From 'Pigs' to Heroes

How times have changed! Less than 30 years ago many young Americans, and not a few of their elders, considered it justifiable sport to call their local constables "pigs."

The quintessential scene from that era saw protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago yelling the epithet at that city's men in blue, and having the complement returned by way of a night stick to the head.

Now, we're pleased to note, the pendulum has swung, really swung. In the town of Methuen, Mass., police officers' faces are appearing on trading cards - just like baseball stars. And some of Methuen's police men and women have taken to carrying magic markers because children collecting the cards want their autographs.

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In part, this change in youth attitudes is brought on by widely adopted changes in police procedures. More officers walk neighborhood beats and know both kids and adults, often by name. In many cities, a "mounted policeman" means mounted on a bicycle - another neighbor-friendly scene, but also a practical device for hunting down purse snatchers and assaulters on crowded city streets.

Police-community frictions aren't, of course, extinct. But relations between protectors and the protected whose taxes pay their salaries are widely improved. That's a welcome accompaniment to the sharp declines in crime reported in many cities across America. Who isn't happy to find cries of "oink" banished to hog calling contests at the state fair?

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