When I was growing up, my perception of the police was mainly based on Officer Friendly and McGruff the crime dog. I didn’t know much about racial profiling, or police brutality. Obviously, it was an issue, but the only case I can actually recall at the moment is the Rodney King case. Nowadays, our children have Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and now, Sandra Bland as examples of how the police aren’t always here to serve and protect us. Of course social media and technology have a lot to do with how aware we are about these cases.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of any of these cases in this post. I’m more concerned about how I can honestly teach my child to respect the police, but also be mindful of the bad seeds of the force at the same time. My daughter is only three years old, but she’s already asking questions that I’m not quite sure how to answer. A few months ago, she asked me if police killed bad people for hurting good people. I wasn’t sure where that came from, but I had to give her an age appropriate answer. At the time, I told her that police protect good people from bad people. She seemed to understand that, and even added that they protect good people by taking bad people to jail, or by trapping them as she calls it. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, I realize that the answer to her question isn’t actually that simple.
I don’t want my daughter to hate police or fear them, but I also want her to understand that not all police are good. We have to be upfront with our children, sugar coating things will no longer cut it. While some cops are like good ole Officer Friendly, others are more like Stranger Danger. The scary part is that we may never know which is which until we encounter them. I’ll do my best to prepare my baby for encounters with both types.