When I was in high school there was this trend going around that made everyone think they wanted to be American gang members. You know, the baggy saggy jeans, bomber jackets, hats on backwards and attitudes like they'd spent all their lives in the Ghetto, not growing up in suburban Canberra with parents in the public service and footy practice on Saturdays.
It used to amuse me somewhat. Not only because they all looked like poor-man's versions of Vanilla Ice, but because none of them had the slightest clue of what it would really be like if our school was full of American style street gangs.
The scuffles between the two local high schools would have consisted of knives and guns rather than a couple of awkward punches and some “Yo Mamma” type insults, and people could have actually been seriously injured or killed. Cool right! Yeah, I don't think so.
The other trend (and I thank NWA and Public Enemy for this one) was the whole Fuck the Police attitude.
“Fuckin' cops!” “Pigs!” “Scum!” could often be heard from the “cool kids” as they sat in their $300 Reeboks at the mall waiting for mum to come and pick them up in the family Volvo, and again I was amused.
But amused was only part of it, I also felt a lot of frustration. Sure, I knew if you were a gang member or minority in America the police could be scary people. I mean, back then the Rodney King trial and the LA riots were on TV every night so police corruption and brutality was at the fore in everyone's mind, but that was America. A very different country and culture. The laws are different. The attitudes are different. Here in Australia, sure there's some corruption and yes, there are some cops that are less than desirable figures (hey, we've all seen the Underbelly ads, we know it's not perfect) but, for the most part, Aussie cops do a bloody good job.
They serve and protect us and they try and keep us safe. I have always found them polite and friendly when I've spoken to them (Yes, even that time when I was 14 and got busted shoplifting) and I have seen them have immeasurable patience when it comes to some people.
If I have ever needed them they have been prompt and professional and I've found they're always willing to give help and information on everything from legal camping spots in unfamiliar towns to advice on some of articles I write.
They see people on some of the worst days of their lives. They attend accidents and emergencies. They see dead people, broken people, abused people, frightened people. They have to break the news of loved ones' deaths to family members. They get spat on, punched, kicked and abused by idiots, and a lot of them do all of this on around the same as a teacher or nurse's salary. It really does show that, like teachers and nurses, police officers do it for a love of the job and a sense of duty, rather than some cruisy, pocket-lining scheme. Police officers really are an integral part of our community and I always love it when I get to see them being a part of it like, for example, the groups who march in the various Pride Marches around Australia.
For as long as I can remember them being around I've been a big fan of Pride marches. I always try to get there and cheer everyone along, but this year's Melbourne march is the first one I've ever had the honour of actually participating in. What an atmosphere! Everyone was pumped and excited and friendly and, despite the strong winds and threat of rain, really keen to get the march started.
Because the Victorian Police group was one of the first to march out of the park, they had the opportunity to walk past nearly all of the other groups waiting on their turn and, while I am used to the spectators being loud and receptive, I was really heartened by the loud cheers and claps the cops got from all the other groups as they passed.
One of the girls in the Sex Workers and Friends group called out “Thank you for protecting us” which was met by a cheer from the rest. “Yay, coppers, we love you!” was heard from another bunch and everyone clapped and whooped. Like all of the Midsummer Carnival it had a great feeling of solidarity and understanding, of accepting differences and creating togetherness.
Yes, when it comes to my warm fuzzy feelings about cops, a day like Pride shows me why I respect them so much, and also that I am not the only one who feels the same way.
But, in saying all that, I should probably admit, when it came to the boys and girls in blue at this year's Pride, the highlight of my day was the very lovely female police officer agreeing to be my first kiss in the Sex Party's kissing booth. Yes, I am easily pleased, but as well as that it just confirmed all my thoughts about police officers and how, beyond the helping others and the tragedy they see and the work they do for the community, they're just people too, and everyone deserves a good kiss!