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Local News

April 26, 2014

Playing 'cop' for two hours opened my eyes

“Why do police waste their time stopping drivers who are texting or talking on their cellphones when they could be making better use of their time by catching dangerous drug dealers, bank robbers or murderers?” 

You’ve probably heard, or thought about, that question. I know I have. Trooper Michael Woytach, of the state police at Oneonta, has heard that one, too. On a rainy Tuesday afternoon last week, I rode along in his police car for a couple of hours to watch for distracted drivers and uncover the answer to that question. But I came away with an altogether different and deeper understanding of “cops,” in general.

It’s not like I think police are these heartless, conniving thugs who are out to get us. My cousin is a state trooper, and I’m extremely proud of him and the work he does. I’ve always respected police and admired them for the important, brave job that they do. I’ve even teared up seeing my cousin in uniform and thinking about all the times he has willingly put himself in harm’s way to keep others safe. 

But, to be perfectly honest, I simultaneously seem to have conjured up an image of police as cold, uncaring people who think they’re better than the rest of us. Sometimes it seems like they enjoy pulling people over and ruining their day with a ticket, doesn’t it?

I don’t know why I feel like this. Maybe it’s because I was once told that police have a certain quota they need to fill each month and that’s why they put forth such an effort to make “unimportant” stops for speeding or cell phone use. Perhaps it’s because they often “hide” their vehicles in sneaky places to catch people in speed traps. Maybe it’s because I’ve been with family members when they were pulled over by policemen who were less than understanding, even pompous. 

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