A night out to come together

>"All we can do is constantly try to bond with the community."

That is what Milford Police Sgt. Mat­thew Fiffield told The Cabinet last week in discussing plans for his department’s participation in the National Night Out that involves 40,000 police agencies across the U.S. and Canada.

When it comes to police-community relations, that’s really all any depart­ment can do: try. In some communities, it’s easier than in others, but it’s never a walk in the park. As a people, we have an odd disaffinity for police officers. We don’t ignore them, as we tend to ignore our service men and women, because we see police officers nearly every day. We see members of the military on national holidays, but otherwise, out of sight, out of mind.

But the police are with us day in and day out and our interactions with them aren’t always of a, "Hi, how ya doing?" nature. Sometimes, as they enforce the law, they deal with us in a legalistic way, usually because we’ve done something we shouldn’t have, like run a traffic light or speed.

We don’t like it when those things hap­pen and some of us carry grudges: We don’t like cops because, once or twice, we got a ticket or two.

But that’s not the officer’s fault. We ex­pect cops to do their jobs as long as they don’t impact us in the doing. Give the other guy a ticket, he deserves it, but not me, I don’t deserve it. What’s the big deal about doing 45 in a 35 mph zone? C’mon, cut me a break.

Or, in the classic but really annoying line:

"Don’t you have real criminals to ar­rest?"

Well, yes, of course they do, and they do arrest them, but that doesn’t mean they should ignore traffic violations.

We’re lucky here in southern New Hampshire. Certainly we have crime, and when that relatively small amount of crime hits home, we’re glad our police officers are on the job. But this isn’t Bal­timore, this isn’t Oakland, this isn’t some place where it seems as if it’s open season on police officers.

We should be thankful for that, but we should also be thankful that local officers are, indeed, local.

They live in our communities, they pay the same taxes as we, they shop in the same grocery stores, they open local busi­nesses when they retire from the force. Had you attended Family Fun Day at Keyes Park in Milford two Saturdays ago, you would have seen Sgt. Fiffield there, watching his son, Sean, zip down the wa­ter slide.

They’re with us.

The question, though, is:

Are we with them?

Sure, sometimes, as long as we’re not getting pulled over. Different story then.

But that’s why an event like National Night Out is important. It allows us to meet, on a non-professional level, the men and women who have a tough job: protecting us. On such a night, we get to see them as just folks, just like us, and talk to them. When we talk to them in such a setting we discover that they have the same concerns as we, that they have many of the same beliefs, the same hopes, the same fears. They want the same things for their kids as we.

And we might get to the point where we can agree that if we were to put on that blue uniform, we just might handle things in exactly the same way folks now on the job do, as in:

You know what? I’d have given me that ticket, too.