Many brave officers in our police departments, sheriff's offices and highway patrol keep us safe everyday. But these days, I’m having trouble describing to my kids what trustworthy authority figures look like.
“If you’re ever in a situation when you need help, always go to a policeman.” I’ve heard this for years. But after hearing about the recent action of a highway patrol trooper, I sometimes wonder if that's the case. In my heart, however, I have to believe it is.
My grandfather was a deputy sheriff. He wore the badge. He rode the roads. He arrested the bad and made good what wasn’t. I don’t know this only because my father has shared stories with me, but because many citizens in my hometown knew my grandfather. They shared with me how he was a good man and a “fine lawman.”
I never knew him. My children will never know him. But when they see a badge or person in uniform, whether gray, blue, black or brown, they know to respect that individual.
I’ve made my share of mistakes. I never respected an officer any more than while in college. My dormitory’s grounds were under construction. I’d had a few drinks. Rather than arrest my butt for climbing the three-story high dirt hill outside of the dorm, the officer kindly sent me, tail between my legs, back to my room with only a very sobering look. That might be news to my parents too. Good to know the college money went to good use. : )
Or what about the time the N.C. state trooper stopped to help former WRAL Sports Anchor Tom Suiter and I when we had a flat tire. We had shot an Extra Effort Award in Fayetteville and were on our way back to Raleigh. We could have changed the tire ourselves, but the trooper arrived shortly after our blowout and helped us change it. Great guy! Tom even featured him in his sportscast that night.
They’re out there. Great officers at the state, city and county levels are here to protect and serve. Can they speak up though? When embarrassing incidents that tarnish the brass occur within the state highway patrol can others speak up and rid the barrel of the bad apples?
I hope so. Because I want to know that when I tell my children to respect authority, I’m right.
Jay Hardy is the father of a grade schooler and a toddler in Holly Springs. He's a former sports photographer and reporter for WRAL-TV. Find him here once a month on Wednesdays.