Wisdom is what we overlook, character reveals itself in degrees and you make someone trustworthy by trusting them.
I admire police officers. Their role in our society is ever changing and they are under constant scrutiny. They put their lives on the line every single day and must study human nature, know themselves and be prepared for innocent situations to turn emotional and violent in a fraction of a second. I read somewhere that the most dangerous time for a police officer is a routine traffic stop because he doesn’t know what he may encounter.
This past weekend my 13-year-old daughter told me she had been in the car recently with my 17-year-old son at the wheel when a police officer pulled my son over for speeding. It was the first I had heard of this so I listened carefully.
It was at night. My son was driving his 1996 Buick Roadmaster Station Wagon. It’s a lot of car with a Corvette engine. My daughter was sitting in the back seat. The police officer pulled my son over and asked for his license and registration. The police officer shone his flashlight into the back seat and saw my daughter. He asked how old she was. My son said, “That’s my sister. She’s 13.” The police officer said, “Well, I guess you and she haven’t started fighting yet, but you have that to look forward to.” He also said to my son, “You have a clean driving record and we want to keep it that way.” My daughter told me my son had been very polite. The police officer gave my son a verbal warning.
This was an innocent, uneventful traffic stop, but my son and daughter now have personal experience of a police officer showing restraint, kindness and a sense of humor. He knew what to overlook, formed a connection with them and allowed them to proceed even though my son had been speeding. This experience will make my son a more mindful, respectful man.
About three years ago I was going 50 in a 35 mile an hour zone. A young motorcycle police officer pulled me over. We spoke. He, too, gave me a verbal warning. I promised him I would never speed on that stretch of road again. I have kept that promise to this day.
Two weeks later that young police officer father of two was killed when a driver driving a minivan ran a red light and collided with his motorcycle.
I offer these two examples of police officers who overlooked human frailty and demonstrated character by being magnanimous to make a point: We are fortunate to live in a society that is still civil and in which police officers can earn trust by what they do not do.