The Blue Line

To be honest, I never saw cops as men or women. I saw them as men or women in a uniform. I saw them as a badge and a badge number. The cops stood on one side of the law and I stood on the other. It was me against them. I never considered they were once someone’s child. I never considered the fact that policemen (or police women) have families, or children of their own. I never saw cops as human. I saw them as enemies because in truth, I was an enemy.

In my small town hustles and while trying with the best of my ability to scheme or connive, I saw the police as obstacles. They stood between me and my goal. Whether my goal was fast money, drugs, or even something as minimal as speeding or running a red light because I felt as if my needs were more important than the laws that were set to protect us, the police were there to stop me. But to me, I believed police officers felt a drunken sense of power or some perverse arousal whenever they caught me in the act.

I figured the cops saw me with the same hatred as I had for them. They saw me as I was—a punk kid, always  looking to get over and always with something to prove. I was a low life in the eyes of the law. To them, I was a criminal and unworthy to breathe the free air. I believed they saw me as an animal—but in truth, I behaved like an animal.

I admit it. . . .
I hated cops. I hated the way police officers stood in their uniforms or the way they wore their sunglasses. I hated when they walked into a store and looked around as if they were better, or maybe they could walk in and not pay for something. And why not? Who could the store owner call? The police?

If I dissected my reason for hatred; the answers would be simple. I hated the police because I wanted to cheat and steal. I hated the police because I wanted to cut corners, but the cops were always there and they were always waiting for me with a smile. I hated cops because I felt as if I could never make anything without cheating and they were a symbolization of this fact.

I remember the first time I was ever placed in the backseat of a police car. I was on Prospect Avenue in front of Prospect Park. It was nighttime. August was at its end and September was about to turn the page. Two squad cars pulled up and the officers jumped out. The cops threw not only me, but four others that were with me into a steel, wrought iron fence.

I played as if I was innocent, but I was guilty. I was also drunk and sickly. I knew what was about to happen to me. It was as though someone pulled the handle on the toilet, which I called, “My life,” and I was about to be flushed down with the shit.
I leaned back against the black barred fence while another police car drove passed us with a witness in the backseat. The car passed very slowly. The swirling lights from the top of the squad cars spun around, flashing circles on the nearby homes, and also on the faces of myself as well as my fellow suspects.

The officers arranged us against the fence in a lineup.
“Eyes front,” we were told.
“Look straight ahead.”

The witness was sitting in the backseat, covered with a blanket over their head. The police car nearly stopped, but when I saw a hand of what seemed to be a middle aged woman pointing at me from beneath the blanket—time drag into a painful version of slow motion. As soon as I was positively identified, the witness quickly ducked down in the backseat, and then the police car sped away.

“Fuckin cops!” I thought to myself.
I called them, “Pigs!” under my breath
I cursed them. I cursed their families too.

There was a few minutes of stillness between me being identified and being  placed in handcuffs. One of the officers pointed at my co-defendant. He said, “You, come here and turn around.”
My co-defendant, half-smiling, did as he was told.

Then another officer came over. This one came to address me. By this time, the number of policemen and squad cars had already doubled
“You, come here,” commanded an officer

He brought me over to the trunk of the car and instructed, “Put your hands on the car and spread your legs.”
I asked, “Why?”
The officer responded, “Because you’re coming with us.”

Several people gathered to watch this event. Most of them were people I knew and most of them were people I tried to impress. They stood across the street, and me being who I was, I decided to give them a good show.

While a policeman frisked me, I was asked, “Do you have anything in your pockets that I should know about?”
I answered, “No.”
“Do you have anything sharp in your pockets? Any needles or anything?”
Again, I answered, “No.”
“Got any drugs on you? Pipes or anything like that?”
“No,” I told them. But that was a lie.
There was a broken glass crack pipe in my front pocket. I remember this because I needed to walk carefully, otherwise, the broken glass would have punctured my inner thigh.

After discovering the contents of my pockets, the cop asked, “What the hell is this?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Why don’t you tell me what it is?”
“Oh, a tough guy,” remarked the officer.
He found my pipe and several cigarette lighters. There were no drugs in my pockets. And the reason for this is the cops stopped me before I had the chance to pick them up.

Next, two officers escorted me to the rear door on the passenger side of a squad car. My co-defendant was already seated inside the car. He was sitting on the driver’s side. And like me, he was also escorted to the car by two officers.

At the time, I swore the police saw this as some kinky little fetish. They laughed at me. Told me, “Wait until you see what we have in store for you.”
“Fuckin cops!” I thought to myself.
“I swear they get off on this shit!”
Whether I liked it or not, I was going for the ride. They were taking me in front of a crowd, and to please the crowd, I decided that I would not go as easily as the policemen asked.

When we approached the car, one of the officers leaned down to pull the door handle. He opened the door, and then he returned his attention to me. But instead of ducking my head like they asked and sitting in the backseat of the squad car, I leaned back, putting my weight on the arms of both men. Then I lifted my legs and pushed the car door closed with my feet.

