Medicine For People!

September 2020: The Cops - Why I am Prejudiced in Favor

Image credit: James Tourtellotte -, Public Domain,

The Cops: Why I am Prejudiced in Favor

  • The Cops: Why I am Prejudiced in Favor
  • Flu Shots
  • Coronavirus Update
  • Rienstra Clinic Schedule

The Cops: Why I am Prejudiced in Favor

Let me tell you some stories about cops.

It was 1966 and I put down my luggage and asked the New York City cop how I could find the train station so I could get to my summer job in Massachusetts. He gave me a funny look and asked, "Don't you want that suitcase?"

I returned the funny look because I didn't understand the connection. He explained that without my hand in constant contact with the suitcase, it might disappear. He waited for that to sink in, then gave me directions.

Three years later at my internship at Kaiser Hospital in the Bay Area in 1969, the Emergency Room staff included an Oakland cop and bullet-proof glass at the reception window. The neighborhood was rough. There had been gunfire in the waiting room the previous year. Sometimes the officer would offer to drive us home if our shift ended during hours of darkness. One of my tasks involved fixing the lacerations and fractures of those who lived in the area and who didn't have an on-duty cop to help them get around safely.

Since then I have come to realize that law enforcement officers and doctors have a good deal in common. We don't see people at their best. The job is impossible to perform perfectly. We get the situations that have gone really bad. With every bit of training, competence and effort, sometimes the best you can come up with is the least bad option. Cops and doctors are easy to complain about. People can and do accuse us publicly—but we are required by law and ethics to respect their right to privacy.

Once, when I was young and stupid, a friend invited me to court where he and his mother told solemn and bald-faced lies in front of a policeman and judge to escape a traffic ticket. I am sure both the cop and the judge had been through the charade before and well knew that aspect of the human character. It was new to me.

Another thing cops get to see is our child-like and sometimes irresponsible nature.

  • A friend of mine, an intelligent and highly accomplished physician, was amazed when he learned that I paid the fines when I was stopped for speeding. He always paid a lawyer to nullify the ticket. How are the police to maintain their faith in humanity with behavior like that?
  • Another friend, equally intelligent and accomplished, used to have a radar detector in his car. No doubt he understood the danger of speeding, but didn't want face the consequence if he could avoid it. Imagine you are a cop. You've dragged the bleeding bodies out of crushed cars and here's a fine citizen trying to slide by.
  • The newspaper reported on a man given a ticket for running a red light after being detected by a traffic camera. The citizen decided this abrogated his right to privacy and undertook a major campaign to remove traffic cameras from intersections. It worked. I've had many cops as patients over the years. Folks, they bleed if you cut them and they have feelings. I know a retired cop, a strong and gentle man, who has been harassed at work with "I hate cops" notes and emails. He was young once and understands youthful impetuousness, but it saddens him anyway.

If I were a cop, these kinds of experiences would tarnish the youthful ideals that led me into that form of public service. If in doubt about a particular incident, I'd be inclined to trust my co-workers, the other cops, at least as much as John Q.

The late John Lewis famously led the marchers over the Pettis Bridge in Selma quietly and peacefully, even in the face of horrendous brutality. Those days of peaceful demonstrations are endangered. Today some protesters take the offensive. They throw fireworks, stones and other dangerous objects at the police. They vandalize and loot businesses large and small. Would you want to be wearing the blue uniform on those days? You are supposed to protect the neighborhood from damage, but the vandals and peaceful protesters look the same and they mix together. Your employer, the city government, must pay for property damage or for any police action later judged to be excessive. The media won't share their video footage with you, witnesses disappear, and lawyers in a safe office with plenty of time stand ready to go to court with 20/20 hindsight. Hey, what a great job you've got there, officer!

Coming home here to Port Townsend, some of our citizens steal, vandalize or cheat. Occasionally, one of my patients gets the hit and comes to me with real life consequences—physical, emotional and economic.

No one really wants a world with less police protection.

Bottom line: Have you seen any local cop do anything dishonest or damaging to our social structure? The worst you can say is that they don't have the budget to prevent every instance of vandalism, domestic violence and child abuse in the county. They don't have the budget to solve every crime. And too often when they apprehend the perpetrator, our courts aren't able to keep that person out of circulation long enough to prevent further danger.

We need to respect our neighbors in police work and give them the resources to make ours a safe civic environment for children and adults. Concern for what went down in Minnesota is good. Closing our eyes to the value of our local citizens who do police work is not so good.

Health Consequences of Inadequate Police Budgets

Recently, self-appointed vigilante groups promote the idea that the police are hampered by liberal protesters and cannot protect us. They stand ready to try to influence the outcome of coming elections. Do you really want the professionals to be replaced by these armed thugs? Do you somehow think civil unrest is good for your health?

Flu Shots

Vaccination for influenza does not just reduce your likelihood of influenza. It reduces, by over 40%, your risk of dying overall, especially from heart and respiratory disease. Vaccination programs, including those for both influenza and pneumonia, greatly reduce the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

This is the time to get your flu vaccine. I recommend it. Wear your mask and relax the social distancing half a minute so we can give you your shot. We offer preservative-free vaccine while our supply lasts. All local clinics and pharmacies are ready to immunize you, too.

By the way, the influenza vaccine has been around long enough that we aren't likely to see any surprises with it. The CDC and other skilled people are working to be sure any COVID-19 vaccine will be just as safe. Let's not rush them.

Coronavirus Update

As you may know, Jefferson County leads the state in freedom from COVID-19. Masking, distancing and careful business practices led to this, just as they have in competent countries around the world.

Here is one dramatic example of the effectiveness of these measures. The CDC reports that two hair stylists in Missouri with active COVID-19 spent at least 15 minutes with each of 139 clients and managed to infect none of them.

Nationwide, the death rate for people catching coronavirus is much lower now than it was initially. We understand the disease much better.

    • Once diagnosed, people can monitor their oxygen levels with inexpensive meters so we aren't caught short by unexpected respiratory failure. As a result, many fewer people need ventilators.
    • Experience since February has taught us which drugs are effective and which are not.
    • We are better at modulating immune response so that people can eliminate the infection without a damaging overreaction.
    • We use anticoagulants to prevent blood clots and eliminate many lung problems.
    • Our methods of evaluating and publishing medical research have evolved into a more rapid system. We use updated methods of quality verification. Thousands of studies have been published since this pandemic began.

There Will Not Be a Definite Date for a Vaccine

Many COVID-19 vaccines are in process of developing and testing. Once one or more vaccines is rolled out, continued monitoring will teach us about the relative safety and effectiveness of each, so there will be continued development as time goes on. Availability of the vaccine will vary depending upon your risk category and your location. Production will ramp up gradually and then accelerate as safety is established and manufacturing processes perfected.



Thanks to Jill Buhler Rienstra for timely editorial assistance.



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Medicine for People! is published by Douwe Rienstra, MD at Port Townsend, Washington.