Category Archives: LAW ENFORCEMENT

NOT ME

I know the cops want to blame someone for the changes, the destruction of downtown. You think I don’t grieve this city? You think I haven’t watched it go downhill in the 20 years I’ve been living on that same block, in that same apartment? I’ve suffered too, with the crime, the garbage, the mess, the smell, the trouble and the thievery. They want to point the finger and blame someone, but I’m not the one at fault. I didn’t bring all these big businesses into town and let them build all these skyscrapers and then double and triple the rent without increasing anybody’s paychecks. I’m not the one who kicked people out of their apartments after they had lived there and paid rent for maybe 30 or 40 years, just because I wanted to make more profit. That’s not me, so don’t put it on me.

The cops have been after me for years. It’s ridiculous. I get off the bus downtown, outside my own place, and this one cop, he’s like: We’re videotaping you! We’ve got you on camera! And I’m like, so what? I’m not doing anything wrong! I live here! What is your problem, man? Seriously! This is my home. You want to get rid of me, I get it. You don’t like the looks of me. Okay. But I got nowhere to go, dude. I live here. That doesn’t make me a criminal, though, does it? So far as I know, they haven’t yet made a law saying which of us have to move to a locked up ghetto and be segregated off, so the rich people with the good jobs can live here and pay rent without having to see our faces. And so far, guess what? I live here, and I pay rent.

The cops approach me at my cafe too, and they are like, Hey bro our eyes are on you! And I’m like, so what? I live a block away. I sit in this cafe. People who hang around here talk to me. So far as I know that’s not a crime. I took my citizenship classes. The Bill of Rights grants us the Right of Free Association. Since slavery ended, even people like me with mixed blood, officer, can sit and talk with other members of the human race, officer. News flash! It hasn’t been a crime to freely associate and meet and greet and sit with other humans for the last 150 years or so, as far as I know. Maybe you know better, officer. Maybe the law has changed?

So sit and glare at me because you think I’m ugly, officer. Go ahead. But guess what, officer? I think you’re ugly, too. Because your thoughts are ugly. And your actions are ugly. And your ideas are ugly. And you see ugly things and you think ugly things. And you are mad that your city has gotten ugly and you want to point fingers and blame people like me. You think I am the one peeing outside, but I have a toilet. I don’t need to do that. I can pay for my cup of coffee and sit with my library book and use the restroom here. I am not a vagrant. So what if I have a big belly and an old t-shirt, that’s not a crime either. Go read your criminal codes, officers. Brush up on the law. The Wild West and the “Get Out Of Town” stuff, those days are over. You think you’re gonna bully me out of my cheap housing? Not on my watch. Not today!

So my computer breaks, and I can’t afford a new one on my fixed income. You know, I’m old, right? I’ real old. So this young gal that has been coming around the cafe a lot, she comes up to me last week, and she’s like, oh, hey, I got this old laptop and I bought me a new one – do you want to buy this one off me? Real cheap! And I’m like, are you kidding me? Mine broke and I barely know how to use it but hey it’s a typewriter and I can send emails to my brothers and sister, so yeah. And the price was set and then – two cops pop up around her, one on each side, and I get cuffed and taken to jail. And this one detective who has been harassing me for years yells after me, we got you now!

All I can tell you is it is pretty hilarious that they put in the report that I am some kind of intellectual criminal mastermind, fencing stolen property and directing a bunch of street thugs and pickpockets and robbers into taking stuff that I promise to buy and then I resell it. Wasn’t there a guy in an old Dickens novel who did that? Had a bunch of young boys and some girls, too? These cops are making up a crazy story, because that is not me. There are guys out there with $200,000 dollars worth of stolen goods who really are selling on the streets, but I’m not one of them. The cops are just pointing fingers randomly so they can look like they solved another crime, but nothing is going to change by putting guys like me into prison. Believe me. Putting me in prison isn’t go to fix one thing in this city.

I get it. You want a clean, safe city. You want to live in peace. Would it surprise you to know that almost every person who lands on your borders wants the same thing? The fact that we left some hellhole war zone means we didn’t want to be in that. We didn’t want chaos and crime, or guess what? We could have just stayed home with the other poor fools and spoken our own language and eaten our own food and had all our relatives around and kept our jobs and kept our houses and kept our lives, if we didn’t get killed, but no. We wanted out. And we didn’t come here to steal or to set up some crazy Dickens novel thieving ring. And if I did have a bad heart and did corrupt young people and did keep the money, would I wear these clothes? Would I still live in a tiny subsidized apartment in the worst neighborhood right downtown and sit in the one cafe where they let me sit for hours with the same cup of coffee? That wouldn’t make any sense. That’s not me. I’m not the guy they’re looking for!

Tell the cops. Tell the prosecutor. Tell the judge and tell the jury. Seriously. These cops have been watching me like a hawk. Embittering my one cup of coffee that I used to love to sit and sip while I read the free weekly newspaper or my library book. Flipping me shit, as the saying goes. Letting me know they are watching me. Telling me maybe I want to move. Well, I don’t want to move, even if this city is moving all around me. Even if this city is moving out of my reach. I’ve heard some of these same cops, sitting in the same cafe where I sit, talking to each other about how they can’t afford to live here. They had to move someone out of town. I get that they are angry. But think about it like a reasonable individual. If I were a criminal mastermind, watched like a goldfish in a bowl for years, and living in the same place and going to the same cafe for 20 years, wouldn’t they have pinned one thing on me yet? Wouldn’t they have caught me doing something besides making a deal on a used laptop? There are people out there selling stolen goods, I know. But it’s not me.

JUST A MISTAKE

As I listened to yet another taped confession the other day, I was struck by how skilled the detectives can be in creating that safe space into which the offender can finally confess.  I believe in my heart that almost everyone would like to confess, in the faint hope that if they are punished, they may be forgiven.  But to confess at the start is very hard.  Especially if they have done something horrible.  And it is not just the fear of punishment.  Their shame holds them back.   I think good detectives are very aware of this and work with it to extract the confession like an infected tooth.

On this particular tape, the offender had already said many times that he had not committed the crime.  No way he could do that!  No!  He’s not like that.  Then the detective gave him this speech in a gentle, inviting voice:

“I know.  I understand.  You’re not the kind of person who would do that.  I know.  But in my line of work.  I see a lotta people, a lot, who aren’t bad people.  They’re good people!  Family fathers, working men.  But things happen.  They can make mistakes.  They don’t mean to hurt anyone.  They are surprised themselves.  It’s just a good person, making a mistake.  I understand.  I understand how that can happen.   Good people make mistakes.  It happens a lot.  I see it all the time.  Is that how it was for you?  You didn’t mean to hurt anyone.  You’re a good man.  Did you just make a mistake? ”

There was a space of silence.  And into that space came the single word that will hopefully free a child victim from having to testify:

“Yes.”