I saw one of those uplifting, good news type stories in my news feed today:
|Police officer picks up tab for the groceries a desperate mother tried to STEAL to feed her struggling family|
I re-shared it for a couple reasons.
First, it's awfully popular to hate on the police. I understand that what they do is often unpopular, and very few of us ever have or take the opportunity to have a pleasant encounter with the thin blue line. In a larger sense, this is true of everything we do. We can be model employees, but a single fuckup is what our bosses will tend to remember. So it is important that we take time to remember that these individuals have taken a job that they know is unpopular, that doesn't pay well, and is dangerous, almost universally out of a sense of service. It is also important to remember that most of them retain that sense of service and community; and to remind ourselves in positive ways why it is that such a profession exists. The watchman doesn't just repel dangers, but checks in to ensure our well being. Which leads to my second reason:
This is exactly what the police ought to do.
I'm not saying buy groceries for folk, that was an act of charity above and beyond the duties of an officer. But it is an indicator of how the officer ought to view their role and act within that role, and that role is as a member of the community.
I've heard people wax nostalgic about the days when the cops that walked a beat in your neighborhood knew your name. I am wary of nostalgia, but this is a worthwhile goal. It fosters a sense of connection between the officers and their charges. It enhances community appreciation of the police. It means that there are enough police to have them walking about and knowing their areas and the people within them.
I'm writing about this news item here for a third reason. A while ago I opined on nullification, and made the point that while the police ought not to have de jure powers of nullification, the realities of law enforcement give them such powers de facto. This good news story is an example of this de facto nullification: the law requires that the woman, a thief, should be arrested and punished; in most cases the law is perfectly logical and therefore should remain standing. However, the officer took the time to consider the situation and chose not to enforce the law, because in this specific situation the effect of doing so would have been beyond negative. This officer, rather than act without imagination, did the right thing without the waste of time, money, and paper that would go into legislating every conceivable exception that can or ought to be made to the law.