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The Irony of the Day
By Ed Kline
Monday, December 17, 2007
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Reality based fiction
My day was started with my five-year-old daughter calling for me from the bathroom. She wanted help wiping herself; it was 6 am. I came from a short sleep, being a volunteer firefighter for a small community sometimes keeps you up most of the night. I started breakfast and turned on her favorite morning cartoon for her and attempted to get a few more winks. It seemed to be only seconds later that my wife was vacuuming around me. She knew I had been at a fire most of the night, but the cleaning still needed to be done. I walked to the bathroom to become human again.
I left the house in a hurry a few minutes before 8 am. I walked to work through the Borough where I have spent my entire life. I remembered riding my bicycle through the same alley when I was in elementary school. Back then I only dreamed of being a police officer. Many residents of the community still remember little Eddie and his plastic handcuffs, cap gun, and uniform shirt. I used to ride my bike with Minnie the meter maid. After she retired, I would write down the registration numbers of vehicles in violation and leave a note for officers on the door of the police station. I still remember those days clearly. Swarthmore police officers were my heroes and they considered me one of the community’s sons. As I enter the police station I feel a new sense of pride. I am now among the finest of the community.
The day starts as usual, night work giving the run down of the latest events and politics. Politics was something that I did not expect about this job. Unfortunately, it surrounds everything we do, what type of equipment and training we receive, the policies we follow, and of course the official ritual of “Monday Night Quarterbacking.” Imagine being tested by someone who has no idea about what your job is.
I usually work with Sgt. Stufflet but today he has taken the day off. In our department, his shift is only filled if it is during a Friday or Saturday night. This is Saturday morning, everything should be fine. I looked through some reports and find that the kids were out last night in the Business District. Loud groups, skateboarding, it is the usual Friday night event in the Borough. Most of the time the kids really aren’t doing anything wrong, but try telling that to the residents of the business district. Of course, this would include myself, but apparently since I have chosen to be a sworn police officer, I have lost my right to have a peaceful alleyway behind my condominium.
When we do have problems with the kids it is usually underage drinking or vandalism. When I was young, if someone was caught, they got a ride home from the police. Officers knew that their parents would take care of the problem. Today it is not that simple. Everybody wants something done, but no one wants to take responsibility. I find myself being a father to many kids instead of a cop. When we catch someone doing something wrong today we have to issue a citation or arrest him or her. If we don’t, the offender wins and his or her next offense will be easier to commit. Parents don’t take the same role as before.
I have arrested many kids for underage drinking, most of the time the ones that get caught are the first timers. The ones that say, “I don’t drink!” and their parents believe them, even after they have been arrested. I don’t understand how it can be my fault that their son or daughter was out drinking alcohol. But that is what most parents claim, “Not my kid!”
Before I even get the chance to get my equipment out to the car I receive my first call of the day, a vandalism complaint, it figures, probably something trivial. When I arrive at the scene, I observe graffiti all over the wall of the building. The complainant is infuriated. He wants to know how this could happen in our small community. I explained that even small towns have big problems. Throughout the day I get three more reports, all of graffiti. Someone had a good time! At noon, my plans to eat lunch with my wife and daughter are ruined by an accident. It involves a few injuries and a towed vehicle, but also an hour or two of paperwork in the station. Many residents wonder why officers are in the station so much. The reason is very simple, paperwork. I did expect this before I was a cop.
It was getting dark outside now, time for dinner at home. I stop in and start to finally eat something after a fairly busy day of policing. Two more hours and I am on my way home for the night. On my third or fourth bite I receive a call, suspicious persons, a possible burglary. I respond with my emergency lights on only, the sound of a siren may scare the suspects and I would not be able to catch them. While enroute I ask for assistance from neighboring communities. Any call in progress will require more than one police officer to safely execute an investigation or arrest. I turn off all my lights and pull onto the block. I park the police car a few houses from the scene. I observe a subject to the rear of the property with a flashlight. I can’t see what he is doing. An assisting officer reports that he is in the area. I advise him by radio to walk into the alley behind the building. I also give him a brief description of the suspect.
While talking on the radio, the suspect turns and starts to run down the alley away from the assisting officer and myself. I assume that the suspect saw or heard police officers in the area. I chase after him on foot through the alley. The assisting officer, who is not as familiar with the area, is asking where I am. I catch up to the suspect and pull him to the ground; he turns and tries to hit me with something, and suddenly I can’t see. I wrestle with the suspect and am unable to radio other officers. I use my mace on the suspect to attempt to overpower him. My sight returns enough to get handcuffs on the suspect. I sit down now on top of the prisoner, catching my breath and notifying other officers of my location. I wipe off spray paint from my face and find my flashlight on the ground. I pick it up and look at the face of the suspect for the first time. It is the son of the borough council president.
The young man, 17 years old, is screaming as loud as he can, “You have assaulted me, I will get you fired!” I tell him to be quiet, as other officers approach and remove the suspect from the ground, searching him and placing him in the back of a police car. Two cans of spray paint are found in his coat pockets and a third still lies on the ground in the alley. At the original scene, fresh spray paint is found on the side of the building. A simple crime, but now it is a huge political nightmare.
At 8 pm I head home, walking the same route as in the morning. My thoughts are about this terrible day. The police chief is concerned, the borough council president is angry, and the mayor didn’t like me before. What do you think he thinks of me now? I can see next week’s Swarthmorean headline, “The son of Swarthmore is beaten by cop!”
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