One day last week I arrived home to find my street lit up with the blue and red lights of Philadelphia’s finest. There were about six or so police cars blocking the cross street that intersects mine. Ironically enough, moments earlier before we had turned on our street, The Bee, Dill and I were having a conversation about crime and all of a sudden our conversation became real. We speculated about what had happened and I decided to find out. I left the kids in the car and crossed, approaching the five or so officers who were standing around, I waved my arms to get their attention and alert them that I was approaching and called hello and asked what happened. There was a small group of officers and I did not address any one officer, I just directed the question at the group. I explained that I lived in the neighborhood, pointed out my house which is diagonal from the crime scene and was interested in what happened in my neighborhood. One officer replied, “Just your average shooting in a neighborhood like this, is that OK?” I was so shocked that I could only make a half-hearted quip about gentrification being delayed and walked back to the car and unloaded the kids and our bags. I fumed; I was angry, I was upset, I was embarrassed and feeling justified in every hateful, mean thought I have had against police. I passive aggressively called the officer a few choice names and hustled the kids into the house to get dinner ready, to finish homework and get ready for the evening.
Still fuming I went outside and sat on my front steps to just observe what was going on and to call Effin Guy to vent. I did not want to take my bad mood into the house and I was still upset about how rude that officer was to me. As I raged I observed another officer walking across the street looking at the front of houses. He noticed me and approached, walked up my steps and asked if he could speak with me. My guard was up and I asked Effin Guy if he could hold on while this cop spoke with me. The officer asked if I were the person who was across the street previously and then identified himself as a Sargent. He apologized for the officer’s behavior stating that the officer had no right to talk to me in that way and that I could be assured that he would be disciplined. I thanked the officer and explained that I was really curious about my neighborhood; I explained that I have children who had just been having a conversation about crime and I wanted to be sure that we were safe. I thanked him again and soon after went into the house to finish getting dinner ready.
I’ve taken a few days to think back about what happened. What was going on there? Was that one officer taking out his frustration about senseless violence out on me? Was he afraid that my approaching him was putting him and the four other men he was standing with in harm? Was I out of line to ask about what was happening in my neighborhood? My experience with the police has not always been positive and it is difficult for me to trust their presence. But my hardened stance against the idea of police has been softened by an officer I work with at the library, my sister’s involvement with the Upper Darby police department and the interaction I had with that Sargent. In the past I have voiced concerns about dialing 911 and wonder if I will hesitate.
The other thing that I have been trying to wrap my head around is HOW people view my neighborhood. My neighborhood is not awful but does show signs of neglect and abandonment, in fact the house next door to me is abandoned and the small patch of lawn in front of it is often overgrown with weeds and litter. I too am guilty of leaving my front unswept and my garden is way past needing to be trimmed and tidied. Are these things that would lead visitors to my neighborhood to feel as if they can treat the residents as less than? Does this give people the right to assume that the neighborhood and it’s residents are junk?
The mailman in my neighborhood rushes through, often leaving my mail at the abandoned house (cause the clearly boarded up front door must mean someone is home?), people litter with abandon and I am not even as present as I could be often taking off for areas outside of my home when I have time off. Should I be home I can be found tucked inside my home. I barely know my neighbors and am really OK with that. Maybe an attitude adjustment on my part is needed for anything to change. I cannot reasonable complain about what “they” are doing if I don’t even know who “they” are.
Thinking back I can say that I appreciate that the Sargent addressed what happened and I feel better that he did. The cynical part of me wants to think nasty thoughts such as I was only humored so that I would not make a stink. But a pragmatic part of me realizes that police officers are not all bad and the Sargent was being decent. I am sure there will be something else to have me rant and rave but for now I feel like my snarky police comments can be put to rest for a while.