Column: Why police officers must be respected

There needs to be a mutual respect between citizens and law enforcement officers. Disrespecting officers and encouraging the stigma against law enforcement only increases the severity of the tension between citizens and police by forcing officers into defensive positions. (Singing With Light/Flickr)

A coffee shop in St. Louis sparked debates last week when a tweet from a customer praised its practice of writing ‘FTP’ (F*** The Police) on every lid of its to-go cups. Similarly, on October 2, an employee from Dunkin Donuts allegedly acted rude to a customer because he was a police officer in uniform. Upon leaving with a coffee in hand, that officer realized the employee had written ‘#blacklivesmatter’ on his cup. Small acts of disrespect like these instances and the support they receive from the public create a hostile environment that enables a citizens-versus-police mentality.

There needs to be a mutual respect between citizens and law enforcement officers. Disrespecting officers and encouraging the stigma against law enforcement only increases the severity of the tension between citizens and police by forcing officers into defensive positions. There is no doubt that some officers abuse their position of power, but the vast majority of officers work their hardest to help maintain safe and law abiding communities. With this in mind, citizens and police have a shared responsibility to their communities.

Police officers have a responsibility to enforce laws in a fair and equal manner, and citizens have a responsibility to educate themselves about the laws and respect the authority that enforces them. However, through preforming and supporting disrespectful acts aimed to insult and sometimes harm law enforcement, citizens are failing their responsibility toward their community. 

It is important to recognize that while police officers are law enforcement, they are also normal people. Even if a person cannot understand and respect the honor of a law enforcement official, they should respect and empathize with an officer on the basis that every person deserves respect.

The events in St. Louis and Providence display that people do not treat law enforcement with the same respect they would treat other professions. No other profession would be greeted with the same rude behavior because a person wore their uniform into an establishment. Disrespectful acts against the police display a failure to recognize people in the profession first as humans who deserve at least the same level of respect you would give any other person. 

The media is partially responsible for society’s inability to recognize the police force as regular people. Most news stories that include police officers are about horrible events that do not represent the profession as a whole. Those who read and watch these news stories must keep in mind that the media only recounts stories of rare events and mistakes. It does not focus on stories that give a more accurate portrayal of the police force because that is not considered news.

The media will never balance the negative occurrences with the far more frequent, positive actions of police officers. This failure to accurately portray officers has allowed the public to envision law enforcement as a completely malicious establishment. 

The public can no longer tolerate these acts of disrespect against the police and the citizen-versus-police mentality. The longer that society allows this, the more it alienates a profession that works to support and protect communities. In order to change this prevalent attitude, people need to actively support the police both online and in person. People should spread the stories they hear of officers going beyond expectations when serving their communities, because those are the stories that the media will not cover.

If there is a situation where people are vocalizing hatred for the police force or blatantly disrespecting an officer, it is important to show support for the police both as public officials and as human beings. The overwhelming majority of police officers are people who want to serve and protect their community for a living, and that sentiment should be honored.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.