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Why I Hate Cops
lawdog | May 8, 2008 at 08:53 amby
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I don't hate cops. I've had friends who were cops in every town where I've ever lived. One pal o' mine--Cuddles to his friends--drove the meat wagon (picking up corpses) for the Chicago police department. Another was Ziggy, a ex-junkie who submitted an application to the police department early in his recovery for a goof. Six months later he was still clean, still unemployed, and the rest of the story was pure irony.
Both these guys nearly drank themselves to death, as cops, before they got sober. They would go to AA meetings in uniform (alcoholism in the Chicago police department was so rampant during the mid '80's that their union successfully negotiated permission for uniformed Chicago PD members to attend AA meetings during duty hours). I'd joke that some poor slob would really, REALLY want to get clean to willingly park his ass between those two grim faces over bad coffee in a room that smelled like an ashtray.
Funny thing--the longer they spent in recovery, the grimmer they were. The politics of their job, they confided, was what they really couldn't stomach.
Today neither of them is a cop, by choice. I was happy that conscience figured largely among the intangibles they recovered--and pissed 'cause I had to find someone else to fix my parking tickets.
My perceptions, and interactions, with cops changed after an incident I witnessed a few weeks after I moved to LA. I was smoking a cigarette in front of my new residence on Rampart near 6th when I witnessed four cruisers roll up out of nowhere on three young Latinos in a VW bug. All eight officers popped out of their cruisers and trained their weapons on the VW.
They began instructing the passengers (in the most imperative use of the English language I've ever heard) to crawl on their bellies out of the car and onto the summer-sticky, brick oven street. Problem was, the three suspects' command of English didn't include the word "crawl," so they sat there sweating under gunpoint for an elastic moment that extruded into a quarter hour.
Another cruiser finally pulled up with someone who could provide a similarly oppressive monologue in Spanish over the cruiser's PA. The front-seat passengers made every earnest endeavor to slither from the car to the searing pavement, in obvious discomfort since they were wearing beach clothes.
Then came the guy in the back seat's turn. He began speaking very excitedly in the only language he knew, and I'm thinking: this dude's wacked and he's going to give all TEN cops the excuse they're looking for to express-deliver a potential 160 steel-jacketed 9mm rounds right into the back seat of the VW. When four of the cops performed their well-rehearsed dance of duck-and-cover up to the car, I braced for the ugly, flat, slapping sounds of authority. And when authority is multiplied by 9mm, the ultimate command and root product is DEATH, in English or Español.
Amazingly, our amigo in the back seat was spared--the point cop returned his weapon to his holster--and I remembered to exhale. Two of the other three cops held the muzzles of their M-92s inches in front of the young man's eyes while the point cop dragged him from the back seat onto the pavement. Seems this dangerous suspect was in a hip cast, y'see. Then the heroic blue knight redrew his weapon to ensure the injured suspect hauled himself and his cast in a belly-crawl the required 20 feet from the vehicle (kinda like "injured suspect" was synonymous with "wounded animal").
The three suspects were then left shackled and face-down on the blistering street while the foiled marksmen turned most of their efforts to moving the five-block backup of Sunday afternoon traffic past the scene. Two cops spent the next half-hour tearing the interior out of the shiny custom bug, but their search produced no justification for their heavy-handed tactics.
When LAPD's finest finally, reluctantly released the VW and its passengers an hour later, the trio of victims positively beamed in sullen relief. From the sidewalk where I listened and watched this state-sanctioned terrorist act, I never heard anything like an apology from any of the officers involved--although I'm certain Monday's roll call included remedial training in Spanish equivalents for the English word "crawl."
A few years later, as I watched much of Los Angeles burning during the Rodney King uprising, two thoughts dominated the few which managed to penetrate my shock. First: half of the people of Los Angeles were on the streets looking to settle the score on every injustice that they had ever endured. This debt was obviously of considerable scope--the fires burned for days. (Whole families were looting, Ma and Pa helping Baby Girl over the shards of the broken window and into the toy aisle of Thrifty Drug, fer chris'sake).
Second, WHERE WERE ALL THOSE HEROIC BLUE KNIGHTS, festooned with symbols and devices of humiliation, pain and death? Where was the death-whisper of those gun-muzzles, the steel-jacketed sounds of authority?
I left LA soon after, and never heard the official answers to these questions. I doubt they would hold water. The real answers probably burned in a canyon fire, or were buried in the Northridge quake. And sometimes, I find it entirely pleasing to believe that Mother Earth decided it was payback time, too.