Police officers are tasked with protecting their citizens from harm. A California police officer recently came into the spotlight after going above and beyond the call of duty by helping an older adult who was having trouble at a bank.
In September 2017, officers in Montebello, Los Angeles received a phone call from a nearby Bank of America. The request was regarding a patron who was causing a disturbance in response to a transaction. Officer Robert Josett was dispatched to respond to the call.
Upon the officer’s arrival, he discovered that a 92-year-old man had gotten upset while he was trying to withdraw money from his account, and had ended up causing a scene. As it turned out, the man’s California identification card had expired.
The bank staff was unable to fulfill his request as per their banking policy because of the expired card. The news that he couldn’t access his money understandably upset the gentleman, and the police were called in.
Here comes the real hero
As soon as he had been briefed about what was happening, Officer Josett assessed the scene and took action. Since the problem was as a result of the older man’s expired identification card, he escorted him out of the bank premises and drove him down to the local DMV to get a new ID. 
He didn’t just stop there. Officer Josett stayed with the elderly man until his ID card was renewed and then accompanied him back to the bank to withdraw his money. This time, he was able to withdraw money from his account, and he thanked Officer Josett before going on his way.
An image of Officer Josett escorting the man out of the bank was posted on the Montebello Police Department Facebook page and has gotten over 44K shares and more than 274K reactions from people around the world.
The negative police image among the public
As a result of its job, the police force often shares a love-hate relationship with the rest of the population. It has always been a challenge to maintain the positive image of the police since the first known police force was established in the 1800s.
This has even become more difficult in recent times with the rising popularity of social media. Today, the misdeeds of one officer can go viral across the world at a moment’s notice, leaving the government unable to reconcile or mitigate the damage.
This has created a situation where acts from a few officers negatively influence public opinion of the police. However, this has also created an avenue for police departments in various locations to show their positive side.
For instance, the above story was shared on the Montebello Police Department Facebook page, giving them some instant popularity online. There have been other cases of police PR at work, publicizing stories that put them in a good light.
“Today’s police is less proactive than in the past,” study says
Police responses have also been affected by the increased scrutiny. According to new research from the McCombs School of Business, the proactivity of public safety officers decline when they perceive negative public scrutiny — even if they are deeply motivated to help people. 
The study, which is titled “I want to serve, but the public does not understand,” found that service officers are less likely to proactively build relationships with community members and help solve their problems if they perceive that the general public does not appreciate the dangers of their jobs. 
“In the vast majority of jobs, it is really difficult for other people outside to understand your job, but people don’t realize how much this misunderstanding can actually influence the behavior of police officers,” said Shefali V. Patil, lead researcher of the paper.
The study analyzed responses from 238 firefighters across eight stations and 183 police officers across six agencies in the United States. Researchers found that officers who responded that they felt like the public did not appreciate their roles were significantly less likely to be rated as proactive by their supervisors.
“When proactive officers see something that’s happening in a local neighborhood, they get out of the patrol car and go to help somebody, even though they don’t need to and nobody’s actually watching them,” Patil said. “But being less proactive would mean taking a less active role while on a shift and basically only doing what your boss tells you.”
So many people join the police force because they feel inclined to help people, just like Officer Robert Josett. While it’s important to call out corrupt cops who abuse their power, it’s just as important to commend the ones who go beyond the letter of the law to help others.