My experience with cops dates from ’73-’75. It was marginal, as a “specialized sheriff’s deputy” dealing with animal situations, commonly vulgarized as “dog-catcher”. We worked alongside Portland Police and at one point when I had become an “education coordinator”, I taught a brief introduction to AC for PPD. The entity was the target of so much accusation, resentment, emotional imaginings, and assumptions with no grounding, that the county took away our “sheriff deputy” status. We already were forbidden to carry guns, to make arrests, or to impound animals on private property. Also, commanded not to run up bills by taking animals to a veterinarian.
Management never goes on the street and usually has no experience with places where animals make trouble. As one writer said, “They don’t believe there are police except as a theory, because in their neighborhoods, cops were never there or necessary.” They are reacting to movies and TV series with uninformed credibility. Even the “reality theatre” of a self-aggrandizing Multnomah County sheriff deputy who ran a program supposedly showing real arrests and investigations was never challenged as unreal. It was absolutely believed by the kids at Heart Butte when I taught there. They DID watch it. When I was fired and went home, they urged me NOT to go back to Portland because it was too dangerous. ’90 or so. (Heart Butte on the rez is considered lawless.)
They were right. I used my old Ford van as a spare bedroom when visiting. I had just slipped into sleep when there was a shotgun blast nearby. I lay very still so as not to give away my presence by making the van rock. It turned out that the head of a street gang lived across the street (Blood, I think, which to me was a Blackfoot tribe in Alberta) and rival Crips had driven by repeatedly so they hid in the bushes and blasted them. (I never could understand what Crip was supposed to mean.) There was no point to gangs except rivalry.
Contrast that with the ’70’s when PPD officers had to have college educations and the whole society was trying to reframe the culture. There was a poetry reading in Washington Park, which is a hillside overlooking the city, and one of the poets was a cop. Ken Kesey was there, reading from “The Tranny Man” after it got so dark someone had to hold a candle next to him. Marijuana fumes fogged the many people sitting on the grass. No one was arrested. It was cool.
But even then I lived, as always, in a dubious neighborhood where the cops were always nearby. This time it was one little apartment in a strip of garden apartments and what we didn’t know, partly because the landlord never paid the electrical bill for the security lights, was that a burglar had been stashing what he stole under the building where only part was finished as a basement and there was a long crawl space in the dirt. Someone spotted him and realized.
My habit is to build a bed that is high enough off the floor to stash things underneath. This one was so high that the mattress was level with the sill of the window that looked out on a walkway leading into the basement. This time I was asleep when I heard a man’s voice a few feet away. It was a cop. I had already reinforced the screens with quarter inch wire mesh, but when I peeked out there was a young officer with his gun drawn. I spoke to him, which made him jump. There was a team of them hoping to catch the burglar. They didn’t but they recovered a lot of electronic stuff.
The real order keeper on the block was a stalwart, sturdy, but aged Irish woman who had survived her family. Daily she sat on her front porch and observed, noting everything. She called me over and confided in me because of my connection to law enforcement. She was concerned with the behavior of the teenaged sibs next door to me, having come to the conclusion that the older boy was molesting the girl. What had I heard? Not enough for a court case. She turned them in anyway and next week they moved.
An old pickup was parked in front of the apartments, the same place every day. Kids were living in it and it couldn’t run. They ate by shoplifting at the Safeway two block aways. I didn’t say anything until white blossoms appeared in the bushes. They had no other latrine and were picky enough to wipe their bottoms. The pickup was simply towed as a derelict vehicle and the problem ended.
It gradually became obvious that reframing the culture meant that some means of keeping order still had to be enforced by people who had enough power of law and action to make things happen. In such a large and constantly moving population meant too many gaps where interstitial people like raccoons could make niches. Even more so where entire tracts stood like bombed-out cities.
But this distracted us from watching out for the real danger, which was authorities who took more and more power into their hands, until they had actually managed to undermine and capture the federal government. They, in turn, are being foiled because they couldn’t recognize the madness of a demented person aligned with their goals and his inevitable descent into frothing arm waving. Even fortified with the power lust of Barr and McConnell, the scheme is transparent.
My brother had a concussion and was unable to hold a job so lived with my mother. Every morning he came out with his cup of coffee and walked the street, picking up brass cartridge cases from the guns of gang warfare. He generally got a handful. He taught me that if I heard gunfire, I should turn out the lights and sit on the floor. The street where I had walked to school was patrolled only by double-occupied squad cars and sometimes by two squad cars at once. Over time, after my mother died, my brother became mad and paranoid, claiming that he was under attack and hiding with rifles. He was turned out onto the street and died there. “Evil” is gradual and subtle. It is internal and familiar. An aged stout Irish woman may see it more clearly than any young officer.