First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views.This is generally my sense of how policing should be done. The point is not to administer punishments, but to ensure the common peace. This is especially true in difficult moments, when it requires care and discretion.
Later, it might be good to point out that the government needs to be, and is, somewhat flexible, especially in situations where there are minor violations of law. A government that had zero tolerance for even minor infractions would prove unworkable in short order....
In the year 2013, our officers made over four hundred thousand vehicle stops, mostly for traffic violations. A citation was issued in only about one in six of those stops. Five of the six received warnings. This is the police exercising discretion for minor violations of the law. Few, if any, persons would argue that the police should have no discretion. This is an explanation you might give your son.... Nashville, and all of America, will be even more diverse when your son becomes an adult. Certainly, tolerance, respect and consideration for the views of all persons would be valuable attributes for him to take into adulthood.
An Excellent Example from Nashville PD
While the civic culture in New York shows troubling signs, we might take some comfort from this letter from the chief of the Nashville, TN police. He is responding to a citizen concerned by the protests arising from the several recent cases of civilian deaths at police hands resulting in no indictments. The citizen worries that the police failure to stop the demonstrations is eroding faith in public order as the demonstrations are often cases of trespassing, leading to a spectacle of the police being cowed into not enforcing the law. Not so, the chief says:
By Grim on Wednesday, December 31, 2014