Tag: Law Enforcement

London Snapshot

“In this world . . .

It’s Heaven when:
The French are chefs
The British are police
The Germans are engineers
The Swiss are bankers
And the Italians are lovers

It’s Hell when:
The English are chefs
The Germans are police
The French are engineers
The Swiss are lovers
And the Italians are bankers.”
― Hidekaz Himaruya

I worked for five years at a police department on a university campus somewhat renowned for the ugliness of most of its architecture. Alternatively, here is the police office of Hyde Park. Brace yourself, Brandie and Sav. You might cry. I nearly did.

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Law Enforcement Warps Your Brain

“I’ve never had a problem with drugs.  I’ve had problems with the police.”
~Keith Richards

Stand down, darling, the kitchen is safe!
Stand down, darling, the kitchen is safe!

Things have gotten uncharacteristically serious lately here at Small Dog Snappy Comebacks and Humorous Life Stories Inc.!  Regular programing will resume immediately.

I came into work this morning to find a fine white powder covering my desk.  Honest to goodness my first thought was, “Great.  I don’t know how to clean up cocaine.  Who spilled this?”  Luckily it turns out repairmen were just crawling around our ceiling space last night and knocking dust loose.

Still a mess, though.

image via

The Telephone Game (or, The Roof The Roof The Roof is on Fire!)

“Fire is the most tolerable third party. ”
~Henry David Thoreau

Fire
via

Yesterday a small museum on campus currently being renovated defied the odds and physics when a supposedly inflammable material caught fire.  No one was hurt and the area in question was basically a construction site so no collections were even in the area to be damaged.  All in all, a hugely surprising but manageable emergency.  What followed, based on communication from concerned citizens:

“The museum is on fire!”
“Thank you, we’ve got first responders on the way.”

“Did you guys know the museum is on fire?!”
“Yes, we’re responding now.”

“My daughter just called me and told me the university was on fire!”
“No, sir, just one building and it’s been contained.”

“OMG I just saw on Twitter that the university has burned down, are classes cancelled?!”
“You’ll need to talk to your professors but I’m going to go out on a limb and say not a chance.”

In Which It’s Late at Night and C. Gets Serious

“Why are sex and violence always linked?  I’m afraid they’ll blur together in people’s minds – sexandviolence – until we can’t tell them apart.  I expect to hear a newscaster say, “The mob became unruly and the police were forced to resort to sex.”
~Dick Cavett

Sexual-assault-is-everyones-problem-442x416Today a man came into the office and told me that he and his wife got into an disagreement about rape in our university town, because she wanted him to escort her even extremely short distances when it was dark, and he saw no need because we live in a “good” place where bad things “don’t happen.”  Couldn’t I back him up since he was clearly right?  I told him in no uncertain terms that he was wrong, that rape and other forms of sexual crime happen in our town just as much as anywhere else.  He tried to argue with me!  I refrained from what I wanted to say, which was, “Of the two of us, only one works in a police department and deals with this regularly.  It isn’t you.”  Instead I gave him facts, statistics, personal anecdotes (cheered on, as it happens by a – male – student waiting behind him with silent grins and thumbs up, which were very much appreciated), most of which he tried to counter.  But what finally seemed to make an impact was when I told him the estimated statistics for sexual crime versus the (much lower) actual reported ones – and told him bluntly that seen through a pair of female eyes, those numbers meant the world was a hostile and frightening place where the chances of us becoming a victim of sexual crime (from mild harassment – still criminal – up through rape) were higher than than our chances of not.  His tone changed after that.

Here’s the truth.

The statistics on sexual crime are appalling, and the majority of  that crime is directed at females.*  From our perspective (when we admit it ourselves or anyone else), the world is a sexually threatening place for us and the possibility of it intruding is very real.

As a kid several of my favorite playmates were boys, and the trend continued into university.  With the exception of The Girls, I’ve mostly hung around with guys – many of them dear friends to this day.  But I remember the specific day that boys took on a more threatening aspect for me.  My first year of high school I was accepted to a magnet school for writing that required being bussed to the next county to attend the class every day.  I was the only girl chosen for that class that year and that meant I spent a couple hours on a bus everyday with at least three boys from my school and a few boys from another school.  There were older girls but they often drove themselves to the program rather than taking the bus.

