'Please Don’t Lose Faith in Us' Police

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

From a reader in Vancouver, British Columbia:

I’m a Canadian police officer, on a patrol and tac team (riot control and high-risk warrant service, etc.) I won’t get into a Big Thing about the issue because I’m tired, and angry, and we are on standby because of the situation in Nice, France.

I just want to say to the people who have written in about their horrible experiences with cops, on behalf of those of us who try to actually help people while conducting ourselves with decency and kindness, I am sorry for what you have experienced. I promise you there are more of us who are good—who would not and could not treat you that way—than there are bad ones. If I didn’t believe that myself, and could support that with logic and facts, I wouldn’t be a cop any more.

Please, please don’t lose faith in us. We are, truly, on your side.

In response to our callout for stories from readers who have been saved from bodily harm by a police officer, a reader in L.A. writes:

I’ve never been saved from bodily harm, but I have been both a victim of and witness to a violent crime that resulted in me having quite a bit of interaction with the police. When I was 16, a girl I was seeing at the time was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.

I’ll never forget it. I don’t want to get too involved with the details, but I was basically the last one to see her before the attack. This resulted in many interviews with detectives and the DA. I never testified, since I was underage and had been drinking, so I wasn’t considered a good witness.

The guy accepted a plea bargain and went to jail for 20 years. The cops really hated this guy and it was very obvious from all of our interactions that they were going to throw him in prison no matter what. There were times I felt they were coaching me to say certain things. The rapist had been bragging earlier in the night about how tough he was and how he was connected with certain gangs. The cops promised to protect me if I had testified but, as I mentioned, it never came to that and I’m not sure how they would have anyways. I still remember meeting the plain clothes officers at a 7/11 by my school. They didn’t want to embarrass me by picking me up in a squad car in front of my classmates.

I haven’t talked about this in years. It drags up a lot of emotions thinking about it. The victim is now married with kids, and we were Facebook friends back when I still used it. I still feel so awful that I wasn’t able to do something to help her. In terms of the cops, they were very helpful, but it was a violent sexual assault on a teenager; there wasn’t a lot of grey area there.

In terms of being a victim, I’ve mentioned it here before: I was jumped late at night by a group of gangbangers. They beat me up pretty good but I was more or less ok. The cops didn’t prevent it, but they responded pretty quickly. One of the younger officers was especially helpful and rode in the ambulance with me so I wouldn’t have to go to the hospital by myself. He seemed to genuinely care if I was ok.

The older, more jaded cops didn’t really seem to care one way or the other. I don’t think there was much of an investigation either because I got a total of one call from a detective who said he was assigned to my case. He asked some questions and I never heard from him again. Oh well, I’m sure there were more important cases for them to focus on.