Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cee-Cee Says: How To Tell The One Bad Cop Among The Hundred Good Ones

(Before reading this entry, you might want to take another look at my post of August 16, 2009. It describes how Cee-Cee, a retired policewoman, introduced herself to me over the phone and proceeded to flog me like a racehorse for what she considered an incredibly stupid letter-to-the-editor I'd written. By the end of the call we'd stopped screaming at each other, more or less, and I'd said we should meet some time over a glass of good red.)

Cee-Cee and I did meet at a Middle Eastern restaurant which had beautiful rugs on the walls and belly-dancing music, and we did have that glass of red wine. And it was so good we had a few more. It was on her fourth glass that she told me a surefire way she'd discovered, during her career, of spotting the rare bad cop, complete with an example.

"Cops like to be right. Not one of us enjoys admitting to a mistake, especially if it was a big, fat, stupid one. But a good cop will admit it, at least to himself. He'll feel shame and regret. He'll do what he can to make it right, and move on.

"A bad cop will never admit to a mistake unless he's driven to it, kicking and screaming." Here Cee-Cee gave the example of an officer she called Leroy, "because it's not his real name." She spoke for half an hour about a case he'd been involved in. His surveillance included shadowing his suspects on flights and several stays in pleasant domestic cities, at countless meals in good restaurants, the theater, on one occasion the opera, as well as wire-taps and invaded email accounts. After all of this, an unthinkable disaster occurred: the suspects turned out to be innocent. And not only were they innocent, they were as clean as Ivory soap. They had never committed a crime.

"So here we've got Leroy, who should have figured this out after a few months at most. We began to realize he may have falsified information. He liked that cushy investigation. He cost us tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds and hundreds of manhours, he made fools of other officers who trusted him, and by far the worst of it, he caused suffering to the innocent. That's the exact opposite of what we're supposed to be doing. And to this day, Leroy has never admitted he made a mistake.

"Yes, suspects are usually guilty, but once a cop starts assuming that they ALWAYS are, he's in trouble. Every once in awhile, the sonsabitches are innocent. Tormenting an innocent person is the worst thing a cop can do, and the good ones know it. But a bad cop like Leroy will be mad at the innocent. He thinks they did it on purpose to make him look bad. He'll make them suffer, if he can. He'll even put them in danger, if he can. Because if he's arrogant AND druggy, like Leroy, there's no boundaries for him."

I asked, "What happened to him?"

"Oh, we got rid of him. We let him retire young." She swirled wine in her glass, looked at it thoughtfully. "I know I talk a lot of trash about civilians, complain that we have to protect them like babies, but after all, it is all about the goddamn civilians. What else is our job about, except to help all you dumb shit-fer-brains civilians out there live your lives, pursue your happiness, you know?" Then she smiled at me, and drank down the last of her wine.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coming from the Ends of the Earth to Share Dessert, and A Sweet Life...

The beauty of Marlena de Blasi's memoir A THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE is that it's true. In 1992 she was a chef and travel writer, saddened by a ghastly divorce, who reluctantly visited Venice to write articles about the food. He, Fernando, was a middle-aged, somewhat depressed Venetian banker who concealed a blazingly passionate heart beneath his pinstriped vests. He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love at first sight--or rather, half-sight, for as he told her later, he saw only her profile, her wild and unmanageable mass of pinned-up black hair, and a beautiful woolly white coat that covered her to the ankles. He had been agonizingly shy his whole life, and he was afraid to speak to her. She did not notice him at all.

A year later Marlena returned to Venice. The day came when Fernando saw her again, in a cafe, and this time he spoke. She rebuffed the blue-eyed stranger, but he had found his courage and refused to disappear. He spoke no English, she spoke almost no Italian. There were false starts, and a Venetian storm kept them apart, and she fled back to America. This man who had been so shy, self-doubting, and cautious his whole life, pursued her across the ocean with the confidence of an arrow that will absolutely not be deflected from its target. He had found his mate, and that was that.

It took Marlena a little more time to share his feelings. However, in the meantime she cooked him a marvelous meal. It is wonderfully described in her book. The meal ends this way:

"He seems content with silence. I've made a dessert, one I haven't made in years, a funny-looking cake made from bread dough, purple plums, and brown sugar. The thick black juices of the fruit, mingled with the caramelized sugar, give up a fine treacly steam, and we put the cake between us, eating it from the battered old pan I baked it in. He spoons up the last of the plummy syrup, and we drink the heel of the red wine. He gets up and comes over to my side of the table. He sits next to me, looks at me full face, then gently turns my face a bit to the right, holding my chin in his hand. "Si, questa e la mia faccia," he tells me in a whisper. "Yes, this is my face."

(quote from A Thousand Days In Venice, by Marlena De Blasi)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Drunken Politico Chews Up John Edwards With His Chicken Marsala

I heard about this incident from a journalist friend. I won't name the locally well-known politician sitting a few tables away in the Italian restaurant. He'd been tossing back the Old Fashioneds along with his Chicken Marsala. That's probably why he felt comfortable sharing his views on what makes a great leader, with everyone in the restaurant. Keep in mind that this happened right after John Edwards' girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, had given tell-all interviews and appeared in show-all photos. And this is what the politician said:

"I always said John Edwards was a weak wad unfit for office, and now look at this mess he's gotten himself into. When a man running for the presidency can't even keep his damn mistress in check, it's pretty sad. Can you see this guy facing down Putin? Here's old Rielle prancing around in her underpants, giving interviews, flaunting the love child--and what's with the love child, anyway? HELLLLOOOOO JOHNNNYYYYY, didn't your high school coach ever tell you that if you're going to play the big game, you got to suit up? Mine did!

"Now compare this guy with natural leaders like John Kennedy or old Lyndon Johnson. Those were real men. They juggled their girlfriends, kept their wives happy, handled things like the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam, and never broke a sweat. Kennedy had DOZENS of mistresses, and you never heard a yip out of those women. Not one! Yes, there were real honest-to-God Alpha males running the government in those days. These days they're all having damn pedicures."

He sighed heavily for good times gone, and ordered another Old Fashioned. "You can depend on this," he said, pointing at the glass, "no matter what happens. And it's about ALL you can depend on."