Sunday, January 25, 2009

cops and reporters

Part of my job Saturday nights is to spend a couple hours driving to four area police stations to collect lists of everyone who has been arrested and why they were charged since a colleague made the rounds the previous day. The task lends an interesting perspective on police and crime; I develop bantering relationships with some of the cops working the same delightful Saturday shift ("How are you?" "Not as good as I'll be at 10:30"), and I become a semi-insider. I don't get treated with the same courtesy as the public but, in return, I get more sincerity.

These months of contact mean I think more like a cop than a lay person. When I pass car accidents, I scan the scene, looking for the number of ambulances and where they came from in lieu of rubbernecking at the damage. Whether people are hurt enough to go to the hospital or if a main road is closed during cleanup is more important than the dramatic look of a crushed car.

Either way, like police, reporters banter about crime and destruction to make it digestible. A policewoman and I joke about the unflattering cut of her mandatory bulletproof vest. The next day I see her in the photo of the incident I helped cover where a mentally ill man stabbed his mother repeatedly with a kitchen knife, outside, in (as they say) broad daylight.

Last night when I entered the New London station, the bail bondsman was there, surrounded by a lobby full of thugs who spent the past day or so in jail and were waiting to be sprung. As they waited their turn, they bantered about the relative comforts of area jails. I stood among them, copying the day's arrests from the illegible police log book into my notes, probably writing the names of the men around me.

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