The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
PART 1: A MEMO TO THE CHIEF
Grey haired and droopy eyed, Chief Thompson walked cautiously onto the rooftop of his downtown headquarters building. His slow, pensive gait towards the center of the roof drew to a halt. His arms dangled slightly in front of him. His hands, wrinkled and wise, lead to a uniform sleeve with 7 glorious hashmarks. Those in turn lead to a flurry of proud and colorful uniform ribbons which ultimately lead to 4 shiny stars on each side of his collar.
Except on this particular day, his stars lacked any shine. His uniform ribbons seemed grey at best. His hashmarks represented failure more than tenure, and his wrinkled hands were no longer of the wise.
His police radio began to clamor:
“Any unit in the vicinity, fire department requesting a back-up on a man with a knife at 1725 S. Deer Creek St. Unit to handle, identify.”
“Unit to handle a burglary in progress at 1655 E. Main St, please identify.”
“Additional on the fire department requesting a back-up. It is now upgraded to fire department needs help. Unit responding identify”
And on…and on…and on…
Chief Thompson felt a hot flash come over him. As call after call began to build with no answer from patrol cars, he looked down at his hip where his police radio was clipped onto his uniform Sam Browne. He clutched the radio with his left hand, but his mind drew a blank. Then he canted his wrist and looked at the time.
His mind was in shock. He thought to himself, “Can the city take another hour and 59-minutes of this?
“Chief!” His assistant yelled as he crashed through the rooftop door. He held on to his own police radio and held it up. Out of breath from running up the stairs he said what Chief Thompson already knew, “They did it. No one is responding to calls. It’s the whole city, Chief.”
Chief Thompson turned his head to look at him but didn’t say a word. His droopy eyes seemed vacant as the gravity of the whole thing began to take shape. He turned his head back ahead and faced the city. He removed a memo from his uniform pocket and held it up at eye level, but he didn’t look at it.
The frantic sounds of the city began to fill his head…
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency.”
“Someone is breaking into my house I need the police.”
“My baby! I need help!”
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency.”
“I’ve been shot.”
“Any unit in the vicinity…”
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency.”
“My husband. He’s…please send the police.”
“Ok the police are on their way”
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency.”
Chief Thompson clasped his hands over his ears to make the sounds stop. His eyes widened. He fell onto his knees as the memo he received 11-minutes prior fells onto the ground next to him.
Dear Chief Thompson,
We begged for your support. Your silence told us everything. Now you will understand the power of inaction.
On today’s date at 1800 hours, all patrol cars across the city will return to their respective precincts. We will not respond to any calls for service for a full 2-hours.
This is not a decision that any of us are taking lightly. We understand people will get hurt, or worse. Innocent people will suffer. This is the biggest pill to swallow.
Their blood is on your hands.
Your fed up & desperate police force.
PART 2: COCKPIT BANTOR
Officer Morales: “Bro. Are we really gonna do this?
Officer Sanchez: “Don’t be a pussy. We have to.”
Officer Morales: “Man, I’m nervous. What if they fire us?”
Officer Sanchez: “What? And fire the whole department? Think about it, Eddy. It has to be ALL off us for this to work.”
Eddy taps his leg nonstop as he bites the inside of his cheek and looks out of his police car window. He is pensive and hesitant.
Officer Sanchez: “Look man. Come 1800, bro, I’m driving our happy asses into the station. Do NOT make us look bad. Ok?”
Eddy looks over at his partner and nods his head. His leg taps furiously faster than before.
Officer Sanchez: “And quit shaking your leg. You’re giving me high blood pressure.”
Officer Clark: “10-minutes ’til showtime.”
Officer Lee: “This is gonna be epic.”
Officer Clark: “I’m all in, dog. You know I am. But fuck, man. What if someone is seriously being hurt and we’re like a block away?”
Officer Lee: “You can’t think like tha—“
Officer Clark: “Yeah I know but you know…what if? Ya know what I mean?”
Officer Lee: “I couldn’t sleep all night. I was thinking of worst case scenarios and if fucked with my head for sure.”
Officer Clark: “Like what?”
Officer Lee: “Huh?
Officer Clark: “Like what? What kind of worst case scenarios?”
Officer Lee: “I don’t know. I just…I just picture someone breaking into my mom’s place and she’s like, you know, hiding in the attic or some shit like that…calling 9-1-1…and no one goes.”
They look at each other with sincere worry in their eyes.
Officer Lee: “My wife said that progress come with sacrifice. But you’re right man. I’m not sure if this sacrifice is worth it.”
Silence fills their patrol car as time ticks loud in their inner ears.
Officer Gutierrez: “I just wish I could see the Chief’s face when he got the memo. I hate that guy! He added 5-days to my 10-day hit when he was a captain. I mean, c’mon. Why would you add time to a suspension? I’m telling you man. These guys promote by burning cops. Fuck ‘em.”
Officer Johnson shakes head: “I heard he was a major kiss ass as a probationer.”
