My Apologies …
Why I might have seemed distracted & unfriendly the other nightBy Guy Quaintance | Nov 21, 2017
This is an apology to the person who thinks I snubbed him the other night. It will, I hope, serve two purposes. It will make me feel better because I have been thinking about it for a few days and it has really bothered me. It will also serve as an explanation to many in the community for what may be perceived as a “slight” to them by officers of the law. We may seem hurried, uninterested, bothered or even fearful at times. While all of these perceptions may prove true, the reasons for our emotional states or attitudes might not be what you think. Let me explain.
It is unlikely that the person I snubbed is actually reading this article. Even in the remote case that he were to read the article, he’s unlikely to recognize that I am writing it to him. Hopefully each of you reading—in or out of law enforcement—can relate. Maybe you’ve approached someone with good intentions and felt snubbed, even startled, by their response.
Here’s the thing. Everyone you meet is fighting battles that you know nothing about. We all need to be careful not to assume the nature of their intentions and especially not to assume the worst. Better not to internalize their reaction and, if you can, put a different spin on it.
I’m a deputy for a medium-size organization. On the night in question I had just rushed across town to assist another deputy who had asked for backup and then didn’t respond to subsequent radio traffic. He was there because an employee of a local business had reported an angry vagrant who was trespassing and refusing to leave.
When I pulled up to the scene, I recognized the suspect because I had dealt with him in the past. The man was a vagrant who had a history of aggression towards civilians and the police. I could see by the positioning and body language of the deputy and the subject that the tension had escalated and that a fight was imminent. This particular suspect has little to lose, and I could see the anger on his face and in his eyes. He was tensed up and ready to explode.
Just as I exited my vehicle and approached these two, another couple, male and female, exited the next business south of us and waved to me. The man started to approach my position, but I held my hand out to him, gesturing him to stop his approach. He seemed hurt and said, “All I wanted to do was shake your hand!”
“Thank you,” I said. But I don’t think he heard me.
I could see the disappointment in his face. He left in his vehicle as I closed the distance between myself and the imminent fight.
The contact with the vagrant ended well. But it wasn’t because the vagrant wanted it that way. It was because once I got there, he realized that the likelihood of coming away from this event unscathed had just disappeared.
So, to reiterate, I apologize. I’m sorry that I didn’t have the time to explain fully how you approaching us in that moment was a bad idea. I’m sorry that you didn’t wait around the minute or two that it took to deescalate the situation so that I could shake your hand and explain it to you and thank YOU for your support. I am sorry that you didn’t realize that in that moment I was protecting you and that you were distracting me from a situation that needed my full attention.
If I seem hurried, it might be because I’m on my way to an event that can’t wait on the small talk that usually happens between people as a matter of courtesy. If I seem uninterested, it might be because I am giving my full and undivided attention to an event that could go terribly wrong at any moment. If I seem bothered, it might be because what I have seen today is weighing heavily on my mind, making it difficult for me to be social.
These days, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the ways that people are trying to hurt me and my brothers and sisters. I read and hear all the same news, and I experience and feel the hatred and violence on our streets. If I seem fearful, it might be because, in many, ways I am. My family reads the news too and fears for my safety. This breaks my heart.
I’m sorry that I’m needed. I’m sorry that I can’t always be the light-hearted individual that you would like to approach without notice. I do notice you, but sometimes I am powerless to return the goodwill at the time and in the method that we would both like. Please don’t give up on trying. We need you too.