I’m not a photographer but I sometimes enjoy taking photos. When I saw this challenge, I thought it would be fun. But I live in a place with few reflections. Perhaps that’s metaphorical too. There are houses and cars and natural things such as grass and trees. On a walk, this was one of the few places I could see a reflection: a police car.
This isn’t going to be a political blog. But this photo led me to some rambling political thoughts in an attempt to wrench some meaning out of this prompt.
The Police: are they a reflection of our society? Should they be? They perform a necessary function but they’re also a symbol. It’s there right in the emblem. Every police force has one, or a phrase that’s supposed to encapsulate what they stand for, such as “Serve and Protect” or “Courtesy; Professionalism; Respect.” These are aspirational phrases, there to remind the public and the officers themselves of their official role. How often do they correspond with the reality? As with any large institution, probably sometimes and sometimes not, depending on the individual.
Yet the image of a white person reflected in the drivers’ seat window of a police car reminds me that most police officers are white, regardless of the populations they serve. The percentage of whites in police forces is 30% higher than that of their communities. (source) This can be problematic, as recent controversies over shootings of African-Americans by white police officers have demonstrated.
On the other hand, the reflection shows I’m a woman. Our vision of a police officer is stereotypically a man and this is borne out by facts: in 2013, only 13% of police officers in the US were women. (source) People have argued that there would be fewer unnecessary police shootings if there were more female police officers.
The car door shows the United States Park Police emblem. It says E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one. Googling reveals this is the United States Seal. So this emblem isn’t specific to this police force but represents the much bigger institution of which it is a part, the federal government. But it’s a good reminder that the police (and government generally) should serve all the people equally, that we are one regardless of where we came from or what groups we identify with, that we can unite in service of higher goals, and overcome self-interest that might divide us.
There’s an eagle in the seal, which is interesting because there are eagles on the land for which these particular police have responsibility. I regularly drive by a tree in which there’s a huge eagle’s nest and I always look to see whether I can spy an eagle. Sometimes I can see one sitting on the bare branches surrounding the nest. One time an eagle flew right in front of my windshield with prey in its mouth, probably after diving into the river on the other side of the road from its nest. It was a shock. I’d never seen anything like that before.
Well, that’s it for mirror-related ramblings.