Saturday, April 08, 2006

"We're cops. People don't like us."

Cynthia McKinney.

Don't know what to say.

Fortunately, Avedon Carol does, and it sounds to me that she's exactly right. It was the cop's job to know who Cynthia McKinney is, not McKinney's job to assume that the Capitol Hill Police officers assigned to guard the Capitol Building will never get it through their heads that a black woman can be a member of the United States House of Representatives.

As for Michele Malkin's using the incident as evidence that Democrats belong to the Party of Cop Haters, well, that's ridiculous in a hundred ways, not the least of which is that the modern American urban police force is pretty much a creation of Democrats.

Irish Catholic Democrats.

Who did it as a way to give themselves and their relatives jobs, but nevermind.

My great-grandfather was a cop. He started his career walking a beat in Albany, NY and finished as a detective. I still have his billy clubs, the one he swung when he was a mere flatfoot checking the shop doors along North Pearl Street at night and the one he wore with his dress blues on ceremonial occasions. He saved a man's life once. Jumped off a bridge to rescue the guy after he'd fallen into the river. It was winter. The family legend is that this is what killed my great-grandfather as he died of pneumonia soon after.

You can ask the police chief in my home town how he thinks Democrats feel about cops. He'll tell you he owes his job and his career and his whole police force to a Democrat. He'll tell you that a Democrat, my father, was largely responsible for turning our town's police department from one professional cop with three amateurs named Barney working under him to a good sized and thoroughly professional department of academy-trained career officers.

It's Democratic mayors for the most part in this country who see to it that city cops have the equipment and manpower they need, have good working conditions, good benefits, and good pensions. Ask cops what the Bush Administration has done for the police since 9/11.

Same thing they've done for the firefighters.

One reason Democrats have a bad reputation when it comes to policing in this country is that Democrats don't like it and complain loudly whenever the ruling elites, who are mostly Republican businessmen, try to use the cops as their hired goons to keep the riff raff in line.

Cops themselves get frustrated with "Liberals" on the bench and at the defense table and in city hall and the state house and Congress who will gladly give the police everything they want (see above) except permission to do whatever the cops think they need to do to keep the scum off the street and the rest of us safe.

And cops, on the whole, don't have a very good record when it comes to dealing with citizens who happen to be African-American. Since African-Americans are a key constituency of the Democratic Party and Democrats, generally, have a more passionate interest in the civil rights of all Americans, over the years there has been a lot of antagonism between Democrats and the police.

This antagonism is natural and healthy in a democracy, especially if we want this to stay a democracy. But it has led to anger and resentment.

However, the real reason Democrats have an anti-cop reputation is that for the last 38 years Right Wing demogogues like Malkin have been shouting it from a script written for them by that great upholder of Law and Order, the unindicted co-conspirator, Richard M. Nixon.

At any rate, here at the Mannion Fruit and Vegetable stand, we love our neighborhood cops and there's always a polished apple waiting for them when they come along, which at least one does regularly, our old friend Chris the Cop.

Chris has two main complaints about this webpage, and neither one is that we don't like cops here. The first is that there's too much gratuitous Bush bashing. The second is that I don't tell enough Chris the Cop stories.

Well, all right, I've already Bush-bashed, but I can try to make up for it by telling a Chris the Cop story, one I was reminded of by Malkin's charge that Democrats hate cops.

See, I happen to think that it's American not to like cops, for the same reason we don't like dentists, high school principals, and middle management. We don't like people whose job it is to tell us to sit down, be quiet, obey the rules, do what they say is good for us, and don't talk back.

Chris, who spent a good deal of his career undercover, eventually made sergeant. He was a patrol sergeant, and his job went from facing down some truly awful and dangerous bad characters on a regular basis to smoothing out differences that arose between citizens and the cops who were trying to help them.

Sometimes these differences were the citizens' fault. Sometimes it was one of Chris's cops who had caused the problem, through overzealousness, or by losing his cool, or by misinterpreting a situation, or by not following procedure, or just by being dumb.

On Saturday afternnoons in the fall when the Syracuse University Orangemen are playing a football game at home, the neighborhoods around the Carrier Dome get pretty congested with traffic. Lots of people from out of town get lost trying to find the stadium, lots of people are driving around looking for free parking---it can be a mess. So the cops are out in force, trying to direct the traffic.

One Saturday, Chris had a rookie cop assigned to a neighborhood close to the stadium. The rookie was doing his best, but it wasn't good enough for one of the local citizens, who was out on his lawn, heckling the rookie.

The guy had had a few. He was having a few more while he was out there on his lawn heckling the cop. With every sip, he grew more inspired and more colorful in his choice of language. The cop grew less and less appreciative.

Finally the cop had enough.

So Chris, who's out on patrol somewhere else, gets a call. Officer needs assistance. Chris drives over to assist.

He finds the rookie has the heckler cuffed and spread-eagled against his squad car, his face pressed down against the hood.

Chris is a very patient and methodical guy. He does not jump to conclusions. He calmly climbs out of his car, orders another officer who'd showed up to assist to watch the heckler, and takes the rookie aside to ask him why he busted the guy.

"He was interfering with a police officer in the line of duty, Sarge."

"Is that so," says Chris. "And how was he doing that?"

"He was yelling at me, Sarge!"

"Yelling at you?"

"Yeah. He was calling me all kinds of names."

"What kinds of names?"

"You know. Bad names. Insults."

"Uh huh," says Chris.

"So I warned him."


"He kept it up."

"Yelling at you?"


"Calling you names?"

"That's right."

Chris nodded. He turned and told the other cop to uncuff the guy and let him go with a warning.

The rookie couldn't believe it.

"But, Sarge---" he began to protest.

Chris decided to explain to him the facts of life. He said, "Listen. Let me let you in on a secret. We're cops. People don't like us."


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