Show of Force

It's not that I don't like the police. It's just that I'm happier when they're not around.


Sometimes I want to live in a gated community.

There, I said it.

Of course the concept goes against every progressive belief I was raised to have, but I still think gates are more subtle than razor wire, which is what I actually want to install around my perimeter.

And to be honest, I don't really want the gates themselves, so much as I want rifle towers, manned 24/7 by sharpshooters.

I thought of this the other day when I accompanied some friends on a househunting tour - and I noticed that most of the gates in this town have come down. Allowing street rabble like us to just cruise right through, like we owned the place.

I thought to myself "what a gyp." First, if I'd paid a million dollars for a house behind gates, and somebody removed those barriers, I'd be really angry. Second, I'd go right out and purchase a big vat of boiling oil (I'm sure Home Depot sells those), which I'd then mount on top of a fence, right where it could be conveniently tipped over the heads of any uninvited, unwitting guests.

Maybe that sounds harsh (excessive even), but I just fantasize idly about privacy and security every year when the rental properties on my street empty out, and I quake in terror of what the new denizens are going to be like.

In all honesty, I've had it reasonably good in the nearly 10 years I've lived there now.

When I moved in, my first set of neighbors were drug lords.

That's an exaggeration.

It might be more accurate to characterize them as potheads. With an entrepreneurial bent.

They had a few loud parties, but by and large, we all kept to ourselves. And as payment for my silence, they performed routine chores around my house like cutting the grass and carrying in groceries. I didn't know, at the time, that this was hush money I found out later, when they moved, and people kept erroneously showing up at my door trying to buy drugs.

I briefly considered selling them some baggies full of oregano or powdered sugar and pocketing the profit (but then I questioned the wisdom of pissing off dissatisfied drug-buying customers who know my address - give or take a few houses).

They were followed by the crack whores, who were followed by a nice couple with twins, who were followed by the Trainspotting neighbors who lasted the longest - up till last Fall. I kinda hated to see 'em go. The devil y'know and all that.

(This last year's crop was a very well-behaved group of girls who kept their cars out of my driveway and never did anything any stranger than paint their dog pink. They [wisely] never tried to paint my dogs, so "live and let live," I say.)

Before them, the Trainspotters rotated in a succession of guys, most of whom didn't much like me, but we existed in a relatively peaceable state of détente until the geek who moved in for the last few months scratched my (then-new) truck backing out of their makeshift driveway. He also fled the scene (probably the smartest thing he could've done, in retrospect) without even informing me of the damage. From that point on, it was war.

I am a fundamentally law-abiding, peaceful citizen, but if I could've been sure he would've been the only one hurt, it's not outside the realm of possibility that I would've strung piano wire across their porch and garotted him for that.

Maybe that sounds excessive, but I'd tried being polite. I'd tried being an asshole. Neither had worked. It's obvious some people only respond to a show of force.

I know that, because I work in a little area we like to call the DMZ.

We observe a fair amount of crime, and a reasonable and consequent amount of police activity.

I happened to be up front painting the other day around the time an "alleged offender" was being "questioned" by some cops across the street, for example.

Naturally, we did what any highly trained workforce would do in the middle of a deadline - we plastered ourselves against the glass to watch.

It'd been a slow news day, and I probably wouldn't be overstating the case to say we were hoping for a little drama, a little excitement. Maybe even an escapade.

Nothing too violent. Nothing out of The Sopranos. More like a little 21 Jump Street.

Fortunately, the "alleged offender" obliged by making a break for it. At which point, my policeman friend on the scene took him down.

Or to be technically precise, he "escorted him to the ground"(very, very quickly) and then "assertively" requested that he stay put.

Nobody got hurt. There wasn't any hint of brutality or unreasonable show of force. No weapons were unsheathed. Though I'm sure by the time my coworkers got around to telling the story at that night's dinner table, the episode had turned into a fullscale riot - complete with us dodging bullets in the crossfire.

The best part of the whole incident (in postscript) was what the guy was being questioned for. Which was, as it turns out, stealing. Sort of.

What he "stole," though was how to put this delicately? a Clintonian sex act. (Kinda like a Gas 'n Go, I guess - where you leave the pump without paying - so to speak.)

It's actually called "theft of services" and it is a crime that actually does get reported.

I just hope there's some of that going on the next time I do a ridealong, because I'd really like to be around when that call comes in.

'Cause I have a couple degrees in English and 15 years in communications, and I still can't even begin to think how I'd initiate that conversation with the police dispatcher.