Barry Saunders

Cops doing good things – now that’s reality

Years ago, when Burt Reynolds was the biggest movie star in the world, he was in the movie “Starting Over.” His character had just gone through a divorce, and a friend urged him to “call me if anything goes wrong.”

His reply: “Can I call you if anything goes right?”

That line came to mind this week while reading about the smartphone app from North Carolina’s chapter of the ACLU. It will allow you to record and automatically submit cellphone videos when you think law enforcement officers do something wrong.

Will it allow us to submit videos when cops do something right?

Some law enforcement officials are wary of the efficacy of such an app, fearing that it might lead to people interfere in what is already a dangerous job. Eddie Caldwell, representative of the N.C. Sheriffs Association, said, “most law enforcement is like that Ivory soap commercial. They’re 99.44 percent pure. They’re not perfect, but they’re close.”

The imperfect ones are the ones most agitated by the app, I’m guessing.

When things go well

Whatever the percentage of good cops, they should welcome cameras.

Caldwell said, “Nobody calls or writes about those thousands ... of incidents that go well. What we hear about are those times when people allege things go wrong.” (For the record, I’ve called local cop shops and written about when officers treated me well or went beyond the call of duty to help.)

While driving down a Durham street in heavy rain around 1 a.m. a few years ago, I watched as a city cop struggled to help a motorist push a stalled car out of traffic on an overpass. For a brief moment, I thought about jumping out to help him push. Then reality set in.

Man, what is that cop going to think if he sees my big ol’ self running up behind him in the dark at that hour? I asked my big ol’ self. The answer wasn’t reassuring, so I kept on trucking. I did not, though, forget about his act which – if seen by more people – would’ve done a lot to change the perception of officers.

Caldwell doubted that. “Only the Lord could change some people’s perception” of police, he said.

All I know is if I’d had that ACLU smartphone app, I’d have recorded that incident and posted it so everyone could’ve seen it.

Try this reality

Me? I’d rather tongue-kiss a snaggle-toothed, gingivitis-stricken llama with a mouthful of half-digested Oreo cookies than watch any of the so-called reality TV shows currently befouling the airwaves – “The Real Housewives of Wherever,” “The Bachelor,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

There are reality shows about people buying the contents of storage sheds sight-unseen, about parking enforcement, pawn shops, even one about a family with 19 kids and counting. Oy.

You would have to pay me to watch that. I would, though, tune in to a show about police officers doing their jobs the right way. A reality show called “Keeping Up With the Cops’ Dashcam” – hey, you got a better title? – would be far more intriguing than current brain-atrophying offerings and would help alter the negative image of cops by showing people what they have to deal with daily.

Think of the ad revenue generated by “Keeping Up With the Cops’ Dashcam”? Every lawyer and bail bondsman within 200 miles would want his or her ad on that show.

Even without the TV show, as long as there’s that 0.56 percent that Caldwell concedes is not as pure as Ivory soap, we need the ACLU – and that app.

Caldwell didn’t agree that my dashcam TV show concept would be compelling. “I’ve talked to officers (in departments) where they already have cameras,” he said, “and they said what they get is mostly just a bunch of boring ‘nothing.’”

Sounds just like most reality TV shows, doesn’t it?

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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