Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Your very, very friendly neighbourhood policemen

My interactions with police are generally unconventional.

Growing up, police were for 'other' people, and television, only. In a town as small as the one in which I was raised, men of law only appeared on Halloween to catch vandals---and they never succeeded.

As a teen---drunk and disorderly---police were the guys you avoided. They were the only people in town you couldn't ask to go to the Liquor Store for you.

In Montreal, I realized that interactions with the police simply can't be avoided. I'm just happy none have been scary. In fact, my personal experience has been that the police are far more pleasant with me than I am interested in being with them.

In 2001, when I, and two friends, were mugged at 3 o'clock in the morning - on a quiet street in front of the wimpiest hotel security guard ever - I called the police for the first time. Actually, I just yelled at the dumbfounded security guard until he called the police for me.

Actually, he ran away from me and locked himself in his car and rolled up the window. It was while he was in the car that I convinced him to call the police.

We waited for nearly 45 minutes before the policemen showed up. By that time, we were starting to sober up, and boredom filled the gaps where adrenaline waned. Then, with renewed fervour, we all yelled our story to the two, young officers...simultaneously. They did the usual run-through. They asked for a description of the muggers (all three of them) and then we signed our statements.

The night could have ended there, but there was a twist! They offered to drive us around while they looked for those nasty criminals. As drunk as we were, even WE knew the muggers were long gone. But still, who can say no to a ride in the back of a cop car?

So we piled in. Three drunken girls on a Friday night in the back of a cop car. The seats were surprisingly comfortable - well broken in.

We really wanted to drive by people we knew, and there was a good chance of that, seeing as we were essentially taking a tour of the party district. And we weren't subtle; the lights were flashing. I had always suspected police to be a little trigger happy with the light switch.

Then the car sped through the middle of a busy park, past kids rolling joints, past people drinking in public and making out, and screeched to halt in front of the only Black man in the park. The officers lowered their window to question him.

You see, the description we gave the police included: Three fairly good-looking teen-aged guys in sweatshirts, big jeans and nice sneakers...oh...and they were anglophone...and Black.

Yeah, I know it's vague. And I am sure you are thinking, "Well that could be anybody."

And you're right. It *could* be anybody. That is, anybody other than a 60-year-old homeless guy - they were harassing him for our benefit.

But, what were we supposed to do? There we were, drunk and disorderly ourselves, in the back of a cop car, witnessing racial profiling and injustice. Well, I'm not sure what the exact right thing to do would be, but we were too inebriated to care. So we just started screaming at the cops. And then they screamed at us to shut up. And, we did.

The bum was left to pass out on the bench in peace, and all was quiet in the back of the car for a minute.

A little later, the police asked us where we lived, so they could drop us off at home. What a nice offer! Except we didn't want to go home. We had been heading to an afterhours party when we were mugged, so we thought we might as well go out and use our adrenaline kick. By this time, the officers were more than happy to drop us off. Perhaps the line at the door was a giveaway, but they didn't mind.

They parked the car and got out to give us all a proper good-bye. We "kiss-kiss" our friends here in Montreal...and since I'd never kissed a cop before...I...well...anyway...ethics, principles and morals be damned!

We got into the party for free. There are perks to having police escort. Policemen really are our friends - if you're a damsel in distress, that is.

And it just so happens that I am, on occasion, a damsel in distress.


Last night, however, my friend was filling that role, and I was her hacksaw-wielding knightette.

The key had broken off in her bike lock, as she was leaving work, and an unattended bicycle in that area would not last the night. Armed with vice grips and the saw, we set out on a rescue mission. We expected strange looks. If we hadn't been so inept, it would have really looked like we were stealing it.

To pull the cable lock taut, so I could saw through it, my friend leaned back as far as she could, pulling with all her weight. It wasn't good enough. So, being resourceful and ever the drama damsel, she layed on the ground with the vice grips in hand. It looked ridiculous, and very dirty, but it was effective. She assured EVERYONE who walked by that she wasn't stealing the bike.

And, in the midst of this...the police arrived, lights flashing. I was unaffected. I know they just like to flash.

I continued to work as both officers stepped out of the car to ask us what was going on. As hard as it was, I refrained from being "funny" and just continued to saw while my friend explained.

They asked for her ID. She showed them her bank card. They were satisfied.

I was the one with the hacksaw, but they didn't ask ME for ID. In fact, one officer showed me a better technique for stealing bikes. He was very helpful. I hope he's not that helpful with all bike thieves.

Now, I'm not saying that all policemen are flirts. Just all the ones I've met.

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