These boys were the normal sort of teenage males, a bit loutish and inclined to show off for one another, but not malicious I didn’t think.  There were tons of discussions between them that made me uncomfortable (being a nice, boring, bookish sort who mostly read on the bus ride), but nothing negative was directed towards me until I started standing up for myself against mild picking on.  When I voiced opinions counter to the boys, when I told them I didn’t like the conversation topics, when I spoke up.  I don’t remember what the conversation was about but one day (when I was the lone girl on the bus) I said something contrary to the general opinion.  The next thing I knew one of the boys loomed over me and told me to, “shut your mouth and spread your legs.”  I don’t even remember how I reacted (except for the fact that I marched into the classroom when the bus pulled in and told the teacher straight away), but I remember the realization that I was much smaller than even the shortest boy there, that there was nowhere for me to run to, and that the bus driver was awfully far away.  I remember realizing that in that moment that these boys, if they wanted to, if they chose to, could hurt me.  I remember realizing that I was suddenly scared of these boys who I sat in classes with every day.

They didn’t hurt me, he pulled away laughing and they got back to their which-sexual-superpower-would-you-prefer meditations.  To some of the boys’ credit they looked deeply uncomfortable about what had just happened, but none of them had stood up against their friend and none of them apologized until a teacher and another school authority made them.

My fear turned to fury at the fact that they had chosen to try and shut me up via sexual intimidation, which is what motivated me to tell my teacher, but I’d by lying if I said I’ve forgotten how scared I was in that moment before anger propelled me into action.  That experience stayed with me, and if I’m honest it has colored every relationship I’ve ever had with any male.  And to reiterate, most of my friends have been male, so clearly permanent damage wasn’t done.  But that was the moment I realized for the first time that beings who I previously saw as playmates were growing up bigger, stronger, and more able to enforce their will that I was.  On me and on my body if they chose.  Believe me, that is a realization that sticks.

I’m not the same girl now.  I’ve grown up.  Since that day I’ve been catcalled, I’ve been grabbed at by strangers, I’ve had dates get unwantedly frisky, but I’ve handled myself just fine with more confidence than I had at 14 and much more sass.  Cultivated, if I’m honest, for the purpose of being able to stand up for myself against people who would always be bigger and stronger than me.  Frankly, these days and after working where I have for four years gleaning the perspective I have, I’m just glad nothing worse happened on that bus – and I know exactly how statistically lucky I am that nothing much worse has happened since.  Although, to be morbidly honest, I’m barely a third of the way through my life – there is plenty of time for sexual crime to happen to me still.

And I think that there are so many men out there – good and decent men who are, I fervently believe, the vast majority of their gender – who don’t realize that most women live with that thought, whether conscious or not, everyday.  They walk into parking lots with keys held out ready to stab, cancel exercise plans when their partner does so they don’t walk alone at night, refuse calls to avoid people who intend them fear or hurt.  And we don’t do any of this for amusement, we do it because we honestly live with the threat of grievous harm – for no other reason than we are female and we either know from personal or trusted anecdotal experience that there are people out there who think their desire trumps our willingness.  That they have a right to do us harm.  Sexual violence against women is pandemic; yes, even in First World countries in “good” places filled with “good” people.

This man at my counter thought expecting an assault walking to the mailbox and back in the dark was silly.  His wife knows that, while on this particular Monday it’s not exactly likely, it’s more than possible.

Sexual Assault Hotline

*Sexual crime against men and boys happens and it’s just as horrific, but I’m speaking as a female here, so bear with me.

Fingerprinting Anthropology

“If you don’t have anything to match it to, you know, they’re just fingerprints.”
– Yvonne Martinez

Because everyone and their cousin have been getting fingerprinted lately, I started taking some unofficial statistics on their answers when inputting their biometric data.  The results have been interesting, you learn a lot about a person.

People who are from a state bordering Mexico and the Gulf, or are south of the Mason-Dixon line are three times more likely (when applicable, of course) to give their race as “White” rather than “Caucasian.”

Men are more than twice as likely than women to give their race (when applicable) as “White” rather than “Caucasian.”

