I am a college educated, registered nurse by profession, mother of one--full grown woman who becomes a paranoid idiot whenever a police car gets behind me. To paraphrase Chris Rock, when a police officer is behind me in traffic, I start wondering if I stole my own car!! My heart beats rapidly. My hands get all sweaty. I do the "check-list" in my head..."what am I doing wrong? is the license plate current? is there a broken light of any kind? did I remember to wear my seatbelt? where is my driver's license? how do I keep calm and drive? am I breathing?" Then inevitably, the officer goes on his way completely unaware of the trauma "he" inflicted upon me. I breathe a big sigh of relief and Life goes on.
I was raised to not only respect police officers but to fear them. Officers I grew up around were larger than life. As those before them, they risk their lives everyday. They have the power to arrest anyone for anything right or wrong and nothing could be done about it. "If anything happens--it's your fault," I was told. Cops are 100% right and the public is 100% wrong. Even when the cops are wrong they are right. That's just the way it is. Why? Then I started to think about it: Perception is reality.
People treat me differently when I am in my nurse's uniform. At times, they just walk up to me and ask medical questions whether I'm standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at lunch. My uniform implies a certain level of knowledge and accessibility. With my cousin, he is nearly a rock star in his army uniform. People give him 'knowing' looks, salutes, handshakes and hugs on occasion. But not one has yet to ask 'permission' to give the hugs or handshakes--they just do it and he's expected to take it. Why? The uniform.
Right or wrong, uniforms imply certain traits in those wearing them. My hair color and bust line gives some people certain ideas about me when I'm in my nurse's uniform. I 'decide' that a man or woman in a police officer uniform sees everyone and every situation as a life or death threat. While just the sight of an officer can make some folks "get an attitude," that officer is duty bound to protect and serve. Says so on the car!!
We want them running to the bank robbery in progress; stopping the car flying through the school zone; capturing an escaped convict; helping us in any way they can and to be happy to do it. The uniform they wear allows us to expect a hero in every police officer. To some however, it implies there's a doughnut shop nearby. Good cops/bad cops, good people/bad people. Fact is--you can't tell just by looking. They come in all shapes, sizes and...uniforms!