Why Do We Need You Again?

Matt Melson

In the past week I have had two interesting interactions with local law enforcement, going from one extreme to the other. These experiences left me asking why we need police.

The first instance was last week when I got out of rehearsal for a play, went to my car in the Rockhill parking structure and found my car was dead. After talking to a couple of friends to see if I get a jump, I was out of luck.

I called the UMKC police to see if I could get a jump. About 20 minutes later, an officer jumped my car. The interesting thing was that he was incredibly nice about it. He shared a couple of stories about giving jumps to other cars and was on his way.

On the other side, most of my interactions with police officers have been sort of touch and go. Often times they become very stern and look at me strangely when I try to ease the mood with a joke. Other times, they don’t even allow me to talk at all. So this was very surprising when the officer was kind and a great help. My next interaction with police did not go as well.

Last Saturday night, at 4 a.m., I awoke to the sound of shattering glass. My roommate and I opened our doors to see what was going on. Apparently, someone thought that it was a great idea to bust out my garage door windows and run away. Once we got to the garage we saw the busted out door windows and the culprit long gone.

Of course, my roommate and I called the police and they promptly showed up. After explaining to the officer what had occurred, he told us he was not able to do anything about it. Nothing. Not a single thing about a person who vandalized my home.

Even after we asked him to investigate, asked him to file a report and asked him to look at the scene, he still said that he was unable to help us in any way. So good news to any criminals out there: if you want to go around busting out windows at 4 a.m., rest assured that the police won’t help out the victims.

These two experiences left me with the question, why do we need the police? Of course there is a need for detectives and S.W.A.T teams, but need for the lowest level police is something I have struggled to figure out.

When a crime or event occurs that calls for  police attention, they are typically not present to prevent it. They are just there after it has occurred. They react to it. Most of the time, when this occurs, they are powerless to do anything about it themselves, unless they are actually there when a crime is committed.

If a crime occurs that calls for a solution, a detective is the one to solve it. If an accident occurs that calls for medical help, firefighters and paramedics are the ones to do it. The officer is usually only there to assign blame. If a shootout is happening, a specialized team would show up to handle the situation. Besides giving speeding tickets, helping with broken-down cars and catching the occasional drunk driver, police seem to be powerless to help with anything else.

The only thing the police effectively accomplish is instilling fear in the public. Every time an officer gets behind me while driving, I always have a small panic attack even if I’m not doing anything wrong. I always sit up straighter, put my hands at ten and two and constantly monitor my speed.

It seems to me that regular, everyday police officers are nothing more than glorified security guards who patrol larger areas and use up tax payer money. If that is all they do, I don’t see the need for them. I understand they are a great idea and provide a service to the community, but if they can’t help people with vandalized homes, why do we need them again?