Friday, December 12, 2014

What He Said

This article originally appeared in American Police Beat.

You Got a Problem? Just Dump it on the Cops
Written by Jim Carnell 
As a street patrol officer in Boston, I was recently summoned by radio call to a housing development for a matter pertaining to "the electricity was out." Upon arrival, I discovered that the building was fully electrified and all appeared to be in good working order. Checking further with the woman who had initiated the call, I discovered that she was calling because the light on her phone had gone out. I informed the woman that I had absolutely no expertise in this field and could not repair her phone and asked her why she had thought to call the police for such a matter. She replied that she had been told to always call the police for everything; whether the cable TV was out or the toilet wasn't working. It didn't matter. "You call the police when you need help."

"Help" has a different connotation in 2010 America than when I was growing up in the 60s. "Help" in those days used to mean you needed emergency assistance from the police, the fire or an ambulance. Today, it means "I'm too stupid or lazy to perform even the most mundane task myself so I'll call the police because they don't have anything better to do and after all, I'm a taxpayer and I pay your salary." (Police officers: check here ___ if you've heard that one ten thousand times before.)

When I started on the Boston police force in 1982, we still chased stolen cars and rousted drug-dealing scumbags from the corners. We let the gang-bangers and street maggots know that we - the police - owned the streets, not them. We don't do that anymore, not under the threat of civil lawsuits, IAD complaints, and state/federal investigations. Today, we're not so much police officers who enforce the law and arrest scumbags as we are "social agents." People call us because their bratty nine-year-old won't do their homework, or because they had a simple argument with their teenager. I know there are a lot of cops like me who want to shout, "Grow up and become a parent, you losers. Stop using the police as ‘the big, bad wolf' because you are unable to act like the adult."

We get called because somebody has water in their basement, or because the phone service is out, or because of a pothole or a broken streetlight. I once had a call from an elementary school because an eight-year-old child was acting up. I asked the teacher what it was she expected us to do. "I don't know," she said, "but I've had it with the little bastard, and they told us to just call the police if the kids act up." Ah, the classic "dump it on the cops" theory in action. Thankfully, the experienced, old-time sergeant who responded with me grabbed me by the arm and we walked out of the building without saying a word. I would have liked to have told the teacher to grab the little troll by the neck and give him a good, swift kick in the arse, but then I'd have been writing a report to IAD.

As many cops know, we often get calls because someone's car is disabled or they've locked themselves out of their house. Now, if your car is in a bad position on the open road, I understand why you've called. But why do they call us when their disabled car is in a supermarket parking lot, a parking garage, or safely off to the side of the road? Call a damn mechanic or a tow truck, ya nitwit! Likewise, I understand the issue if you've locked yourself out of your car or house and the baby's inside or there's food cooking on the stovetop. That, I can understand. But if you've simply lost or forgotten your key, guess what? Honey, I don't have a spare, and I'm not kicking the door in or breaking the window, because I can guarantee you, within minutes, they'll be on the phone to the desk sergeant demanding to know "who's going to pay for the damage." Get the yellow pages and call a bloody locksmith. Got a car or building alarm going off incessantly and you can't shut it off? Guess what? Neither can we! Why do people think the police are provided with secret codes that will allow us to automatically shut off wailing alarm sirens, 99 percent of which are false in the first place? And of course, very few alarm companies nowadays actually send an alarm repair/response unit because they prefer to use the police as their unpaid employees.

For John Q. Public, I have some news. If your basement has water, call a plumber or call the water department. If your telephone isn't working, call your local telephone service provider. If you have a pothole or a broken streetlight, call the public works department or the department in charge of street lighting. If your electricity is out, call the electric company.

Jim Carnell is a police officer in Boston and the editor of the PAX Centurion, the official publication of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association.


Rita said...

I have a proposed statute that would make car alarms legitimate police business.
--If a car alarm goes off for longer than 3 minutes without the owner responding the car should be towed to the nearest junkyard and crushed and the bill sent to the owner. The bill will be tripled if this happens at night--
Car alarms have to be high on the list of useless and annoying technology.

Anonymous said...

well written....and sadly true....the level of laziness and entitlement....