Intersections – Good Cop, Bad Cop

Posted by August 20, 2014


By Nicki Salcedo, Contributor

My dad was the good cop. My mother was the bad cop. She created the laws and the discipline and standards in our house. My dad was the chatty one. My mom was quiet. Being the bad cop meant she was the good parent.

This week the news is filled with bad cops. I don’t read the news. I don’t watch the news. I don’t listen to the news. I only read the headlines.

I don’t want to be afraid of cops. I don’t want to compartmentalize everything into good and bad when we are sometimes both.

I’ve only ever had one unhappy experience with the police. I was at the movies with a friend when I was a teenager, and our car battery died. The parking lot quickly emptied. Soon we were the only car left. A squad car circled by, and we asked for help. The officer said he couldn’t help us and drove off. It was dark, and I was scared. I was such a good kid, that I didn’t have a curfew.

My mom, the bad cop, knew I would be home on time. If I was late she would be worried, not angry. We didn’t have mobile phones in those days. My friend and I walked until we found a pay phone down the street.

Maybe my race or the police officer’s race or what town we lived in matters to some people. Maybe I should have been jaded, but I wasn’t. I was disappointed in him, not his uniform.

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In the years since, I’ve witnessed amazing acts of kindness by police officers. The one who changed the car tire for my mom and dad. The ones who showed up when the burglar alarm went off. The one who told me I could do a better job of literally stopping at that stop sign.

I have a friend who is a police officer. I did not know this on first meeting. I found out this detail months later. My first thought was about my past behavior. Had I cursed? Had I disparaged speed traps? I felt inadequate and impressed and glad to know a good cop.

I watch The Walking Dead. When the zombie apocalypse hits, having a cop (good or bad) on your team is not a bad idea.

Bad people are guilty of acting without thinking. I try to rationalize the bad news by telling myself that it is news because there is less of bad in the world. Bad is unique and fascinating. We can’t report all the good in the world, because there is too much of it.

One of the headlines I read last night made me stop. I wanted to cry. This is why so many people are happy to dump ice water over their heads. We are looking for good. We are willing to create it.

Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning. 


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