Smile Politely

Smart-Ass Cops

Several months ago I left work and headed to my son’s school so I could see him perform in his third-grade program. I was late and I was speeding. A cop pulled me over and gave me the usual routine, asking me for my license, registration and insurance card. As I fumbled through the contents of my wallet looking for my insurance card, the cop sarcastically retorted, “Good grief, you’ve got more credit cards than my wife!” My first thought was something like, “Piss off you smart-ass!” But since he was wearing a gun, I sheepishly laughed at his idiotic joke. Then he asked me if there was some reason I was speeding. I told him I was late for my son’s school program and he let me off with a warning, promising that he’d definitely give me a ticket if he caught me speeding again.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was speeding again. A police car pulled up alongside mine and, as we both drove down the street at 50 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone, a cop in the passenger’s side yelled at me out his window, “How fast are you going to drive today?” I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that question. I thought about it and yelled back, “Um, the speed limit?” Then the cop who was driving chimed in, “You were going over fifty miles an hour. What the hell are you thinking? You don’t want me to catch you driving that fast again.” I replied, ‘Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”

As I slowed down and they passed me I could see they had a “customer” in the back of the car whom they were apparently taking to jail. I’m guessing they probably would have taken the time to pull me over and give me a ticket if they hadn’t had this prior commitment. So instead, they satisfied themselves by screaming belligerent and useless things at me out their window.

OK, so I know I shouldn’t have been speeding. And I know cops are human beings who say and do stupid things like everyone. But why does it seem to me that a lot of cops are smart asses? Do they think the authority of their badge gives them the right to treat people disrespectfully? Or do they just think that people who break laws don’t deserve respect?

I really try not to have conflicts with police officers. When they speak to me, I try very hard to respond politely with, “yes, sir” and “no, sir.” Yet I sometimes feel that police officers are trying verbally to provoke me with their smart-ass comments. Shouldn’t cops be taught to minimize tension and not escalate conflict by verbally abusing citizens?

I wonder how many conflicts involving police officers could be avoided if the cops would simply disengage their sarcasm. Not everyone is congenial or mature enough to tolerate a cop with an attitude, gun or not. So when a smart-ass cop meets a smart-ass citizen, it’s always possible that their verbal conflict could escalate into something physically violent.

What have your experiences been like with police officers? Have you had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a smart-ass cop? And how did you handle it?

I don’t think all cops are smart-asses. I’ve also encountered many who have been very professional, courteous and helpful. Cops deserve a lot of respect for the sacrifices they make for the rest of us. And I know that being a police officer can be a dangerous and stressful job. But some of them could probably make their jobs a little less stressful if they would drop the smart-ass routine.

Related Articles