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Officer's use of police discretion builds public trust

Media coverage of police over the last few years has not been complimentary. Stories about excessive force and racial bias have strained relationships between police and the communities they serve.

But not all stories are bad, and it is important to note when police officers are building trust within their communities. One Wisconsin patrolman has been getting plenty of positive press for assisting a Wisconsin-Stout college student with his necktie.  

A young man named Trevor was late for a presentation and hadn't yet learned the basic grown-up skill of tying his own tie. He raced to a friend’s house to get help. When his friend wasn’t home, he raced to the university but got pulled over in the parking lot for speeding.

When Menomonie patrolman Martin Folczyk asked why he was speeding, the student’s answer led to tie-knotting assistance rather than a speeding ticket. It’s rare that such moments get viral attention, but this dashboard camera video has been shared more than 7,500 times.

 Police discretion

People sometimes forget that police officers have wide discretion when handling traffic stops. In this instance, a white officer stopped a white, well-dressed college student who was cooperative. The officer was in a university environment rather than a high-crime area.

Do these factors lend themselves to a positive outcome? The answer is probably yes. If the student had been African American, would that have made a difference? That answer isn't clear. But based on the video, probably not. Most police officers have good intentions and truly want to help.

The thin blue line

None of us live in a bubble. Real world factors influence the way we all interact with one another. Law enforcement officials are also influenced by their setting and the people they encounter. Officers have certain methods and procedures to handle potentially dangerous situations and uncooperative suspects. However, this officer demonstrates that the pendulum swings both ways and his kindness goes a long way toward building public trust.

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