11-12-2004 Cops

As far as I can tell, generally speaking, nobody likes the cops until they desperately need one. Cops are kinda like chemotherapy. It's comforting to know they're available if need be, but the greater majority of us hayseeds never want to actually need their services. And statistically speaking, chances are that most us will never need the services of a cop for anything more threatening to our well-being than removing an illegally parked car from in front of our driveways, or forcing the delinquent kid down the block to admit throwing a ball through the front window. Odds are, you'll never come face-to-face with a burglar, a loaded handgun, or even a thoroughly deranged lunatic unless you're extremely unlucky, or not one who pays close attention to one's immediate environs.

To hear the folks that never suffered through a life-threatening emergency tell it; cops are lazy, overpaid, overweight, donut-eating, arrogant assholes.

To hear the cops tell it; the average, taxpaying resident is usually ungodly impatient, constantly sweating the really small stuff, and wouldn't know police work if it lurched forward and latched onto their gonads. Or gonad.

In these matters, I tend to side with the cops.

The subject of policing recently came up, and I was telling a friend of mine that whenever a few extra pennies come my way I send a few unannounced large pizzas down to police headquarters. He looked at me like I was on my third joint and said, "Why?" I told him that I wanted those folks to know that their tireless and under-appreciated efforts were noticed. In my mind, whether it be 1 person, 1% of the populace, or whatever percentage; the only folks standing between us and the worst that humanity has to offer deserve to be recognized. He responded with the usual "they get paid" gobbletygook. Yeah, I get paid for my job too. But I don't have to deal with murderers, gangbangers, elderly women pissing in alleys, smart alec hookers, hopper dwellars, charred bodies exploded by intense heat, hysterical rape victims, the car acident victims with compound fractures, intense public, internal, and media scrutiny and the ever present reality that even the law-abiding folks don't really want to be held responsible for their own actions.

And I don't need a 9 millimeter to do my every day job. They do, if not something even more lethal.

If you get a speeding ticket, it's simply because the cop was a dick. If you're car gets towed, it's because the cop involved was a prick. If a cop cuts you a break, but insists that you immediately move your illegally parked car; he is a bastard for sure. And if you need a cop for something trivial at best, and it takes longer than three minutes for one to arrive on scene, well, that's offered up as proof that he was sleeping behind the local mini-mart. Forget the fact that he may have been up to his red eyeballs in silly calls, or trying to catch up on the always piling paperwork; they are just never there when you need one.

That completely uninformed mindset always makes me want to wallop someone upside their head, but I really don't feel like getting arrested.

Due to the doctors frickin' orders, my exercise routine has been limited to walking about the city as of late. That sucks, and it's frustrating as all heck, but it is what it is. I was downtown the other day and I encountered one of the chamber honchos humping all sorts of materials across the Square's epicenter that gave me the impression that he was on his way back from some sort of important presentation. I also ran across another chamber dude who was busily pointing to and fro, while in the company of a couple of important looking suits. It seemed to me as if these suits were interested in investing in our downtown. Nothing gets me any stiffer, any faster than that sort of thing, but I'm a strange bird.

While enjoying my big workout, I noticed that all three of our police horses and their menacing-looking jockeys were out in the middle of the Square. Within an instant, one of the pistol-packing jockeys took a keen interest into making life miserable for one of our regular downtown indigents. With Charlie Weiss seemingly going the way of Yasser Arafat, this particular indigent seems to be the heir apparent to Public Square for the foreseeable future.

He's a scummy looking thing. He has long hair that is so filthy and so matted, you'd think he just got off the boat from Jamaica. The cop and he were doing a bit of verbal back and forth, and it was obvious that someone was headed for a bruising if they didn't shut their yap and vacate the premises. While this bit of fun was going on, I was waiting for the light to change and a twenty-something looking girl was standing right next to me and she was also intently watching the skirmish in waiting. The usual scumball eventually wandered away as he was forcefully instructed to do so and those little birdies that live inside of our streetlights started to chirp away. The girl turned towards me, our eyes met, and she realized that we had both been watching the proceedings. She said, "That's awful. He wasn't doing anything to anyone." I crossed the street without uttering a word in response. It was obvious to me that she would not appreciate my opinion of the most recent goings-on. I was off to that new buy-sell-trade video store.