When asked, “What gender do you claim,” there being several legally protected categories, men over 27 are four times more likely to laugh awkwardly or make a derisive sound than younger men before answering, “Male.”  Since I’ve been tracking only one female has expressed surprise at the question.

Asians are three times more likely to answer the question, “What ethnicity do you claim,” with their country of original descent (i.e. Korean, Japanese, Chinese), than those with Latin American ancestry, who are more likely to give their ethnicity as, “Hispanic.”

Individuals under 21 are less likely to have their Social Security number memorized.  International students and visitors under 21 in possession of a SS number are twice as likely than their American counterparts to have them memorized.

Individuals who don’t have their social security memorized are twice as likely to be carrying their SS card on their person.  (Editor’s Law Enforcement Note: Don’t do this!)

Individuals over 25 are more likely to have cash on them when paying for the service.

Individuals getting fingerprinted for Bar exams are most likely to wait until the last day to turn in their applications to get fingerprinted, and thus are more likely to be brusque and hurried through the process.  (Not scientifically verifiable.)

Memory, All Alone In the Moonlight…

“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”
~Aldous Huxley

Yesterday was a weird day in the office.  Months will go by without incident and then, suddenly, after a series of unfortunate events, a person runs out the doors screaming and hotly pursued by various officers.  It happens.

After the fireworks show yesterday, everyone who watched it go down was asked to submit a witness statement and as I composed mine, I was a bit disconcerted to realize that piecing together events in their proper order (not an hour after they originally happened) was difficult!  I spent nearly a full minute trying to remember if I called someone on the phone or went back to their office to talk to them in person.  I had a great general view of what had happened and could probably tell several good stories from it, but when it came to putting down just the facts, in strict chronological order, every possible detail that I could remember included – I struggled.

An acquaintance told me a story along the same lines a couple weekends ago, about how one of her cousins bore a hatred for a another cousin from childhood.  Cousin number three flat out refused to have anything to do with cousin number two until confronted about it one day in their late teens or early twenties when an explanation was demanded.  Cousin three said that she hated cousin two because when they were very small, two had locked three in a closet.  After a moment of stunned silence, cousin two exploded, “My sister locked both of us in the closet, you idiot!  I was trapped in there with you!”

A near twenty year hatred based on a false memory.  Three remembered the terror of being locked in the dark, and remembered that two had been there, but time (and possible trauma, I suppose) had warped her from co-victim to perpetrator.

The process of trying to tell a story and struggling so much with it had got me thinking: what exactly is floating around in my head that’s either or gross misrepresentation or a flat out lie?

My family, though close and pretty impressive, have had our share of issues to muddle through, several of which hit their peak during my early childhood.  As a result I carried a lot of bad memories into adolescence (where everything is hormonally magnified anyway), but as an adult and in a healthier place personally, my grip on those bad memories has lessened and my good ones are more evenly mixed in.  I’m not sure if this is the result of reality reasserting itself, or if the hard times don’t define me so much anymore and thus are less critical to my sense of self and so have been shoved onto a back burner somewhere.  Maybe both.

Or maybe I just don’t remember things very well.  I honestly don’t think of my childhood too much, unless someone brings up the topic and even then I find I’m embarrassed at how little I can recall.  I have to concentrate hard to pull up things I haven’t thought of in years, and even favorite memories are surprisingly full of holes.  This bodes not well for my twilight years, darlings…

In any case, I now have a renewed respect for my officer coworkers who have to pour through untold numbers of these usually sloppy, often badly spelled, and (as I can now probably personally vouch) less than reliable witness statements.  People’s memory banks are messy places to work!

Keep Your Shirt On. Please.

“The finest clothing made is a person’s skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.”
~ Mark Twain

Moments after a phone call from a woman distraught to see a couple of young people park their car in her neighborhood and engage in some, ah, explicit amorous activities, Lt. South walks by my desk and sighs, “Bunch of guys running around the sports fields in thongs or less.”

Honestly, people, there is a time and a place.

Thursday Philosophy

“Look, you can’t do things like that! Now, I don’t know how I can explain this to you. But, it’s not only against the law, its wrong!”
– Arsenic and Old Lace

Dear World At Large,

Me again!  We haven’t chatted in a while, so I thought I’d do my usual pop in and deliver a few quiet words of advice.   This one’s heavy on both the philosophy and the rambling, but going to be a firm talking to nonetheless.

