Most people are somewhat intimidated by police officers or sheriff’s deputies. These men and women impose a commanding posture. Especially motorcycle police officers who are generally in excellent physical condition and who wear tall black boots with a motorcycle police uniform breeches. Add the weapon and (for some) taser to their duty belt, and you…
…generally keep a distance and are respectful (and sometimes stare in awe).
I know that is how I felt in my earlier days when I was captivated by the boots, breeches, and uniform of motorcops.
Then I began to interact with them. First in my community as I was doing volunteer service. Then again while teaching motorcycle safety courses. I would ask a motor officer to speak to my students about motorcycle safety. He would ride up on his police bike, speak for a while, and perhaps do a riding demonstration of his awesome skills.
About 20 years ago, I heard about a motorcycle police “rodeo” — which they prefer to call a “riding competition” that was going to be held in a nearby town. I went there with The Spouse and kept a safe distance while watching.
The cops were a fraternity and were close at the fenceline watching fellow motor officers ride through courses designated with cones. This was the first time I had seen this and I was mesmerized. I had my camera with me, but didn’t have the courage to get close to take any pictures. A cop would take one look at me and I’d get scared (why? I don’t know… it’s the whole thing about “intimidation by the unknown.”)
I have mentioned before that I have a high school friend who became a motorcop. I saw him competing there, but did not say anything (at the time.)
Later, I found the courage to look up my old high school friend and ask to have coffee (or in my case, a soda, since I don’t drink coffee.)
We soon rekindled our old friendship from high school. JB started inviting me to watch riding practice. Through him, I was introduced to his fellow officers and rather quickly was accepted as JB’s “biker friend from high school.” Yeah, it didn’t hurt that I showed up on a Harley when I met JB and his colleagues.
A couple years went by, and JB was in charge of that year’s motorcycle riding competition. He asked me not only to serve as a judge, but to ask friends to help. I did that, and enjoyed “being on the inside” to watch the competition more closely. I also began taking photos discretely. (That was back in the day of SLR film cameras as big as a box.)
Time rolled by and I continued to return to this event year after year to serve as a judge, and for a few years, as the Chief Judge (big title for the guy who just recruits volunteers.)
I also became more comfortable being around cops and speaking with them naturally about common things of interest beyond motorcycle riding skills. Community, families, current events, etc. Cops are people just like you and me and they pull on their boots one boot at a time like I do.
Cops generally are rather reserved and keep their friendships tight, mostly with each other. They have a bond of brotherhood drawn from their common experience in service on a very demanding and dangerous job. For motorcops, it is a double-danger: the danger of being an officer of the law and interacting with the public, frequently at that person’s worst; and add to that — the danger of riding a motorcycle on public streets in dangerous conditions (traffic, rain, and other hazards.)
I would say now that I am comfortable being around and interacting with cops. They are generally very nice people and are highly trained to interact professionally with a wide variety of people. They are respectful — for example, I can’t tell you how many times I was called “sir” by cops this past weekend.
They are also very open and accepting of today’s relationships. For example, when I introduced The Spouse to some of my local county’s finest at this past weekend’s riding competition, all of them were warm and welcoming. Two said, “it’s nice to finally meet your husband I have heard about but have not met yet.” … without batting an eye.
That’s how it should be, but in today’s troubled and divisive environment, men in same-sex relationships are cautious while around others who are present a rather conservative image to the public. (I am not stating anything about political leanings of cops one way or the other. They’re all different, too!)
It’s comfortable now that I can chat with cops routinely and have a good relationship. Being accepted as a friend and supporter of their work helps. I’ll never break into the fraternity — one only gets that by earning that right through hard work and service — but I’m about as close as I can get within their — and my — comfort zone to have conversations that are meaningful, interesting, and insightful.
Further, since my cop friends know me so well now, they also ask me questions for their edification. Questions like: 1. what we have to deal with as a same-sex married couple (the discrimination continues, but is not as apparent); 2. what it is like to ride a Harley in today’s traffic, from a non-cop and “aging rider” perspective; 3. my opinion on brands of boots (yep, they ask me); 4. what’s going on in our county regarding development, traffic, transportation, and other wonky issues I am known to know about; 5. Home renovation tips!
Life is short: have a conversation with a cop — you will learn that he/she is the same as you and me, but is lucky because he gets to wear boots every day to work!