Officer Gutierrez: “Yeah and his tactics are shit!”
Officer Johnson’s shoulders bounce up and down while he leans to the side as if weak from the laughter.
Officer Gutierrez speaks while laughing: “Yeah man I heard this one time he TAZED his own training officer!”
Both officers laugh hysterically.
Officer Gutierrez: “What a weak ass cop. And of course he went inside the building with like zero patrol time.”
Officer Johnson: “Of course!”
Officer Gutierrez: “They all do. They go into the building with zero patrol time then make decisions on how WE should police. Here why don’t you try this, Chief. Get some street time under your belt and THEN you can tell me how to do my fuckin’ job!”
Officer Johnson: “You ain’t wrong, senior!”
Their laughter subsides.
Officer Gutierrez: “It’s almost time, Johnson. All of those years of burning cops and ruining cop’s careers for their own benefit, just so that they can look good to their superiors. All those years of them stepping on the backs of patrol so that they can promote. It’s all gonna bite them in the ass.
This has been a long time coming.”
Officer Johnson makes a U-turn. Destination, precinct parking lot.
PART 3: THREE MONTHS PRIOR
Chief Thompson: “Commander Pernesky. Before this officer’s board of rights, you wrote here that everybody deserves a second chance.”
Commander Pernesky: “Yes, sir. I did.”
Chief Thompson: “Let me explain something to you, Commander. Our patrol force is one giant ball of liability. Your job is to manage that liability. A second chance in the eyes of the mayor is a second chance for a lawsuit. We have to protect the city’s monetary interests.
It’s just patrol.”
They are dispensable. If you want to promote, you’ll have to understand that making the mayor happy will get you promoted. Making patrol cops happy will get you sued. It’s binary. You need to decide what side you’re on.”
Commander Pernesky: “I understand, sir.”
Chief Thompson: “Let them complain and whine all they want. But at the end, there’s nothing they can do. The city holds executive powers. And the coppers, they need the money. They need this job. They rely on us. Combine that with how dispensable they are. The math is easy.
Don’t get it confused, Commander Pernesky. The REAL backbone of this department is us. Up here in headquarters. We make the hard decisions. We shape the future of this department. We rule.”
An animal can live without a limb, right? A person can lose a finger in an accident and live a fruitful life, right? However, patrol is even more dispensable than a limb or a finger. They are akin to finger nails. They grow back! Quite annoyingly sometimes.”
And when a nail is dirty, or over grown, or unkept, it is OUR job to trim the department nails so that they can continue to grow healthy.”
You see? WE are the backbone of the department. We SAY patrol is the backbone. But saying that simply keeps the masses quiet. Let them hear what they want to hear so they won’t rise and revolt.”
Do you understand, Commander?”
Commander Pernesky: “Yes sir. I’ll re write my findings.”
Chief Thompson: “Have it in my office by noon. I have a meeting with the mayor at 1400 hours.”
Commander Pernesky walks out of the office as Chief Thompson swivels his office chair around. He looks at his academy graduation picture on his desk. His eyes refocus onto his own reflection from the glass encasement of the picture.
He is older now.
Grey haired and droopy eyed.
As he looks at himself he gives himself a smile of self approval.
Chief Thompson has it all figured out.
PART 4: MOMENT OF TRUTH
Police cars across the city converge to their precinct parking lots. The funnel effect at the parking lot entrance allows them to exchange stares at each other from police car to police car. Some nod in support. Others shake their heads in disagreement despite being there. No one is smiling. Everyone is nervous. They understand the seriousness of what they are about to do. But the fact that they see all of their colleagues there comforts their anxieties.
As instructed, several officers document their actions on social media. Some take selfies. Others record police cars as they drive into the lot then pan to their watches, showing the 6 O’Clock hour. Some are seen narrating onto live feeds.
Unrehearsed, the police cars line up in one long row. Each pair of officers exit their cars and stand in front of their black and whites. Without a word, and with the power of social media, every precinct in the city seemed to do the same ritual. It looked as if the parking job and the standing in front of police cars was part of the big plan. But it wasn’t.
At one precinct, a furious captain marches onto the parking lot. He did not have his uniform on. He wore a suit and tie. He angrily yells at his subordinates. He tells them how irresponsible they are. He reminds them that there will be repercussions. He orders for them to handle radio calls.
But the officers remain silent. With that simple gesture of silence, they rendered their captain utterly powerless. The captain stopped his rant. He realized how futile his words were. He took a long look at the officers as his glance panned slowly from left to right.
With no other choice but to submit, he turned around and sped walked back into his office.
PART 5: THE TURMOIL
Radio calls began to blare from the Motorola’s on officer’s hips. There was no response. The calls for service stacked and compounded and began to topple over. The dispatchers were confused. They radioed for Watch Commanders and inquired if any units were available.
Watch Commander: “Negative. Zero units available. Go to outside precincts if you have to.”
