(I'm going to run again a short series of posts regarding justice matters. ACLU blood runs in my veins, and although I'm often not the righteous champion for justice that I should be...I think people should at least try.)
The background to this post is that I write letters to the editor, early and often. I like to think of these letters as bold and illuminating, but friends keep me from vanity with remarks like, "I see where you were gassing away in the paper again," or simply "blah, blah, blah."
My friend Cee-Cee (not her real name) is a retired policewoman. I met her, if that's the right word, when she called me up very late and out of the blue, to chew me out, grind me up and spit me out for a letter I'd just written. The letter concerned what I saw as a poor judgment call on the part of a police officer.
Cee-Cee is not the officer I wrote about. To this day, I don't know if she was a friend of the officer, or if she just reacted like a lionness to any criticism of a brother or sister in arms.
Keep in mind that this was around midnight. I'd been asleep. Cee-Cee, a stranger to me then, has a voice of mighty thunder when upset, sort of like God and Thor combined. She said, or shouted, that although the facts in my letter were "technically correct," I had written it in a spirit of smug fault-finding and from a place of ignorance. Like most civilians, I had no idea of the thousands of judgment calls which every officer is required to make, often under severe stress. Neither I nor any other civilian would hear about the great majority which turned out to be right.
I was speechless for once. You would be too, if the side of a mountain suddenly split off and fell on your head, or if an avenging angel suddenly swooped down out of heaven and began flogging you like a racehorse. But I come from a long line of bossy teachers and ministers confident in their salvation, and those genes kicked in. I told Cee-Cee the truth. I said I admired the police, because they have such a tough job. I said that I would never say or even think a single harsh word about an officer, as long as he seemed to keep alive in the front of his mind the fact that he'd promised to protect and serve the public. He had not vowed to protect and serve himself.
Cee-Cee said bluntly, "I bet if you ever needed help, you'd be the very first to be yelling for the police to come and save your puny butt!"
"You got that right," I said, "I would be the first, and if there were some word before First, I would be that. If I was threatened by some criminal, I would stand there screaming like a toddler into my cell phone for the police to come and rescue me, to come charging up in their shiny cars and obliterate whoever was menacing me, to sweep me to a place of safety. That is their duty. That's what 'Protect and Serve' means!"
Unexpectedly I heard Cee-Cee's deep, jolly laugh for the first time. She said, "You don't expect much, do you? Just your own squad of knights. Damn, you certainly are a STUBBORN little shit."
I wasn't thrilled to be called a stubborn little shit, but her tone had warmed up. I don't know if she had decided I was mentally delayed and therefore forgivable, but the conversation became much more amicable. She even finally allowed that my letter had been "an honest, though stupid, mistake."
And a few minutes later, after a thoughtful pause, she said slowly, "Not that every single cop who ever existed has been an altar boy or altar girl. There's a story or two I could tell you--no names, though."
"Over a glass of good red," I said. "My treat."
"Deal, " she said, and laughed.
And I think that Cee-Cee is a woman who keeps her word.