A policeman is a composite of what all men are, a mingling of saint and sinners, dust and deity. Sensationalism waves the fan over the stinkers and their instances of dishonesty and brutality because they are news. However, they are exceptional, unusual, not commonplace. Buried under the news froth is the fact that less than one half of one percent of policemen misfit the uniform. And that's a better average than among clergymen.
What is a policeman made of? He of all men is one the most needed and the most unwanted, a strangely nameless creature who is "sir" to his face and "pig" to his back.
He must be such a diplomat that he can settle differences between individuals so that each will think they won. But if the policeman is neat, he's a flirt. If he's not, he's a grouch.
In an instant he must make decisions which require months for a lawyer. But if he hurries, he's careless. If he's deliberate, he's lazy. He must be first to an accident, infallible with a diagnosis; he must be able to start breathing, stop bleeding, tie splints and above all be sure the victim goes home without a limp, or expect to be sued.
The police officer must know every gun, draw on the run, and hit where it doesn't hurt. He must be able to whip two men his size and half his age, without damaging his uniform and without being brutal. If you hit him, he's a coward. If he hits you, he's a bully.
A policeman must know everything and not tell. He must know where all the sin is and not partake.
The policeman must, from a single human hair, be able to describe the crime, the weapon and the criminal, and tell you where the criminal is hiding. But if he catches the criminal he's lucky, if he doesn't he's a dunce. If he gets promoted he has political pull. If he doesn't he's a dullard.
The policeman must chase bum leads to a dead end and stake out ten nights to tag one witness who saw it happen, but refused to remember.
He runs files and writes reports until his eyes ache to build a case against some felon who will get dealed out by a shameless shamus or an honorable who isn't.
A policeman must be a minister, social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy, and a gentleman. And of course he will have to be a genius, for he will have to feed a family on a policeman's salary.