The officers in the parking lot were uneasy to say the least. Some held their radios close to their ears. Others turned down the volume and smoked cigars. This one young officer, with about 2-years on the job, placed his palms on the hood of the police car and stared at the radio as dispatchers continued to beg for available units. He stared at it with tears in his eyes.
Dispatcher voice trembled with emotion over the radio: “Any unit available for the child abuse in progress please come up on the air!”
Officer Clark jumped into his police car. “I can’t do this!” He screeched off by himself towards the exit.
“I’m going with him.” Another officer got into this police car and followed Officer Clark.
An unknown voice yelled, “Stay strong everyone! Remember why we are here!”
The young copper with tears in his eyes looks over at the two police cars that are making for the exit. “HEY!” he yells at the top of his lungs. “HEYYYY!!!!”
Tears spilled from his eyes as he yelled. Saliva glistened his emotional lips. He sucked his snot back into his nose and yelled again, “Get your asses back here!”
Officer Clark stopped his car just shy of the exit. The second police car stopped behind him.
Dispatcher: “Additional on the fire department requesting a back-up. It is now upgraded to fire department needs help. Unit responding identify”
Officer Clark stared directly at the exit gate. His grip on the steering wheel was so tight, his knuckles became white. He breathed heavily.
The young copper continued yelling, “We have to remain united! You think I want to do this? You think I want to ignore radio calls and have people get hurt? No! This is not in our nature.” He dries tears from his face with his uniform sleeve. “ ‘With progress comes sacrifice’ right, Lee? I don’t like this. Not one bit. But if you leave this parking lot, then we don’t stand a chance!”
Officer Clark angrily puts the police car in reverse. He punches the gas and narrowly misses hitting the car behind him. He puts the car back in drive and screeches through the parking lot. He stops hard at the hallway door leading to the captains office.
Their Captain was watching from inside of the glass door. He steps out. Officer Clark throws him the keys with an overhand toss. The Captain double hand catches it, using his left upper chest as a catchers mitt. Officer Clark looks at him without saying a word.
Captain grabs his radio and hits the mic. “Dispatch. This is 1-Commander-Boy. Send me that code-3 call. I’ll be responding from the precinct.
Dispatcher: “All Units, 1-Commander-Boy is responding to the fire department needs help call.”
As the Captain drives off in Officer Clark’s police car, Officer Clark walks over to the young copper. “Thank you.” he says in a low, barely audible voice.
The young cop responds, “I’m here for you, Eddy.”
PART 6: TIME IS A FUNNY THING
It was only a matter of time.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “When you sit with nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think its two hours.”
The relativity of time is dependent on what one is waiting for. It depends on if they even know they are waiting at all. Many officers felt the two hours in the parking lot was not enough. Some officers felt as if those two hour were the longest two hours of their lives.
When 8:00 PM came, officers across the city were beyond eager to jump into their police cars. They begged the dispatchers to send them all of the calls that were not handled. There were enough radio calls to go around. None of the officers were completely sure if they did the right thing. They hoped they made an impact on their command staff. The lag time in knowing how affective their actions were, or were not, was going to have to wait. There was work to do.
Before this Blue Flu, radio calls were a burden and seemed endless. After two hours of inner turmoil, every single officer WANTED to rush out into the streets and help people who called for them. This was more than a reminder of their sense of service. It was a reminder of their passion to help innocent victims.
But they were pushed to the edge.
Something had to give.
It was only a matter of time.
PART 7: CHIEF THOMPSON’S RESPONSE
The Chief signed a letter. He sealed it and handed it to his assistant. It was on it’s way to the mayor. He then adjusted his cell phone onto a selfie stick. Then the chief went live on FaceBook and read his letter:
“To My Fellow Officers,
You have made a loud statement. And now we know your true power.
Politics is a necessary evil in any society. But in a culture like ours, degrading our officers is not a prerequisite to success. You have suffered. You have lost wages. You have been plagued with PTSD. You have been given zero support. You have been physically injured. Some of you have been injured for life. You have driven home in fear. Your home addresses are compromised. You have ordered your lunch in fear. And many of you have lost best friends who have died while wearing this badge.
I received a letter from you today 10-minutes before your planned “Blue Flu”. At first I was in denial. I did not give you enough credit to have the bravery to go through with it. I scurried to reallocate resources but by then, I only had 6-minutes left. Then I became enraged at all of you.
As the city went void of any police presence, I began to realize how important you are. I realized that I had not supported or protected you during my tenure as your chief. I was blinded by the politics of making my boss, the mayor, happy.
I do not ask for forgiveness. But I do ask the community to forgive you. And I ask the mayor to discipline me. You acted from desperation. That desperation was fueled by my bad decision making.
My powers to protect you were never actual. I was a puppet. A head-of-state disillusioned by the power of politics. I am ready to take full responsibility for any outcomes that come my way.
As God as my witness, I hereby declare the following:
Patrol is truly the backbone of the police department.
Affective immediately, I resign as your chief of police.
Your Former Chief
FREE-WRITE CONCLUSION ABOUT THIS BLOG POST
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