Some things cannot be undone. Most things, in fact.

We live in a world of autocorrect, delete buttons, editing, photoshop, spellcheck, you name it, all of which exist to give a comforting sense that errors and perceived mistakes or flaws can be done away with.  I know these are all technological examples and heavy on social media, but I think that anyone who believes these don’t inform our personal, unofficial philosophies is terribly self unaware.  We live in a society that seems to believe that things we don’t like can be made to go away – whether that’s removing something you once posted on Facebook, or deleting a text message – but I am here to tell you that this is a false sense of security.

Mistakes follow you, Dear World At Large, and even if you have gone through a legal, religious/spiritual/philosophical, or paperwork laden process to atone, make restitution, or accept punishment for your actions, this is not the same thing as unmaking them.  They cannot be unmade.  Stupid mistakes can – and will – follow you around for a long time.

So, as a recent example, if you’re a visiting university staff member responsible for a number of students and you make a series of poor decisions culminating in the arrest of you and several of those students, putting your job in jeopardy – this is not something that’s going to just vanish because you want it to.  Particularly after you’ve already appeared before a judge and plead guilty.  Yelling at your friend neighborhood secretary, demanding to speak various administrative officers, and trying to pressure people to make your arrest, court appearance, and sentencing all vanish will not work.  First of all, we can’t make such records and events disappear (at least not without some sort of political clout and obscene amounts of money, and even then a fairly obvious hole still gets left in the legal system).  Second of all, and probably more importantly, we won’t make them disappear.  See the quote at the beginning of this post.

The same is true for much less serious errors, Dear World At Large, but even small things can affect your ability to get a job, a date, housing, loans, recommendations, and even friends.  As for social media, everything you have ever said, done, linked to, or ranted about is cached away somewhere in the dark bowels of the internet.  On a more human note, unkind words you’ve spoken, silly errors in judgement, and countless day to day interactions are also stored away in the collective memory of your friends and associates.  Nothing is really lost.

Which is why you have to be so careful!  I’m not saying there isn’t room for mistakes in life (because good luck with that!) but I am saying that people need to step back and reflect more often on whether or not their actions are wise ones.  It won’t protect you from everything, but occasionally it may protect you from yourself.

Unless you ascribe to reincarnation, we don’t get do-overs.  We get do-betters.  These can be wonderful in and of themselves, much of the good in the world has come from them, but they are not always nice experiences.  You are responsible for all your actions; you can’t disavow them, you can’t be made immune from them, and there is no “Undo” button.  Be smart out there.

Yours with love (sincerely this time),
C.

Good Samaritans

L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs….”
– St. Bernard of Clairvaux

A student borrowed a flatmates’ bike.  Unfortunately she didn’t know the combination to the lock, and couldn’t ask for it as the flatmate was currently on study abroad deep in the rain forests of South America.  She’d sent the flatmate an email asking for the code and was waiting for a reply.  In the meantime, the student still had to get to class, so she rode the bike to campus and decided to take her chances by leaving the bike in a bikerack unlocked.  (Editor’s Note: please don’t do this, it’s terribly foolish.)

Sadly this tale has an unfortunate end, but not in the way it usually does.  Usually a member of the unwashed criminal underworld steals the bike, sells it to a pawn shop where it is sold to a dealer who stuffs the tires with drugs and uses it to take his cargo across the border.  Or so I surmise.

This time, on the other hand, some nice person decided to try and help her out and locked up her bike for her.  She showed up in our office in tears asking us to cut the cable so she could get home.

The road to hell, kittens…

I’ll Have the Usual

“This guy’s insane.”
“Well, he thought he was the subject of a secret government mind control project. As it turns out, he really was being given daily doses of LSD for 11 years.”
“Well, in that case he looks great.”
– R.E.D. (2010)

It’s going to be one of those weeks, minions.  Know how I can tell?  Because Lt. South came to me and started a conversation in this manner: “Remember this guy?  The one who we arrested naked in the sauna and who tried to set fire to the student center?”

Keep off the drugs, kids, they get you banned from respectable universities.