Police officers have an incredibly hard job. Their very lives are on the line every single day. The danger is real, possibly lurking around any corner. With so many stories of excessive force, police abuses of power, corruption, coverups, racism, and brutality, it's hard to remember that good cops are out there doing good work every day. Something is missing in the stories that fill the news — humanity. Gone are the days of the neighborhood cop walking his beat, chatting with shopkeepers, neighbors, and school kids. Our police are now equipped like a military force, which makes our towns the war zone and our citizens the enemy. But the good cops are out there. We just don't usually hear about them.
Patrick Skinner, or @SkinnerPm on Twitter, describes himself as "making my way back from federal work & overseas counterterrorism to local community policing in my hometown" in his bio.
His Twitter feed is filled with brief descriptions of his brand of community policing. It seems that he believes his role as a police officer includes assisting and protecting the people in his town. Unfortunately, this feels fresh and new.
Skinner shares his everyday encounters, usually simple and straightforward, and they paint a picture of what real community work looks like.
These tweets convey a community servant using his position and influence to make a positive impact. Each encounter he describes reinforces this. He’s out there making his community better one person at a time.
In an era when we mostly hear stories of police behaving badly, using unwarranted force, and being armed to the teeth, Skinner’s stories give us hope.
On October 28, Skinner shared a story through a series of Tweets.
We often hear stories that start this way, but end with an unarmed man, or child, being shot to death. It was “nothing big,” a small infraction. With the wrong mindset on the part of the cop, these small infractions turn deadly for the citizen all too often.
Per procedure, Skinner ran the plates. The small infraction just got marginally larger.
This person’s insurance had lapsed. Had a law been broken? Yes. The man shouldn’t have been driving. Was Skinner’s life in immediate danger because of a motor vehicle infraction? No. Did Skinner pull out his gun? No.
Rather than assuming this man was a criminal, potentially dangerous, and flagrantly breaking the law, Skinner let him know that driving would lead to problems.
In every instance of simple traffic stop ending with the cop shooting the driver, the critical first step of calm conversation is skipped entirely. The cop sees a broken taillight, runs the plates, maybe sees another minor infraction, and pulls his gun. He is instantly in fear for his own life.
Most people we all encounter in our daily lives don’t want to harm us, aren’t violent, and aren’t criminally minded. Somehow, it seems, cops have forgotten this.