40 years ago: cleaning up after the cops

police.public_corruption_1In light of all of the recent incidents involving young black men and the police in America, it got me wondering how I managed to luck out and largely avoid confrontations with them. Growing up, I have no specific recollection of dealing with police much at all. Of course, I was a “good” kid, but that didn’t always inoculate one from confrontation.

There a Facebook friend of mine, who’s about a decade older than I, who went to my church when I was a youth, who tells an ugly tale about him and cop, a doughnut on the ground not dropped by him, and the abusive language from the cop. And he was surely a “good” kid.

During some antiwar demonstrations, I do recall moving quickly to avoid teargas, or police on horses, or the like, but those were in mass demonstrations.

As an adult, most of my dealings with the police have been as a victim of crime: bicycles stolen, boom box stolen from work, my credit card compromised. Then there was that time when I found someone’s checkbook, called the guy, and had police at my door; didn’t like that.

The only police officer I knew personally, albeit peripherally, was a guy from my former church; I knew his parents far better. He seemed to be a nice guy.

But I spent the most time with police officers was when I was a janitor at Binghamton (NY) City Hall from about April to August 1975, after I had temporarily dropped out of college. I was pretty much invisible to the detectives, although there were a few snarky remarks, which I attributed less to race than my lowly position. And I swear some of them missed tossing things into the garbage cans, so they could make more work for me.

On the other hand, I was very fond of the captain. Sometimes, when my work was done, he’d invite me to sit in his office and chat. We’d talk about current events, how the city had changed over time, my plans for the future, and even how the police were perceived in the community. He seemed to appreciate my POV, and recognize that I actually had a working brain. I wish I could remember his name.

I like talking to the police in the right environment. A few months ago, three other Albany school parents and I talked with one of the assistant chiefs about the problem with the crossing guards near the schools; it was a productive chat.

In a few months, I’ll write about riding with some police officers.
When I think of the police, unfortunately, I always think of two not-so-affirming songs:

What Did You Learn In School? – Pete Seeger (written by Tom Paxton)
Police on my Back – The Clash (written by Eddy Grant)

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