Last week was a horrible week around here with the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt, shootings and capture of one of the bombers. Things like that are just not supposed to happen around here and it was quite shocking. There are many people whose lives will never be the same. Though this was a tragic, horrific attack, one good thing that has come out of it is the newfound respect for our first responders, especially the police. Police officers, firemen and EMT’s all rushed to help those hurt, seemingly without regard for their own life and not knowing if there were more bombs set to go off.
People cheering for and applauding the police is not something you see much anymore. Most of the time they are being yelled at, or spoken about poorly or even having stuff thrown at them while they’re trying to do their job. I know there are some police officers who are not doing what they should be or aren’t the nicest people, but I think that most of them are doing their job excellently. Their job is not easy, dealing with all us knuckleheads out there who seem bent on breaking the law. They’re the guys you love to hate – that is, until you have an emergency and then they’re your best friend. I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to the love/hate relationship with the police.
It wasn’t always that way. When I was much younger there was a police officer who was really a great guy, whom I’ll call Officer B. We often sat on a stone wall on the corner of a main road and a side street that a couple of my friends lived on. Officer B was a motorcycle cop, at least in the warm weather months, and he would often stop and talk with us when we were just hanging out. He got to know us over time and would talk to us like he was our big brother, just talking about sports, girls and life in general. Never once did I feel like he was watching us, though I did feel that he was watching out for us.
Even as we got older and moved into our teen years, Officer B would still stop and say hello and hang out with us for a few minutes. Maybe neighborhood policing was the new fad in police work back then, but I don’t remember any other cops doing that kind of thing. I think that part of the reason my friends and I liked him was because he was just a guy who, instead of trying to lecture us, took the time to talk to us – like our baseball coach or the guy who owned the Sunoco station where we always got our candy, soda and STP stickers. I guess they didn’t treat us like kids.
Now fast forward about three or four years. My best friend Tony, another guy and I were riding around town in Tony’s car on a typical Friday night when we got pulled over by the police. At the time, we weren’t doing anything wrong, just cruising around looking for something to do (translated: looking for some girls to hang out with) when the blue lights were flashing behind us. So we pulled over and were ordered out of the car – with guns pointed at us. I knew right then something wasn’t right, so we did what we were told to do. Apparently, a blue car was seen leaving the industrial park at a high rate of speed after a break in and Tony’s car was light blue. They searched the car and found nothing but some tools – a screwdriver, some wrenches and the tire iron for the car.
There was one young police officer who, maybe to win some points with his superiors, took these common tools for working on your car as proof that we were the guys who had done the break in. He even told us those were “hard evidence” against us. We told him we hadn’t been anywhere near the industrial park and there was nothing found in the car that would have been stolen from there, yet this guy was having none of it. As far as he was concerned, we were guilty. Just when I thought we were all going to jail, Officer B showed up out of nowhere. He looked over the situation and asked “Barney Fife” what was going on. When told of the crimes we supposedly committed, Officer B told him to let us go, that he knew us and we wouldn’t have done it.
Officer B came over to me and we talked for a few minutes while the crowd that had gathered dispersed. I thanked him for sticking up for us, but he just laughed and told me he knew we couldn’t have been the guys. One, because he’d known me for years and two, because they were looking for a dark blue car, not a light blue car. As quickly as the situation occurred, it was over, all because of a cop who took the time to get to know some kids over the years. Obviously, Officer B hadn’t heard about my foray into the elementary school when I was younger. Otherwise, things may have turned out differently that night.