Sometimes I watch all the unrest around the country — both real and perceived — and I just have to shake my head and mutter “what a mess.”
I watched all the heated arguments, reports of shootings, looting and riots this past week.
I hear general concepts about spending more money, creating more teams, forums and task forces to “solve” the problem, but I have a novel idea.
Say “hello,” smile and maybe shake the hand of the next person you meet. And then maybe the next one and maybe the next.
It seems we’re all human. Most doctors will remind us, we look the same inside with our blood, organs and such. We all bleed red.
But on TV, I saw a glimmer of hope. What appeared to be a young black gentleman in Charlotte, N.C., walking up to officers and just giving each a hug.
Guess what? I saw several white policemen decked out in riot gear for self preservation, smile and hug him right back.
Sometimes I work long hours, get tired and maybe a little bit grumpy.
I’m not a police officer, but I suspect they might have bad days or at least some challenges too.
So what can I do to help? How about starting with traffic stops.
I don’t like it when I’m pulled over, but sometimes I do something wrong or my taillight needs to be replaced.
I might get a little nervous and agitated, especially if I’m in a hurry, but I’m going to do my best to help make this officer feel that I’m not a threat.
They never know if they’re stopping a mass murderer fresh off a kill or a sweet, little old grandmother coming back from tea.
I’m going to try to be like granny.
I’m going call him or her, “sir” or “ma’am,” and do what I’m told to do. That’s my mindset — take it or leave it.
The country singer Coffey Anderson recently put out a video that you can view on YouTube. He happens to be a black man and took a little criticism for some of the things he said about cooperating with authorities.
I didn’t agree with everything he said, but I believe it’s a good starting point.
If I see police lights in my rear view mirror, I try to pull over as soon as it is safe to do so.
I stop the car and roll my window halfway down. This allows the officer to look in without feeling threatened about me reaching out at him or her.
I turn off my radio, take off my sunglasses, turn on my dome light inside if it’s dark and put my hands on the top of my steering wheel.
I take a couple of deep breaths and try to calm down by reminding myself, even if it costs me some money to pay for a ticket, it’s not the end of the world. It will be OK.
If I have a hunting rifle in the back, I definitely let the officer know that immediately.
Then I just patiently wait for instructions.
If the officer asks me for my license, I usually say what I’m going to do like, “My wallet is in my back pocket, so I’m going to reach for that now, OK?”
When I get approval to do so, then I move slowly as I’ve described.
Anderson suggests having driver’s license and insurance card ready when the officer gets to the vehicle.
I disagree, because I don’t want him or her to see me rummaging around in the vehicle digging for something when the officer walks up. There are some difficult people in the world and I don’t want anyone to think I might be reaching for a weapon.At a recent workshop, Altus police Chief Tim Murphy said that he likes to roll down all the tinted windows of his vehicle when he gets pulled over, that way the officer can see everything in the car or truck.
Yes, I did say that the police chief does get pulled over too. Everybody does, so don’t take it personally or get offended.
It happened to me four times in my first couple of months in Altus. Once I was tired about 2 a.m. and swerved across the line, another time I left a shopping center at night and forgot to put on my headlights until the gracious officer who stopped me, reminded me to do so. Do you hear my mindset in my words?
Two other times I had a short in my taillight and thought it was fixed both times.
I got a “fix-it ticket” twice and the other two times was reminded to be careful.
So how would you handle this situation? Better yet, who is the next person you are going to show kindness?
I hope I can go out of my way to be nice, especially if that next person doesn’t look or talk like I do.
Reach Eric Steinkopff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 580-482-1221, ext 2072.