A spokesman for one of the police departments currently under scrutiny for summarily executing illegal lane-changers had this to say in his trigger-happy officer's defense: "Our number-one priority is always going to be officer safety."
Really? Huh. I guess that's just my own naivete showing, because I—silly, superannuated Pollyanna that I am—have been laboring under the delusion that their focus was the safety of the public. I guess I was taken in by that motto they so cavalierly bandy about, the one about protecting and serving. Turns out they are only concerned with protecting themselves, which stance indicates that police in general have positioned themselves antagonistically vis-a-vis the public. Is it any wonder that among synonyms for "policeman" "stormtrooper" is ahead of "peace officer" by a usage ratio of seven to one, followed closely by "murdering thug"' funch-butler" and "zabaglione."
However, I think it's important we remember that underneath the blue serge and accoutrements, cops are people too. While I am as indignant as the next guy witnessing all these deadly police encounters, in fairness we should also make note of all the jaywalkers the police didn't kill. See, you never hear about the litterbugs who are ticketed and sent on their way; only the ones who get beaten and tasered and, if they still can't obey the simple command to stop resisting, shot, get any press. It's really not fair to all the parking offenders who survive their police encounters to concentrate on the few who don't.
I have personally been arrested many times. How many? Honestly, I have no idea. Let's say 50, for the sake of this discussion. Of those 50 arrests, I would say that 48 of them were conducted professionally and respectfully. That's a 96% approval rating and I imagine any profession would be pleased with those numbers. However, I am white, physically unassuming, and I don't resist or rabbit. I do what I'm told and I keep my mouth shut for the express reason that I don't want to get beat up or tasered or shot. I personally know three people who have not survived police encounters. I know that cops get juiced up and excitable and have a tendency to go overboard in the heat of the moment. I have learned that the calmer I am, the calmer they are, and the more likely I am to either not go to jail or spend a minimum of time there — definitely desirable outcomes.
Jail sucks. Again, though, I am who I am and I don't pretend to understand the experience of young black men with the police. I will say that their comment cards are probably generally less favorable after their experience of being served and protected (That's not a bad idea, actually, to have arrestees rate the performance of arresting officers via comment cards or yelp.com, a la the hospitality industry. Sure, there'd be some vindictiveness and venom from unhappy customers, but I think the more positive the experience, the more honest the reviews would tend to be. It could lead to a kindler, gentler arrest experience and maybe a few small backseat amenities, particularly if positive results were linked to real incentives — T.G.I.Fridays gift cards, maybe. Just a thought— I've never been there, but it seems like a place that cops might really enjoy).
I have had the experience of having a giant target on my back as the most wanted man in Mendocino County, and I was probably in real danger of ending up a victim of curbside summary judgment by the boys in blue. That's certainly what they told my friends and acquaintances when they were out looking for me — that if I didn't turn myself in, they were going to take me out. Hearing those reports and the radio warnings describing me as "armed and dangerous," I experienced an absurdly ironic disconnect, as if I'd blundered into a parallel universe. As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm about as dangerous as a Hello Kitty plush toy, armed or otherwise. If they'd only asked nicely and perhaps thrown in the enticement of some apps and cocktails at T.G.I.Fridays, I might have turned myself in.
I do confess that toward the end of my run, the idea of holding court in the street was looking rather attractive. All I'd have to make is that storied one false move and all would be over. No more prison, no more jones, no more life among an element I neither understood nor approved of. When the money and drugs ran out, I was in a condition too low to be adequately described by something so limited as language. Words like depressed, despondent, and even despairing would've described a state of hope and optimism compared to where I was.
I was, appropriately, hiding out among the most depraved and unsavory assemblage of twisted humanity ever gathered together in one place. I'm talking about Wildwood Trailer Park, whose degenerate denizens represent the vanguard of de-volution. They are an entire subspecies of failed humans diving headlong back into the primordial ooze so as to gain a more advantageous position in the food chain, because they simply cannot compete above ground.
I'd been there a couple of weeks and I figured it was only a matter of time before the one literate member of the tribe happened upon a newspaper or someone accidentally tuned into a news broadcast on the radio. If word got out there was a price on my head, they would've burnt me out lickety-split. You know the scene: Torches, guttural muttering and murmuring, filthy, ignorant, toothless peasants… We've all been there. No doubt about it, I had to make tracks before the rabble became a mob.
I lit out one fine morning a couple hours before sunrise, unburdened by any possessions. I thought it best I travel as light as possible and left what scant belongings I had with the Reverend Jim.
As I walked down Highway 20 toward Fort Bragg, I at first dove into the brush whenever a car approached, but after a while I said screw it — if they get me, they get me, and strode bold as brass down the road.
