In a Minneapolis Police Department squad car, this morning: crowded by claustrophobia-like cowardice on a battlefield, reflect on how one can do right and still go wrong.
Years back, assaulted on the sidewalk. Call 911. Squad car comes. Describing the assailant, am interrupted, ”Show me I.D. What’re you doing out here? Where’re you coming from? Where’re you going?” Hadn’t his partner intervened, might’ve been booked for mugging myself.
Not long after, some wild-eyed White woman bangs on my door, screaming she’s being stalked. ”Can I come in?” Yeah, right. ”No. But, I’ll call 911.” Should’ve shut the door and finished minding my business.
Next, more banging. I answer, step outside and, soon as they see me, two officers step to either side, hands on holsters. ”I don’t know which way she went. Come in and look around.” They leave.
Couple years ago, go to pay my rent. Landlord asks about an occurrence. Few weeks earlier, had come home to a half-dozen folk MPD detained in the alley. One, with whom I was on a nodding acquaintance, said ”Hi.” I said ”Hi” back.
Went inside, fed Butch & Sundance, my cats. Now, the landlord, courtesy of a police report, asks how do I know her? Beyond saying, greeting each other on the street, I don’t. The report, however, documented that I’d let her into the building. Well, documented or not, I’d done no such thing.
This morning: step out to take a break from working, dropping down the landing to maybe go stretch my legs. See money change hands between a guy and a gal who disappears around the corner like her behind’s on fire. The guy looks at me. I’m no hero but this is right outside my home. I can’t not say something.
”This isn’t the place to do that.” He tells me to mind my business (actually, the paper can’t print what he told me to go do). While I’m standing there, a squad car pulls up across the backyard. Leaving the fellow to his fate, I head back.
You guessed it, a cop steps out and calls us both over with a command to empty our pockets and put our hands on the hood. We’re in custody. Not yet under arrest. I am, to paraphrase, excreting bricks in this coffin closet of a backseat.
Great, just great. Two police reports in weeks of each other. Landlords do not like that kind of thing.
I can snitch and maybe get out of this. Or let the officer check for warrants. Better idea. He asks what I was talking to the guy about. First thing comes to mind is tissue-thin b.s. ”He looks like someone I know. I was inviting him in for a drink.”
Right, at 11 am. Even the dealer looks at me like I’m stupid. The cop doesn’t dignify it with a comment. Well, I’ll go with that before I’ll say, ”Officer, I witnessed him selling crack and asked him not to do that here.”
You don’t snitch on one of these people. To a cop. In front of them. At your address where they know to tell their friends to find you. Better a flimsy story. Unless your will is made out and you know you’re good with Jesus. Because that, without question, is the point at which you are not much longer for this world.
After warrant checks, he let the guy go, then me. As I put my key in the door the officer watched the door swing open, made a parting comment. ”Your neighbors are sick of this.”
I thought about saying, ”I’m one of them. Who’ve, in fact, been recently writing about it. Thought of saying “I’m also sick of being an automatic suspect.”
Didn’t make either remark. Instead, kept my mouth shut up. And, yes, a bit later than 11 am, seriously considered a whisky shot.
Passed on that. Fed Butch & Sundance, glad not to be jail.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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