In law enforcement, is respect given or earned?
A question posted recently on Quora asked, “[In law enforcement,] is respect given or earned?” Police Sgt. William Bolt gave his opinion on the topic, below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments.
As in my "off-duty life", I always tried to treat people the way I would want my parents treated. I tried to be kind, professional and sincere. Most people respond to that, depending on the circumstances. It had nothing to do with trying to win their respect, although that was a beneficial outcome. It was just the way I was raised.
As a police officer, I applied this attitude to people I encountered, whether or not it was an arrest situation. I was able to enlist the cooperation of a lot of people, whether they agreed with my actions (red light/yellow light arguments, or something more severe, such as possession of a controlled substance). Many times they would argue - but arguing with me is not disrespecting me.
I guess what I'm trying to say is I tried to be fair in every encounter, and that made my job easier. But I had a job to do, and that was not always popular with some people. Nobody likes getting a ticket or getting arrested. So I did my job, and it was up to them if they respected me or not. At the end of the day, it was more important for me to respect myself.
Regarding my attitude toward others, I respect them until they prove they do not deserve my respect.
So my default position is to respect others, but it can be deleted based on their subsequent actions.
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