She was young. I would guess she was under 25, short, slender, serious-faced, not bad looking, and she had her right hand on the butt of her handgun as she spoke to me.
And nervous. Did I mention nervous? She was very nervous.
She was about to write me a ticket, one I deserved because I had exceeded the speed limit by almost 10 miles an hour. It was a stupid mistake on my part, caused by the fact that I was on a road in Mesa, which for a short stretch had a 35 mph speed limit, instead of a 45 mph limit, like the other roads paralleling it.
It was a road I rarely drove, particularly that stretch of it. I had just stupidly assumed that the speed limit was the same as elsewhere, and driving in the outer lane in busy noontime traffic, I had missed seeing the signs.
My fault. No argument. I was getting a speeding ticket. The only one I ever got in 55 years of driving. And that was that.
But that wasn't what gripped my attention. It was the obvious strain in her face and the way she kept her hand on the butt of that handgun. She looked, if not frightened, at least downright worried.
"I'm not going to give you a hard time," I told her, doing my best to smile, but probably doing a lousy job of it.
She wrote the ticket, I signed it and was on my way, and later paid the fine without argument. But that didn't end it, not for me. I have thought about the look on her face and her obvious inner fear ever since. It told me a lot.
A few weeks ago, I read a letter in the paper castigating the Payson police. It accused them of gross incompetence and asked for help in gathering facts against them.
I tell you frankly, I was shocked. So shocked, in fact, that I looked into the matter as an objective outsider to see what had prompted such an attack. What I found were facts that say that the letter writer was wrong in the incident where he became involved with the Payson police, making his credibility with me, zero.
You know something? We, and, by we, I also mean me, don't really appreciate our law enforcement officers. I once had to go bail someone out, one of the few times I ever got a glimpse of the underside of society, and what I saw in the place I had to go to post that bail made my skin crawl. Most of those people had been scraped off the bottom of some rock.
Police are just people, you know, people like you and me, ordinary human beings. Yet, day in and day out, they have to put up with the kind of scum I saw in that place. They get yelled at and can't yell back. They are called every name in the book and all they can do is put up with it. They are unfairly accused of incompetence by people who know deep down that they are the ones who are wrong. They don't know from one minute to the next whether some scuzzball is going to give them some disease they may bring back home and pass on to family.
They deal with the scum of the earth, out of your sight and mine, invisible to you and me, because they are the living wall that stands between us and that scum.
They don't know whether or not their next routine traffic stop may result in a homicide -- theirs. And they do it for an amount of money that is by no means overwhelming.
What I'm trying to say is this: Put yourself in their place for a minute. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were doing your level best to be the best cop, and best person, you could be, and had to put up with baseless criticism as a reward.
The police need our support -- not smear tactics and groundless allegations.
How's this for an idea? Ask to go on a ride-along. See what life out there on the street is really like. Then write a letter to the editor of the Payson Roundup telling about it, pro or con.
That would be interesting, informative -- and factual.