How One Night of Shadowing a Cop Changed a Student’s Perspective Forever

There is a serious and long overdue conversation going on in America today, and it’s about the future of policing. People are tired of overreach, tired of the police being outfitted like they’re going to war in our streets, tired of being teargassed and beaten, and yes – for people of color – tired of being targeted and murdered, often for doing nothing at all.

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A world with a drastically reduced police force can be hard for most of us to even picture, and the ideas that could make it happen will sure be tough to wrap our minds around, too.

For most who have been radicalized to this way of thought, there was a watershed moment – a moment a lightbulb went off, and everything you believed about police and policing before goes right out the window.

For one Sean Trainor, that moment was the night he went on a ride along.

He begins with some innocuous but annoying facts, like how the guy had no real work to do so he just drove around putting license plate numbers randomly into the system and hoping something came up.

And anyone who looked “out of place” in a white neighborhood? They definitely got their numbers punched.

This was a boring night. They might have pulled someone over for a broken taillight, but most of the searches came up empty.

To combat boredom (or looking for a fight), he would pull up to other cops’ traffic stops just to see what was going on.

Most of the time he was too late (thank goodness).

On one call though, he was not. The man was pulled over for nothing major, but turned out to be an ex-convict driving with an expired license.

Which I mean…still feels like no big deal.

He had just recently gotten out of prison, and was in the car with his wife and young children.

The original officer didn’t let it go (of course) and he and the ex-convict were talking outside the vehicle when this guy, and a few other cops, too, pulled up to check it out.

As the driver became more stressed by the onslaught of cops, the original officer began to get aggressive in response.

Things escalated, as they tend to do when everyone is amped up, and the man ended up face down and handcuffed.

His family Completely hysterical.

He was going back to prison for violating his parole, probably. For a while. All because he hadn’t had time to scoot over to the DMV.

The entire night was just his cop friend trying to drum up trouble.

The guy he was riding with was just doing his job. In his mind, he was protecting the “good” citizens of his community.

The “bad” people, the “enemy,” though, was almost always someone “other.”

The takeaway for Sean? They did nothing that night that helped anyone be any safer.

He feels badly that he didn’t say something at the time, even though he didn’t know any better.

Even though he knows it wouldn’t have made a difference.

And it’s not that guy. It’s not one guy. It’s the entire system.

Just sit with this tweet for a minute, because it’s a lot.

And there it is – just one man’s experience, one man’s opinion.

I guess it’s up to the rest of us to decide if his night is the exception, or the rule – and what we want to do about it now that we know the truth.