Monday, July 27, 2009

Last week, I rode with the cops

In the Central Precinct, 10 minutes before roll call, three officers are watching the biggest flat screen TV I’ve ever seen.

Deep voice says, “Lil Rick’s crippin’ had gone too far. The balancing act was torture.”

By 4 p.m., roll call is in full swing. There’s only one female.

“Let’s do like we always do and keep our hats and bats with us.”

Cops pass around documents - bench warrants, photos of wanted suspects - and swap stories. One cop tells of a man who has been getting on elevators, pulling out “Captain Winkie,” shaking it, then putting it away. “Then he’ll just say something casual then get off the elevator,” the cop says.

By 4:30, I’m riding shotgun on a patrol through Old Town. Lately, crack has made its way back into the neighborhood. We’re going to see if anyone’s dealing.

Around 6 p.m., my cop stops to talk to a few people sitting on a wall that used to belong to an old Burger King. The restaurant - now burned through - is plastered with No Trespassing signs.

The woman farthest from the cop is all teeth chattery and bouncing in her white tennis shoes. While he’s checking others’ IDs, she sneaks off into the street, crosses a crosswalk and is gone.

“Officer, there may be a discrepancy with my address,” one of the women still standing there says. Later, I learn her name is Angela. She’s the most facilitating. She has a brand new bicycle, a nice voice and a a felony warrant out for her arrest.

Her friend Yvonne has a little bit of crack in her pocket.

“Am I going to find any more on you?” the cop asks her.

“No sir, I just had a little something this morning,” Yvonne says back.

While he’s frisking her, a tooth falls out of Yvonne’s mouth. A cop on a bicycle wants to frisk the front of her. Yvonne, instead, pulls up her shirt and her bra to reveal no drugs, only large, large breasts. Her driver’s license says she’s 260.

A passerby walking on the sidewalk yells back at the cops as he passes, “Don’t be startled, I’m just a black man walking behind you.”

Yvonne - now in handcuffs and sitting on the curb - tells the bike cop that part of her tongue ring is in her back pocket. Can she screw it back on?

The bike cop bends down to tighten a knob onto Yvonne’s tongue. She jumps back when she realizes she’s stepped in human feces.

“Those are your new shoes, right?” another cop asks her. That cop is eating a granola bar, talking to the two people they won’t arrest in the group.

The cop I rode with - Chad - is holding up Yvonne’s purse. “Yvonne,” he says sweetly. “What’s vibrating in your purse?”

“A dildo vibrator,” she says.

Chad looks sheepish.

The officers move Yvonne to the police car. While they process Angela, Yvonne and I are alone in the car.

“It’s just crumbs, ain’t a whole lotta dope, just three crumbs. Shit,” she says to herself. “Shit.”

A cop tells one of the two non-arrested members to break a crack pipe they found in Yvonne’s purse, so he walks off the sidewalk, sets it down gently.

“Dooooooon’t!” Yvonne calls from the backseat.

He looks bewildered. “They told me I hafta.”

He steps on it quickly. Parts of the crack pipe fly in through my open window and land on my shirt.

“Man, shit,” Yvonne says. “Why? There wasn’t nothin’ wrong with it.”

“They told me to.”

About this time, Chad puts Angela in the back of the car, too. She’s handcuffed, but she wiggles around to where she can hold a cell phone.

“Hey, I’m going to jail,” she says. “Yes, I’m arrested. I gotta warrant.”

Chad gets in the car. Yvonne asks, “Why are you wasting your time on me? There’s alotta dope out there.”

“There IS a lot of dope out there,” Chad says. “But you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t buy it, dealers wouldn’t be able to sell it.”

“I didn’t buy it,” Yvonne says. “Somebody bought it for me. And anyway, if there wasn’t dealers, there wouldn’t be anybody to buy from. Go arrest a dealer.”

“New dealers would just come around,” Chad says.

He reads her her rights.

The bike cop comes around to ask what Angela wants to do with her bike. She wants Chad to call her fiancee Raymond, who’s 10 blocks away. When Raymond arrives, Angela is crying. They look at each other in disbelief. He takes the bike, and Angela, crying, says to Chad, “I’ve lost everything I’ve ever worked for.”

“What’s that?” Chad asks.

“Nothing,” she says, crying.

“She said she’s lost everything she’s ever worked for,” I tell Chad. “I think she’s sad about the bike.”

“You’ll get your bike back, Angela, don’t worry,” he says.

“I don’t care about my bike,” she says, crying harder. “I’m going to lose my job, my house, my fiancee. All over something I did 10 years ago. I tried to get it taken care of in court, but I couldn’t get a document from Florida.”

Chad turns to me. “The warrant is over a dangerous drug possession.”

“Am I going to get a bail?” Angela asks.

“Uhh, no,” he says, eye-ing a processing paper. “Your bail is zero. Hey, Yvonne, what’s your address?”

She’s silent.

“You not talking to me anymore?” he asks.


It’s 6:45 p.m. I’m due back at work. It’s sunny; the windows are down. There’s crack pipe on my shirt. Chad drops me off in front of the newspaper office, but I walk to Safeway for dinner instead.

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