I couldn't believe it when I first heard her say it. It was right out of the blue without any prep work. "What?" I asked. "You want me to do what?" Hearing me question her as if I were in a state of shock (I was) my wife walked around the corner of the room, made direct eye contact with me to eliminate any possibility of husband/wife misunderstanding and then said in a calm, but determined voice, "Keith, I want you to buy a rifle." She then turned and walked away.
My mind raced for several minutes. "It couldn't be this simple," I thought. Instinctively I knew that I had either missed something, done something, will be accused of something, whatever, but I also knew what I heard. Things just didn't add up. Since when does a guy get a free pass by their wife to drop a thousand dollars, minimum, at a gun shop? Actually, this was more than a free pass; it was her suggestion! Moments later she went on to say that she preferred that I get a something heavy like a 7.62 NATO. Okay, now I was concerned that I had really, really done something wrong. I needed to find out.
What I found out, after a more in-depth conversation, was that she was intensely worried. You see, my wife is a police officer and over time had started to notice changes to the policing environment to her beat. Within the last two years, it seemed to her, these changes had accelerated. It was a change she had never noticed or before. It is the cyclical changes to policing. I, on the other hand, had been through a few so I knew what she was observing and how she felt, but at the same time I must admit this latest one is a little scary.
Then and Now
If you have been a cop more than ten years you have, whether you knew it or not, have gone through a policing cycle yourself. Similar to life being in a state of flux, the art of policing also changes according to the demands of the environment and attitudes of the community.
Beginning my law enforcement career in the late '80s (Army MP) I remember the era where cops wore their reflective Ray-Bans sunglasses, laughed at Buck Savage Roll Call videos, dreaded watching the Law Enforcement Television Network, drove cruisers that had the same number of right-angels to a shoe box, but more interestingly served a public that responded with clues of intimidation rather than respect.
The Rodney King incident ushered in a new era to policing where it seemed the public had become more distrustful and suspicious of the police. Citizens did not seem to shy away from cops anymore, but got up in our face with cameras. Using a video camera to capture the police doing something wrong and then giving it to the media so they could play the video repeatedly seemed to be symptomatic of the era. I have been videotaped on traffic stops, calls for service, and while making arrests. Policing in the 1990s had become, in my experience, a time where the police and public were more directly adversarial than anything. There was a clear division between the two and the separation felt as if it grew wider daily.
Then the 9/11 attacks came along and made us all heroes, if only for a brief moment in time. The era changed again and it was a complete 180-degree turn within a day. All of a sudden citizens would offer to buy us lunch or dinner, pay for coffee, stop and say hello and introduce their children to us as if we were sports figures. Heck, I even remember signing an autograph once for a parent who asked me for one so that she could give it to her son (that's still weird as I think about it). "But for a moment..." Then came military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Global War On Terror battles, Katrina debacle, more terrorist attack attempts, financial collapse, and now Constitutional legal conflicts between the federal government and individual states over protecting their borders. Here we go again with that separation; it's not a crack in the wall anymore - it's as wide as a river and growing.