I told them, “My mother told me never to get in the car with strangers.”
Of all my ideas, I suppose this one was my worst. The officer quickly re-opened the door. Then he quickly returned his attention to me, pulling me over to the car, and slamming my head into the top of the door frame while placing me in the backseat of the police car.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” remarked the officer.
“Did you hit your head?”

I hated the cops . . .
They were wrong to grab me and toss me around like they did. It did not matter that I smashed through the window of a local delicatessen. It did not matter that I stole or there was drug paraphernalia in my possession. It did not matter that I broke the law and that I was a person of interest in two other crimes. And more, it did not matter that merely two hours before my arrest, I was guilty of an attempted car-jacking. As far as I was concerned, they had no right to put their hands on me

I mention this to detail my behavior, not so I will be perceived as an outlaw, but instead, I admit to my wrongs to detail the fact that this is what the police contend with on a daily basis. And often . . . they deal with much worse.

When I was taken to the precinct, I was greeted by a familiar face.
His name was Officer Ude.
Ude was younger than the other officers in the precinct. He knew all the local hoodlums. He knew who we were, where we lived, and where we hung out.

Officer Ude tried to speak to me several times.
“They’re looking for you,” he told me.
“You are inches away from getting arrested.”

Ude tried to warn me.
Said, “I know what you’re doing. Everybody knows what you’re doing. It’s only a matter of time before you get caught.”

Ude offered me an out, but I refused to take it. I refused because he was my enemy. I refused because he was trying to get me to walk the straight path.
Ude tried to help me—but I saw this as Ude trying to set me up. I believed he was trying to trick me, or get me to rat on my friends

When I walked in the precinct, Ude approached me.
“I told you so. But you wouldn’t listen. Would ya?”
“Well,” he said. “Now you’re gonna have to learn the hard way.”

In truth, that arrest is what saved my life. Had I not been taken into custody, and had I not been removed from my surroundings, or had I not been taken away from the drug spots, or from the people I ran around with, and had I not been placed in the care of the New York Court system; I would have never changed. I would have joined the long list of casualties in the drug war. Either that, or I would have been like so many others before me. I would have been locked up and living behind bars

Sure, I hated the police. I hated them the same way roaches hate bug spray or rodents hated rat traps—or glue traps, or any traps for that matter. The truth is I deserved to be trapped and locked away. I deserved the outcome; however, I hated the arresting officers because they were the messengers of bad news.

I hated the police and they hated me. They hated me because of the chases I put them through. They hated me because of the drugs I brought into my community. They hated me because I was a threat to the stability and to the safety of the neighborhood, which they swore to serve and protect.

I never considered the stress of carrying a firearm or being shot at, or worse, I never considered the fear of  being killed in the line of duty. I never considered what it was like to restrain a man after he beat his wife, or what it would be like to apprehend a murder suspect or rapist. I never considered the blue line to be anything more than an occupational hazard for me. I never saw cops as humans. I saw them as uniforms and badges. They were the symbolization that I was wrong and I was about to be held accountable for my actions. That’s the real reason why people resist arrest; it’s not because they are innocent, it’s because no one wants to be held accountable

I was thinking about this today when reading an article about a man named Brian R. Moore. Brian was only 25, but he was old enough to follow in his father’s footsteps. He made a quick rise in the ranks at the police department and became a plain clothed policeman.

Officer Moor was senselessly and tragically shot while in the line of duty. He wasn’t the enemy. He was just trying to do his job, which is to serve the neighborhood he swore to protect.

Not long ago, I witnessed a protest in Grand Central Station. The protestors chanted for justice due to wrongful deaths of suspects while being held in police custody. The protestors used names spanning back to the late 90’s. The names of these tragic deaths were written on white tiles and laid out on the floor for all to witness.

I tried to count the names. On the safe side, I counted 100 names of men who were wrongfully beaten or tragically killed by the hands of law enforcement. The names were not only of those from New York. The stories were country-wide. And again, I mention the protestors displayed 100 names of dead men from more than one decade and who died in more than one state.

Know how many officers the NYPD lost in 2014 alone?

The answer is 114 (according to CNS News)
46 of them were by gunfire
10 by vehicular assault

This does not include Long Island, Upstate, or anyplace outside of the Five Burroughs. That breaks down to an officer dying in the line of duty approximately every three days last year. That means a father never came home to his children. That means a husband never came home to his wife or a wife never came home to her husband. Approximately, every three days, an officer died while trying to do their job.

One of the protestors stood wearing a sign that read, “Black lives matter.”

I agree.

Black lives do matter

So do white lives

So does any life

Police lives matter too.

Don’t believe me?

Then perhaps you did not see the picture in the newspaper of Officer Moore’s father as he wept over the loss of his son.

A friend of mine was a cop on patrol for 15 years.
“Day in, day out,” he said.
He’s still on the job too.

I just hope he stays safe because there is a city of millions who depend on him and those else who stand beside him on the blue line . . . .

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