A book, Identities and justification on a police officer’s action
“To judge individuals’ identities by appearances, whether it is a person or place, will only constrain anyone who would judge, in a prison of prejudices.”
“Identities” was written by a Canadian author, W. D. Vagaldson and the story deals with a social concern over judging one by his/her appearance and the tragic outcome from the decision. In the story, the main character is foreshadowed to be shot at the end because of his outlook that was spotted by an amateur police officer. The police officer has to be justified for the action regarding the foreshadowed homicide for the following reasons.
To begin with, there was no time for the police officer to warn the main character who was putting his hand in his pocket who looks suspicious. Also, the police officer could not help but just deal with his duty as the way he was trained in prior. Moreover, the fact that the main character trusts himself too much and acts carelessly in such a neighborhood where it is expected and prejudiced to be dangerous by himself adds to the point that it is just of him to do so.
“When the officer, who is inexperienced, who is nervous because of the neighborhood… because he has been trained to see an unshaven man in blue jeans as a potential thief and not as a probable owner…” (Vagaldson p. 5)
As it can be seen in this quote that the police officer already thinks the main character to be suspicious. In this situation, the man’s behavior of putting his hand in his pocket will look as if he is making a threatening posture in the officer’s perspective. Also, as an amateur without many field experiences, it is wise of himself to pull the pistol. On the contrary, from the main character’s point of view, the result might seem a bit skeptical to deploy an inexperienced officer in such an underprivileged neighborhood alone. However, considering the situation that the officer is put where they are confronting, it is possible to say that the police officer’s reaction is carried out in a reasonable manner to a certain degree.
“In spite of his car, he hopes his day-old beard, which he strokes upward with the heel of his hand, will, when combined with his clothes, provide immunity.” (Vagaldson p. 5)
By referring to the word “immunity”, the main character illustrates his unconscious prejudice against the neighborhood. While he is relieved that he could see that his appearance is more than enough to fit into such a poor neighborhood, his contradiction of wanting to be treated as a resident of a wealthy neighborhood by the police also shows the main character’s hypocritic side. These biased identities within himself come back to him as a death at the end.
From the main character and the police officer’s point of view, they are the same people after all, who would judge one by his/her appearance. In this sense, this is a fiction which reflects the reality of modern society. People have become more judgmental and there are countless events frequently happening in the present because people do not respect each other but try to judge a person based on their backgrounds on the outside, such as ethnicities, religions, nationalities, etc.
To sum up, the police officer at least acts with full understanding of the neighborhood and follows the order. Also, it is the nature of a police officer with heavy responsibility in his mind for his duty to guard the neighborhood and it greatly affected his decision at the end. According to the difference between the environments of the two characters, I would rather want to see that the police officer has to be justified for the action regarding the projected homicide. Consequently, the man does not deserve death but cannot blame the officer for the tragic outcome.