When I hit town, I paused to enumerate my options. I could turn myself in and put an end to the whole stupid, sorry business. I could compound the situation by committing further felonies, perhaps the appropriation of a vehicle to put some distance between myself and the epicenter of my visibility, or the forcible breach of the threshold of some otherwise uninhabited hidey-hole in which I could rest and regroup. I could pray, pray like I'd never prayed before, pray with determination and fervor and passion and verve, but to what god or gods? The answer may seem obvious given my geographical position— go with the local industry standard, the capital G God and his self-sacrificing scion. But then, the gods of the local coastal Indians held sway in the region long before Christianity was even a gleam in the Mother Mary's eye. They might still be running the show here. Allah had been making some real strides of late, acquiring converts and making an explosive impact all over the world. Many of the lesser-known godlings of the Greek, Roman, and Norse pantheons seemed perhaps more sympathetic toward criminals than our local god, who I'm guessing is Republican and a real law-and-order type.
In the end I chose to forgo prayer entirely, because you don't want to beseech the wrong god and get yourself smited. (Smitten? That doesn't seem right.) Whatever—if history has taught us anything, it's that God hates us.
The course of action I ultimately chose was derived from the same conclusion arrived at by every addict in times of tribulation: if I can only get some drugs in me, everything will be fine.. They wouldn't be, of course. I was so far from fine it would've taken a time machine to get me there.
Nevertheless, I aimed myself toward the home of my friend Sandman, a truly stand-up guy and maybe the only person I knew who wouldn't either turn me away or turn me in. He wouldn't be happy to see me, but he'd get me straight and help however he could without jeopardizing his own situation unduly.
I made it across town without incident, and no, he was not pleased. After an ass-chewing he provided me with a dose of the old bang-shang-a-lang and a few bucks and sent me on my way. As it happened, the ish that I ished was both quite substantial and of very high quality, suffusing me with the usual sense of optimism and well-being and leading me to the tragically erroneous belief that I could make it out of this jam, no problem. This lasted for about 30 seconds, the amount of time it took to get back out to the street and into the sunshine.
As you may be aware, one of the unfortunate by-effects of chronic amphetamine use is paranoia. If you couple that natural chemically-induced tendency to believe that everyone is after you with the absolutely real condition of everyone actually being after you and possibly trying to kill you, you have a state of fear so intense that every sound and every movement triggers a nearly irresistible compulsion to dive earthward and, like a boring insect or burrowing rodent, propel yourself deep into the cool, safe, ground. But alas, I was not a human badger or mole and was forced to ambulate horizontally across the increasingly hostile skin of the earth. Stupid two-dimensional plane!
Several blocks from my position was a former domicile of mine, still occupied by my erstwhile housemate who, if memory served, should be heading off to work about 10-11-ish. I took off in that direction, trying to appear casual and at the same time hurrying as fast as possible without actually breaking into a run. I’m sure I looked exactly like what I was: a sweaty, twitching fugitive trying to get somewhere fast.
My former roomie was still at home. Bummer. There was a storage shed in the backyard filled with furniture, dishes, clothing and tools. I decided to hole up in there until he left.
I'd been inside the shed for about 45 seconds when I began to feel trapped and unsafe. If anyone opened the door, there I'd be, exposed and vulnerable. I needed to be on the other side of the nearly ceiling-high stacks of boxes of china and glassware. Can you guess where this is headed?
Sure enough, when I and the boxes came tumbling down, it sounded like— well, it sounded like a whole shitload of dishes cascading down onto a concrete floor. The jig, as they say, was up. I flung open the door and nearly ran into my ex-housemate who was coming out to see what all the commotion was.
"Flynn, you sonofabitch, I'm calling the cops!" he yelled at my swiftly retreating form. Well, duh. I hauled ass down the alley, turned right, and jetted down the next alley. I had no plan. I was running in a blind panic and taking random turns. At one point I saw a cop speeding down the street perpendicular to the alley I was in so I cut into someone's backyard. I jumped their fence and when I got into the front yard of the house there were three retirees chatting and drinking coffee. "Sorry, just passing through," I said. They made a lot of indignant noises and tried to block my way. I juked left, faked right, and ran out into the street. Just then, many cop cars converged on my position from both directions. I stopped, threw up my hands, and obeyed their command to lie flat on the ground. It appeared I was going to live through this after all. Or was I? While I was being cuffed and searched (without undue force or intensity — the whole business was conducted efficiently and professionally), the citizen whose yard I’d cut through had gone into his house and obtained a hunting rifle which he came out brandishing as if the Second Amendment gave him the right to participate in the arrest process, or perhaps gun me down for trespassing. He was instructed to return the weapon to the house, which he did, looking crestfallen at not being able to bag a tweaker.
When we arrived at the station I was still very much under the influence and spent a pleasant couple of hours with the detectives confessing not only to the recent robberies, but to every other offense from the past month I could remember. Definitely not the done thing, but it ultimately worked out in my favor, resulting in the comparatively (to the potential life term) low sentence of 8 years.
Thus endeth the saga. Have I learned my lesson? I'm going to say yes. Its been exactly four years since that fateful day and I've had a lot of time to consider my folly, and have a piece yet to come.
Crime is a young man's game and I've overstayed my welcome. Retirement beckons. And remember — support your local police, but keep an eye on 'em, too.