GOOD COP, BAD COP ONE GLORIOUS EVE

I’m going to honor police by telling a story about a bad cop. Paradox? No. The exception proves the rule. Most cops, as a rule, are good. That makes a bad one memorable. How memorable? This was October, 1963. My bad cop turned a “glorious evening” inglorious. I was 16 and searching on foot for my male and female peers in a triangle of Dorchester teenage haunts. I’d checked the First Boston Ten Pin (bowling alley) and Tenean Beach. No sign of anyone. Howie’s was next. “Howie’s was our Happy Days redoubt – the original orange-roofed Howard Johnson’s franchise on Morrissey Boulevard. Why was this a “glorious evening”? Because a block from Howie’s I remember pausing, looking up at the autumn sunset and saying to myself, “what a glorious evening!” Yeah, I know. But I was a budding aesthete in search of companions, preferably girls, with whom to share such tender observations (Come to think of it, my friends were probably hiding from me, fearful I’d bust out in poetry.) There were no familiar faces at Howie’s, either. It was early yet. I decided to retrace my steps to the bowling alley. Times were changing at Howie’s. There’d been a couple of “incidents”. Nothing by today’s standards. But the owner’s initial over-reaction was to remove the juke box and have police regularly shew away young crowds. (He hoped to create a prosaic adult eatery repellent to the young. He eventually succeeded.)That night, a police cruiser pulled up and ordered a small orderly crowd to disperse. They obediently headed to their cars. I walked toward the bowling alley. But the cruiser shadowed me. Newly near-sighted, too vain to wear glasses, I glanced toward the windshield, saw only a reflected street lights, smiled in embarrassment, kept walking. “How’d you like a punch in the f*cking mouth?” came a voice from within the cruiser. I was stunned. (I guess my glance had been misinterpreted as teenage insolence.) I objected to the profanity — and soon had a youngish cop in my face, chest-bumping me around, barking, “we don’t want you hear, the owners of this place don’t want you here, nobody wants you here…” on and on. Still stunned, I asked sheepishly if I could go back inside Howie’s. I needed to sit down and think about what had just happened to me. Nursing a coffee at the counter, consoled by a sympathetic waitress, I fumed. The foul language! The physical contact! And me, a manifestly inoffensive 16-year-old Dobby Gillis type in khakis and plaid shirt. The Hulk had been awakened in me. I stomped back out to Howie’s entrance, lurked behind a small young gathering of strangers, waited for the cruiser to show up. It did – and scattered the crowd, leaving me, an unmoving statue of rage – a glowering teenage werewolf seething with fiery indignation, face-to-face once again with Officer Chest-Bump who, plainly surprised, sensed some retaliatory action was teetering in the autumn air. I marched to the cruiser, pulled open the rear door, climbed into the back seat and said, ARREST ME! Then commenced a prime time episode of Good Cop-Bad Cop. Driver Good Cop, doubtless knowing his partner was a jerk, explained, “look we’ve got to keep this place clear, you get one, you get a trickle, then you get a flood…now if you want, we can take you in for loitering…” Bad Cop, thoroughly unnerved, reduced to brutish verbal impoverishment, merely shouted several forceful (but clean) iterations of Get Out of Here.! (I’d probably violated some ancient ordinance banning trespassing in a law enforcement conveyance for which, hopefully, the statute of limitations has expired.) At the end of the encounter, both men knew that what had happened was uncalled, out of line, unprofessional and that I had been minding my own business when I was subjected to profane abuse by a blue-suited, badge-wearing belligerent so-called keeper of the peace. (Actually, just a few, angry but relatively mild words to that effect.) Whole encounter – maybe fifteen seconds. Twenty max. But an important, memorable, basically peaceful protest that has never changed my conviction that Good Cops vastly outnumber Bad Cops. And, of course, no one has ever knelt down on my neck. Sometimes, thinking about that night, I wish I’d let them run me in, spouting lively rhymes of the season from the back seat and declaring “hey fellas, isn’t this a glorious evening?”

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