Watching the French police meander about the metros, the monuments and Jewish heritage sites helped me reflect on the role of police in society. Living in Washington D.C., I feel a little too close to all the hubbub to see clearly.
Additionally, spending time in France learning more about the events of the 1940s -- the ways the French police rounded up deportees, took their money and belongings and crammed them into trains --has given me a different vantage point from which to consider the recent police incidents in the United States.
The French metro has this image posted in some of the statins. It's about life-sized making it look like you're in the poster.
The text says, "I protect the populations- the soldier's code" At the bottom it says, "for me, for the others."
This advertisement implies that the Gendarmes (French military police) are there to serve and protect ALL people.
Sticking with this simple precept might really help people keep their heads on straight even in times of confusion. If you know that your job is to protect even the ones you do not like or trust might be enough to recalibrate the compasses of police services.
Doctors take their Hippocratic-- do no harm oath-- in order to keep them focused. Judges know the accused are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and police are supposed to "serve and protect" all people.
It seems to me if the French police had had ingrained in their ethos that their job was to serve and protect ALL people then it might have been much harder for the Nazis to convince them to terrorize so many people.
If the United States law enforcement officers today had to incant and embody a commitment to protecting all people-- even the ones running away with hands filled with cocaine-- we might find ourselves in a very different place.
You must protect even the person you are putting in handcuffs...
Police can play such an important, and I hope new role in societies around the world. If they could become the protectors of human dignity they could play a role far more powerful and important than any role they have played until now. I look forward to this renaissance of law enforcement.