Sorry, but I view these persistent indigents much the same way most folks view grafitti. If we're not proactive in our approach to such problems, it's almost admitting that we don't care about them. And when we send that troubling signal, it will always be recieved. I'm no civil liberties weenie, and if all three of our horse cops had dismounted and proceeded to pummel that scumball; even more large pizzas would have been on their way to headquarters, right quick.

What exactly do we want here, kiddies? Do we want the rights of our usual panhandlers respected, or do we want our long-suffering downtown area to be perceived as being clean and safe well before that gazillion screen theater project of ours comes to fruition? The twenty-something saw that situation as being upsetting, so I'm assuming she hasn't been in close proximity to, or cornered alone with those scumballs that we've tolerated for well too long.

Do we want the Square to be the place where the folks that never bothered to read play checkers, beg for spare change and cigarettes, while cursing at our cops? Do we want the folks that never owned an alarm clock and congregate at the soup kitchen like clockwork to dominate our downtown landscape? Or should we support our cops for trying to be proactive and make Wilkes-Barre a better place in the process?

Nobody knows what these guys have to deal with. Nobody understands their frustrations. When one gangbanger shoots the other gangbanger, everyone involved has ten names, if not more. When the cops need to question Latinos at the scene of a violent incident, all of a sudden, those very same Latinos have trouble speaking English. They tend to do that when being asked direct questions by cops. After boyfriend beats the snot out of girlfriend and needs to go to jail, girlfriend suddenly rediscovers her love for him and won't testify against him. And when some obvious bum needs to get his head cracked open, the twenty-something passersby are outraged by the actions of the cops.

This internet post of mine will obviously not be printed out and used as a recruiting tool for our police department. Heyna?

I mean, is this a totally thankless job frought with danger, or what? Who are these thick-skinned people and why do they gravitate towards this particular field of endeavour? They could earn more money than they currently do by driving a forklift. Why put up with what they have to put with? They're damned if they do. They're damned if they don't. They're damned if they will. And they're damned if they won't. They're damned by people that generally wouldn't know whether to sh*t or go blind if ever directly confronted by a real, live criminal with criminal intent written all over them.

We keep bemoaning the fact that the federal govmint won't buy us more cops and make our streets safe. But when the under-staffed cops that we do have start talking baton to the people that need one the most, we're real quick to criticize their needed actions as being overly aggressive. It seems to me that we, the unwashed hoi polloi, need to make a decision once and for all. We either want safe streets, or we want the rights of the troublemakers respected. We either want a bit of chit chat with a bored beat cop, or we want to fend for ourselves when the indigents won't take no for an answer after practically demanding one of our cigarettes. Which is it already? Are we going to support the folks protecting us from all sorts of peril, or are we going to verbally stab them in the back when they do what it takes to reclaim our streets?

Do you want the cops beating the bejesus out of the bad guys, or do you want the bad guys beating the bejesus out of you?

In the massively damaged inner space where my deranged thoughts are usually processed, there should be a waiting line of pizza delivery guys impatiently clamoring to get into our police headquarters on most nights. But, alas, small town folks that unequivically support their police departments don't exactly pop up quite as fast as genital warts on your average prostitute. And that's a very sad and very upsetting state of affairs for this lover of quiet, small town America.

If you don't, or can't support your own local police department, who exactly will you support? 'Splain it to me, 'cause I don't get it.

Who ya gonna call when they come for you?

P.S.--If I get drunk and way too stupid in public, please be reminded that it's not my fault. My childhood made me do it.