound like the same person who commented after the Cam Newton post, so, again, please give yourself a pen name; I may not "recognize" you otherwise in a few weeks time if you decide to write in then.)

I was never in the military, but my son, who went through Army basic training in 2010, said that the Army had dictated that the drill sergeants were no longer allowed to call the recruits "faggots" or "pussies" or the like, but that the drill sergeants mostly ignored that dictum. My son actually liked most of the drill sergeants. I wrote about that here:

I've had a couple of cops be rude to me, too; one time I didn't take it personally, as it was obvious he was just doing his job. The other time, I have to admit, it actually did make me sort of angry, as it was completely pointless. But I think if I'd been doing something stupid like the pedestrian described in this post, I would have seen any rudeness as completely justified.

orionwrench said...


I figure that cops have to be feared a little to be effective, but not unreasonably so. I avoid cops as much as possible, on or off duty, on the grounds that interacting with them is always unlikely to be a net positive, so I drive prudently, keep my vehicle registered and insured correctly, and figure that where there are cops around there is a reason and avoid those places. I did get pulled over twice in the last two years and the encounters went smoothly-I was polite and nonconfrontational, made no even remotely threatening moves, etc. They ran my tags and license, and let me go with no unprofessional or confrontational problems.

John Craig said...

Orionwrench --
I do the same, and the vast majority of interactions I've had have been perfectly pleasant -- as pleasant as getting a ticket can be -- and the cops acted very professionally.

I've never understood people who get confrontational with police -- it seems like an awfully self-destructive course of action.

AnalogMan said...

Was there a racial angle to all of this? ... (Anyway, who would you expect to be doing that kind of thing, an Asian girl?)

Answered your own question, didn't you?

John Craig said...

AnalogMan --
Sorta. I was actually talking about the cop's reaction to the pedestrian more than the nature of the trespass itself.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of cops, I get a bit uneasy if I have a cop following me for too long a time when I'm driving. Yesterday, I was returning home from work and a city cop car was behind me - it stayed behind me all the way into the county (where I live). I was getting a bit nervous because cop cars aren't usually behind me for that long a time period. Once I reached my bank, I turned into the parking lot and watched the cop car go on by, then I decided to actually do some banking. LOL.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
I know what you mean, in that situation I would start to get that "guilty feeling," even if I'd done nothing wrong.