There are three general ways a member of American society may react to the presence of a American Law Enforcement Officer. For the purposes of this thesis an American law enforcement officer consists of a police officer or Deputy Sheriff whose primary responsibility is to enforce the law in a specific geographical area. Also, reactions are defined as the behaviors or physical actions of a person immediately following their knowledge, or more specially their observations of a law enforcement officer.
Our reactions as humans relate directly to our feelings. How one is feeling at that moment or general feels about a specific person or topic determines their actions and reactions. It’s never a good feeling when you find a uniformed man with a badge and a gun at your front door step. It either means that something bad has happened or is about to happen. Or how about the presence of police cruisers with blue lights flashing in a residential neighborhood with yellow tape securing an area? Thus, people in any given American community tend to react differently based on their experience with the law, or lack there of. The following are three most common reactions in descending order by frequency.
The first reaction is that of your typical, law abiding member of society who is an asset to their community. Their reaction at the sight of an American law enforcement officer is either one of panic or curiosity. Their inexperience with police tend to first think the worst. Let’s face it, a police officer is not ringing your doorbell to share in the joy of a birth of a child, or promotion at work. Therefore this reaction is reasonable in several situations. However, if a uniformed officer is walking into a coffee shop or local pharmacy to make a purchase this reaction is irksome. The mere fact an officer exists does not mean the world is about to come to an end. If these members are not panicked, then they’re curious. One might see several police cars in front of their neighbors’ house and wonder ‘what is happening’. This is a perfectly reasonable reaction if the neighbor's business does not become the neighborhoods business.
The second most common type of reaction to the presence of law enforcement is by the member who is a common criminal, however is not committing a crime at this time. This persons experience with the law enforcement system is extensive. They commonly have interactions with police officers when they’re committing crime, acting suspiciously or just up to no good. Their reaction is one of arrogance and loathing for the officer. At the current time this person is not committing any crime, therefore they feel they have the upper hand and have some sort of superiority over that of the law enforcement officer. Thus, this person will most likely stare at the officer with a look of confidence. This may be accompanied by several nonverbal actions to express their feeling, which may include crossing the arms, raising the chin with a slight nod of the head. Also, many have been known to spit on the ground as a sign of dislike and detest. Verbal communication is also a common reaction with the shouting of unflattering named, such a “pig” or other pork product variation.
The member of society whose reaction is of most interest to the American law enforcement officer is that of the common criminal who is about to, has just, or in the process of committing a crime. Their behavior is very unique because no matter how hard they try to look casual they give themselves away every time. The human psyche causes the human body to behave in such a way that does not look natural. For example, if one has just committed a crime and they spot a cruiser driving by at that very moment, their brain will make their body react. The brain knows the body is doing something that is wrong, therefore will make the body react. Their body will stiffen, their eyes will dart either away or toward the officer and their hands will suddenly do something different. This is because he wants to look as casual as possible, to give the impression that they’re just another member of society.
Many times if the person is in possession of an item that is restricted by law, at the presence of an officer their hand will immediately go to the spot where they’re holding the item. As unbelievable as it sounds, it is true. This is most likely because this person wants to assure that the item is secure, and is not in jeopardy of being detected by the officer. Or this is just the human brain making the human body react.
These examples have just scratched the surface of the probably hundreds of reactions a member of American society may experience when in the presence of a American Law Enforcement Officer. So just remember law enforcement officers are people too and a smile and a friendly greeting is always appropriate.