#COPS: FACISTS OR HEROES?
In a climate of controversy about cops, I continue to write a series in which cops are quite human. Why?
The roots of my decision lie as far back as childhood in a poor neighborhood. Cops didn’t show up in our area with less than two, and usually more. When my grandfather was murdered, no serious investigation ensued. Since that time, I have been harassed, beaten, and when I reported an attempted rape–sneered at by cops.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I actually had a civil conversation with a cop. I’d broken my leg up on the hill where I farmed. Unfortunately, my vehicle–an old Volkswagen–chose that period of time to break down. A friend drove me to the hospital which was roughly thirty miles away then took me and my unwieldy cast home.
If you’ve ever farmed, or just had animals, you know that minor things like broken legs doesn’t stop your responsibilities. Way too soon, my walking cast wore through and needed replacing. I hitched a ride with a neighbor to the hospital, but she couldn’t wait in town for me. I told her not to worry; I’d hitchhike home.
After two short lifts that spilled me out on a long stretch of hot road without a hint of shade, my leg ached and I felt exhausted from walking with a million tons of plaster on my leg. I wondered if I’d get home that night. At least it was summer. Back then cell phones still belonged to the future–yes, I’m that old–and even if they hadn’t, I would never have been able to afford one. Landlines up on the hill were nonexistent. No one could afford a phone even if the phone company would’ve put the line up!
I’d begun scoping out the fields along the road for a likely spot because I couldn’t drag that heavy cast another step and the sun was maybe an hour away from setting. When the cruiser pulled over a few feet ahead of me the predominant thought was: what the hell have I done now? As far as I knew there was no ordinance against hitchhiking.
The cop strode over, utility belt squeaking. I stood my ground, getting my most belligerent face on.
“Where you going?”
I wanted to tell him it was none of his business, but I didn’t want to wind up in jail for the night like a near neighbor had when she smart mouthed a local cop. I settled for a sullen, “Why?”
“Do you have some ID on you?” His voice didn’t betray any emotion at all.
He shuffled his feet. “How’d you break your leg?”
Tired and cranky, and thoroughly sick of the interrogation, I snapped, “If it’s any of your business, I was dancing on a hillside.”
He threw his head back and belted out a laugh. The laughter felt so free and genuine that I found myself chuckling along with him. Finally, he wiped his eyes and gave his head a shake. “I saw you hitchhiking in town a few hours ago. When my shift ended, I thought I’d see if you were still on the road.”
Feeling a bit less combative, I spread my arms. “Yep, here I am–backpack, cast and me.”
“I know a great burger place just up the road. Hungry?”
“I have some granola in my pack.” I certainly didn’t want to confess to being too strapped for cash to buy a hamburger. It felt too embarrassing; like being a kid again and eating mayonnaise sandwiches because we didn’t have the money for anything else.
“If you don’t mind keeping the granola for another meal, I’d like to buy you dinner.”
Eyes squinted, I stared up at him. “I don’t date cops.”
The smile that spread across his lips lit up his eyes. “I don’t date anyone. I’m married to a great woman. I do make friends occasionally, though. What do you say?”
My stomach chose that time to out me loud enough for him to hear. His smile widened. “A hamburger won’t make you one of the enemy.”
I lifted a brow.
“I know how the folks up on the hill view cops.” His smile fell away. “Sometimes, with good reason.” He sighed and looked me in the eye. “How about it? Want to eat dinner with the enemy? Might gather some good intel.”
That evening we became friends and I began the journey of discovering that cops were human. When I moved back east, I lost touch with the man, but never forgot the lesson.
Since that time, I have known both good and bad and mediocre cops. Some want nothing more than to put in their time and retire; some see the world as “us vs. them”. There are those, however, who truly believe that the motto “to serve and to protect” covers every person they meet, regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or any other artificial division.
These cops are still human; they still make mistakes and bad judgment calls sometimes–sometimes that judgment call is taking too long to pull a gun and they die. These cops work hard, learn constantly, and put their lives on the line every day. They believe in what they do. They try to do it better; to be there for those who need them. Isn’t that the best any of us can do?
So, you see, that is my motivation in writing a series about a team of cops. My characters, like the cops I’ve known as flesh and blood people, aren’t perfect. They struggle to understand themselves, the society they are called to protect and the people they meet every day.
Meet hot tempered Sergeant Nita Slowater in Sketch of a #Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team. See why she drives her superior, Lieutenant Michael Williams–a man known to bend the rules–crazy.
You can check out all the Special Crimes Team books.
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Here’s a cop trying to do the right thing. It’s not easy. http://www.wtae.com/news/pittsburgh-police-chief-defends-antiracism-photo-on-twitter/30510986
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