Keystone Cops

These days, it’s getting harder and harder to like cops. And I even know a retired cop, and a cop married my cousin that lives in California and who I see once a decade or so.  Truth is I don’t know that many cops, but I know they are human.

I had to call on the police recently because my car was hit.  I was on the highway, in moderate traffic, and someone knocks the back bumper off it’s brace, cracks my brake light, damages the quarter panel and moves my car in the lane. Then he (she maybe, I didn’t see) drives past me inches from the rest of my car and leaves the scene.  Car still driving (this piece of shit takes a licking and keeps on ticking), I say, “hey,” and hot tail it in pursuit.  I follow the guy (let’s say) for a good 10 minutes, trying to memorize the license plate number, which isn’t working cause I can’t find a pattern to help me remember.  So I take out my phone and try to take a picture of it, hoping not to get into another accident while I’m steering with the camera in both hands, I got one, but the lighting is off and the license plate glows with blown out highlights.  People try to get in between us, but I work my way back behind him and then something occurs to me.  I have my phone in my hand. I can use it to call the police.  So I do.  I give them the license plate number, and not just because they said, “we don’t recommend that you confront the individual Sir,” I pull over and wait for an officer to arrive so that I can file a report.

When he shows up, he takes his time getting out of the car.  The lights are so bright I can’t even look in his direction.

So I’m just waiting there looking the other way.  Except when I was taking this picture.

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He comes out and talks to me, the lights still flashing of course.  He finds out from me that I told the operator everything he wants to know (and I don’t remember so good anymore) but that’s good because he has all that.  Back in his car, he looks up the license plate number I called in, which takes a very long time and he eventually emerges to inform me that he has an address and a name and that he will, personally, when he comes on duty the next day at about 2PM, go see if he can find the car, and if there’s evidence of the accident, he will write a ticket, but, he tells me not to expect too much because if the person has moved, there won’t be much they can do.  Five days or so and the report will be ready, he says, and if he can get insurance information I will be able to find it in the report.

“Thanks.”

So I call a couple of weeks later.  I’ve been driving this piece of shit around happy as a clam.  I didn’t get around to calling for a couple of weeks.  I pushed the part of the bumper that was hanging off back into it’s grooves and was good to go.  I find that I love this car even more now because it’s so beat up.  But I call.  They tell me that I can pick up the report at the station. I ask whether he found the guy and noted any evidence.  In other words “is it worth it for me to pick up the report?”  My expectations had been set low.

“I don’t see anything beyond your account of the accident.  Do you want me to have the officer call you?  He’s on duty tonight.”

“Sure,” I say.  Modern times.

And he calls.  That’s service.  But no, wasn’t able to find the guy.  “Sorry,” he says.

“So, he moved or something?”

“I guess so.”

“But isn’t he required to keep his address up to date?  Isn’t that also the law.  Does it at least go into the system so it will come up if he’s ever pulled over for something?”

“Well, yes, there will be an APB in the system, but there’s no way of putting him in the car at that time.”

“So I’m just out of luck.”

“Sorry about that, Sir.”

If I actually cared about fixing my car, I would be irate. But I love my car the way it is.

This is what I don’t understand.  The government keeps all kinds of information on us all the time, they make us register our cars, and renew it every year and pass emissions.  They also track our calls and take our fingerprints to even get a license. They can track us by our phone’s GPS and they probably do, but we can’t even find the guy when we know who he is, who owns a car that was involved in a hit and run.  And I think it’s a bad enough crime.  It’s worse than speeding.  Or running a red light when no one is around  Or rolling through a stop sign.  He left the scene of an accident that was his fault.  And why?  Doesn’t it make you suspicious that something else was going on, that he was drunk, didn’t have insurance, guilty of some other thing?  He shouldn’t get away with it so easily.

If it were me and I ran from the scene of an accident, I’d be scared shitless that I’d be caught.  But apparently all you have to do is park your car somewhere else for a few days and wait.

Television police are better than that.

Reminds me of a story about my great grandfather.  He was in the union, back when the police would beat you up for being in the union..  They called him Patty, as in Patrick, only his name wasn’t Patty or Patrick.  He wasn’t Irish, he was Jewish, and his name was Abraham, but for some reason, no one knows why, they called him Patty.  And he worked as a glazier and he was in the glazier’s union.  He may have even been part of management, like one of the union’s founders, I’m not sure.  But there was this kid who also worked at the union.  The kid was opining on some matter or other and by all accounts was an idiot, at least that’s what I believe, because I’m taking my great grandfather’s side even though I never met him.   Patty tells him to shut up. “You’re only here as a favor to your uncle,” he says, who happened to be a mobster, or so the story goes. Then the kid pulls a knife, but the fight is broken up.  Patty goes home and waits on his stoop, because he knows the kid is coming.  Sure enough he does and Patty shoots him.  At this point the kid backs off saying, “ok, ok.”  That’s how I heard it so I assume he wasn’t killed.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure.

And so the way this story ends, according to my grandfather, is that Patty had to hide out on the rooftops for a few days while the police looked for him.

Then they gave up.

So times haven’t changed, really.  They gave up then, and gave up now looking for the person who hit herbie, the love Honda (just kidding, my car doesn’t have a name.  My wife named a car Otis, once, also a Honda, and then it was totaled and she was really upset).

But it’s just  “Oh well.  Couldn’t find him.”

While I’m on the subject, here’s another story about Patty.  His son, my grandfather, the one who told the other story, also worked in the union, after his father died.  He ran the union for a little while in fact, the Glazier’s union in New York City. Later on, when he was older, after he had been banned from running the union, over some trumped up conspiracy charge, he got my younger brother a job there.  Now my brother is a work of art.  His appearance is eclectic and ever changing.  At one time he sported a mohawk.  I’ve known him to wear tails, for no specific reason.  He changes his facial hair periodically and he used to wear two different colored converse sneakers which he bought at the dollar store before they became trendy again. He was in a rock band, you feel me?  So my grandfather, who was old fashioned enough to tell you to get a haircut, but would smile about it and didn’t belabor the point, got him this job. And by all accounts he did well.  I’m sure he did, my brother is a smart guy, and can push papers around, or whatever he did there.  I don’t know.  Then one day one of the older guys runs into him and says, “so you’re Sidney’s grandson?”

“Yeah,” my brother says.

Then he looks my brother up and down and says in this old jewish croak of a voice, “Patty woulda kicked your ass.”

But they can’t send him a letter at his address of record?  Maybe it would be forwarded, if he even actually moved.  It could say, “you’re car was reported to be party to a hit and run. Govern yourself accordingly.” If I were to actually replace the bumper and quarter panel and light that would be a waste. The car runs. I have no problem with it.  If I fixed it, it would only be to pretend it was something it’s not.

But there could be a hold put on his yearly registration, until he gets his address up to date and at least shows his face. They could deny him his sticker.  Maybe by then we won’t be able to prove anything, but he would have to undergo some measure of inconvenience. That’s all I want.

I mean it seems lately like cops can kill black people and nothing happens, they’re good at that, and we don’t hear much about the good cops standing up against it (when they do they are attacked by organizations like The Fraternal Order of Police), but they can’t do a little leg work when someone is actually trying to take advantage of them?

This is worse than selling single cigarettes without a license to people who are so poor that they can only afford one cigarette. I want to like cops, I do. That’s all I’m saying.

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