FEATURE: The Human Side of Policing

Police officers. The natural enemy of young, newly-licenced (and legal!) uni students. Revenue-raising, humourless wankers, right? They exist solely to ruin our day with their speeding tickets and demerit points and anti-hoon driving laws. How dare they try to save lives! Those bastards!

Most of us never consider the human side of policing. . An inconvenience to us. Maybe in the back of our minds we think they might have lives beyond ‘the job’, or maybe we don’t. Either way, we probably don’t lie awake at night sympathising about their mental health.

We don’t see them steel themselves before they knock on the door of a mother whose fifteen-year-old son was just killed in a car accident. We don’t see them pick up a scattered shoe on the side of the road after attending a collision and recognise the brand because it’s the same one their daughter wears. We don’t imagine them giving evidence in court to ensure a violent predator is kept off the same streets you and I are able to walk down safely.

We don’t consider their frustration over encountering the same idiots committing the same offences over and over, or worse, recognising a family name and realising with a sinking heart that the cycle has moved on to the next generation. We don’t spend any time at all thinking about the failed resuscitations, the daily threat of personal injury, the increased risk of depression and suicide, the public scrutiny, the missed holidays or anniversaries or school events.

We just argue about a speeding fine and turn to Facebook to complain about how unfair it all was.

I’ve known a lot of police officers over the years. Their dedication and personal sacrifice is something that is hard to comprehend from the outside, but I can tell you this with supreme confidence: they are some of the most decent, selfless and hilarious people you’re ever likely to come across. Here in South Australia it’s a 5000-strong family, and I’m privileged to call some of these men and women my friends.

I’ve seen backyards blitzed, funds raised, families supported and kilometres cycled for charity. I’ve nearly wet myself laughing at one story only to want to cry over the next, because you know, the ‘bad stuff’ you hear is only the tip of the iceberg and there are twenty other stories more painful than you can possibly imagine just lurking in the shadows. The kind of stuff that surfaces when they’re lying in bed at night. The weight of the world, resting on two already-burdened shoulders.

The toddler they couldn’t save.
The overdose they attended.
The abuse and neglect they witnessed.
The hungry kids.
The drug-affected teens.
The regrets.

So the next time you’re pulled over, don’t be a dick. Forgive them, their brusqueness; you may have come to their notice after a morning dealing with the consequences of a fatal road accident where speed was a contributing factor. If you deserved it, cop it on the chin, and don’t do it again.

I know it can be hard to imagine, but police officers really are human.

Words by: Karen Smart