In which I sound like an ignorant Black Woman.
As a woman of color from an early age my interaction with any and all things police have been mostly negative. From the time a cop yelled at me as I tried to play in the water plug (aka fire hydrants) when I was five*, to the officer who stopped my stepfather because he was speeding (at the outrageous speed of 15 miles an hour down a private drive) to the cops ‘slipping’ and telling which neighbors complained about something on my block (Mom was that neighbor), to an incident that happened to me as an adult (still not ready to talk about that) I have been wary of the law. Sure, sure; they are there to protect and serve and in my position as uber library chick I have had pleasant dealings with some wonderful officers but today my good will has been given a true test as I found myself having to be the person to snitch**
Today I had to report a strange character (in a library? No!) who may or may not be someone who was involved in an incident that happened some months ago. Since I wasn’t sure if he was the guilty party or not, I debated whether or not to do anything. Erring on the side of caution, I trekked up to our police station as I felt calling 911 was abusing the emergency policy. Walking to the station I questioned whether I was doing the right thing: Am I making mountains out of molehills? Am I picking on an innocent person? What if I am wrong? These thoughts weighed on my mind as I approached the station and almost made me turn tale and run.
At the station, the secretary gave me the third degree when I tried to tell her I wanted to talk with an officer without going into details. I get that she’s doing her job, because I am sure she encounters all types but this lady knows me, knows where I work and we’ve shared a meal together (a holiday thing, lots of people but when you are one of six can you really be anonymous?). Anywho, after voicing my reluctance to be there and the desire to leave, the Sargent came out and he lead me to a private room where he subsequently eased my anxiety of stopping by the police station. I explained what had happened, why I reacted the way I had and what I observed. The Sargent eased my fears about calling and reporting and I was on my way.
Later, back at the job, Dude came back in. I really wouldn’t have blinked an eye but he was hiding in the stacks, avoiding me and an hour or so earlier I saw him headed towards Philadelphia. I called the Sargent as I was instructed to do and here is where ignorant Black Woman comes in. I dialed 9-1-1 with determination and fear. I don’t want to get someone in trouble but I have a duty to provide a safe place for the public and my population in particular, the kids (I need to keep my job so I will keep my own council re this topic). I called and Dispatcher ID 67 had such a tone that I almost hung up the line. Every stereotype that I have imagined about calling police dispatchers was almost a reality. He was ambivalent, incredulous as I called and tried to ‘just give him the facts’ and very off putting. After I told him the officer that I spoke to asked me to call and that I was not going to remain on the line a detective and the Sargent were dispatched.
No one was hurt today but I still wonder why a simple matter as protecting the community is not simple. The Sargent told me I should call even if I had a suspicion but when I called I felt as if I were bothering the dispatch person at home. When I speak with most of my Black friends there are similar mixed emotions. There are stories where the police have been a huge help but far too often there is the requisite story of negative interactions with the ‘po-po’, mistaken identity; being told to spread it or lay on the side of the road. My friends from other cultures are quite detached and not so ambivalent about the police. They feel that if a cop stops them they have done something that deserved the attention of the police. My guy (starry cartoon eyes…I’m back) is the son of a cop and has nothing but positive thoughts and support. I support cops too but when driving along and I see flashing blue lights my first thought is not, “Oh they are doing their job” but “Oh God, Oh God, What have I done?”
Going forth I will continue to be smart, calling the police as necessary without preconceived thoughts and will try to remember the ease that I felt when I talked with Sargent. Hopefully this good will continues as The Bee and make our move to living alone (Squee!) and the changes that seemed merely for the summer continue throughout the fall.
Tipping my hats to the boys (and girls) in blue,
*Fagg women are like elephants: we remember EVERYTHING!
**A The Boondocks reference