Viewpoint 1/9: Show gratitude to police officers

A student sees flashing lights in their rearview mirror, yells out a couple expletives, feels a tinge of panic, white-knuckles their steering wheel, pulls to the side of the road and preps for a little verbal jarring.

With school not a week away, they can’t afford a speeding ticket, especially for traveling only five mph more than the speed limit. “Go find a real criminal,” they think, moments before unleashing a tirade of complaints about the injustice of it all to the police officer.

Although they leave with a ticket, they feel vindicated by putting the officer in their place and doing their best to make them feel like an unjust bully. An hour later, the officer, a young parent, takes a bullet while in a shootout in the student’s neighborhood.

From time to time, hypothetical situations like this happen. Officers who are disrespected on the roads take bullets for the safety of our neighbors, friends and family.

With this in mind, and with the death of Agent Jared Francom this week, perhaps we should add a resolution to our New Year’s list: Treat officers with the respect and reverence they deserve.

We live in a remarkable country — a country where most people live a life never threatened by another. However, when a life is threatened, there are a select few who wear a badge pledging to protect it. As evidenced by Francom, they honor their pledge, and we should honor them through kindness and regard, even when they’re about to write us a ticket. They deserve it.

Even when they’re not putting their lives on the line, they’re keeping our roads safe, our streets clean and subduing the drug problem. Our lives might be dramatically more difficult without them.

Most officers are kind, understanding and, sadly, even a little surprised when we treat them well. They’ll often show their appreciation by reducing ticket fines or giving you a warning for not carrying insurance. Sometimes they’ll dismiss the violation altogether and offer another chance. By and large, they take care not to make our experiences miserable if we’re pulled over and like to give us the benefit of the doubt.

Like any other person, if we treat them disrespectfully, they’re not likely to feel kindly enough toward us to forgive our offense. Even if they follow a strict line, feeling a little gratitude each day, even when it’s hard to feel, can make our lives truly happy and change the world for the better. When we think anger is the proper course, let us be sure our emotions aren’t robbing us of our obligation and great privilege to be grateful. Even when an officer gives us an unfair ticket, let us remember the right answer is gratitude and kindness.

This week, even today, we should all take a moment to smile at a campus officer, say hello or, if we’re feeling very ambitious and sincere, thank them. They feel, and they have spouses they adore, children they love and sunny horizons they dream about. Sometimes those dreams are given up for us. Sometimes those children and those spouses are left to mourn without their hero.

We’d do well to be grateful.