Related: Being a cop isn’t easy (video)
As my wife and I headed into the theater to see “Straight Outta Compton,” we noticed a Myrtle Beach police officer standing in the lobby.
We asked why he was there. I initially believed it was because of the movie, which had generated headlines around the country before its release, with some theaters beefing up security in advance.
But it wasn’t for that reason. He was a regular at the theater on weekends. He was pleasant, kind and professional. We briefly chatted about some of the silly things people have done while he was on that security detail, including smoking weed, and the more serious, like a man who punched his girlfriend after watching a movie.
He was white.
In “Straight Outta Compton,” the police weren’t like the Myrtle Beach police officer I met Saturday night. They are mean and overbearing and constantly beating and violating the constitutional rights of young black men, including the five rappers who became the famed group N.W.A.
One of the group’s signature songs from the late 1980s and early 1990s was “F --- tha police.” It grew out of the constant verbal and physical harassment they felt from police where they lived, a type of existence most Americans are unaware of. That’s why that kind of music resonated with some - who also knew and lived the reality of feeling under siege by the government in the form of the police - and why many others were taken aback, because they’ve never been treated by police that way.
If you want to better understand the divide concerning the current public debate about policing and particular communities, go check out the movie. It would be great if all cops were as great as the guy my wife and I met Saturday night, but that’s not the reality everywhere.
The movie was extremely well done and actually illustrates the American Dream, the pull yourself up by your boot straps theory.
But it also left out some disturbing things members of the group did.
Until we come to grips with that duality, it will be hard to bridge this divide. We must respect and appreciate the officers who wear that badge well and wield their power with a great deal of responsibility and professionalism.
And we must respect various communities enough to not ignore their complaints about cops who don’t.