Cops and Robbers

When I was little, we used to play cops and robbers. We’d pick an object – a hat in the winter or a stick in the summer – and the robbers would try to steal it from the cops. The cops could tag the robbers to send them to jail, which was really the rotting stump of an old maple tree. The inmates of the timber prison could only be freed if another robber sprinted bravely past the line of guards to tag them back into the game.

There were rules to cops and robbers. The cops were the good guys and the robbers were the bad guys. And when a game ended – usually with the last robber getting tagged in a desperate effort to free her comrades – we would switch sides. The good would become the bad and the bad the good.

This was all I knew about cops. I didn’t know that some kids weren’t taught that cops were good. I didn’t know that some kids were told to say only “Yes, Sir” or “No, Sir” if a policeman asked them a question. I had never said “Sir” to anyone. And I definitely didn’t know that some robbers in jail weren’t really robbers at all.

When I was little, my mother didn’t let me read fairy tales. She said that the real ones, by the Brothers Grimm, were too gruesome for an elementary schooler, but she didn’t want me to read the watered-down Disney versions either. It seemed weird at the time, but I understand it now. I do not want my kids to play cops and robbers.

Laura Michael is a rising senior in Yale College. She’s a Statistics and Data Science major but loves to write in her free time. Each week, she shares her work with her friends through her newsletter, “Weekly Themes.” You can subscribe at

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