Dr. Bones reminded me. The pain of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends calls to me. Maybe all I can do is speak the truth as I remember and understand it.
My father and my mother’s father were both cops. I have no illusions about the police because I heard things I probably shouldn’t have heard so young.
My grandfather was a good man, but he was a man of his time. I don’t remember any racism coming out of his mouth, but I could have wiped it away in all the years since he died in the late 80s. I know he delivered at least 2 babies as a cop. He didn’t shoot anyone, but cops shooting people was rare in my hometown. I think.
He was Polish, his parents spoke little English, and he’d heard every “Pollack” joke there was. You don’t really hear those now, thank the Gods. He married an Italian, so he heard all the Wop jokes too. Me too, because I got the olive skin.
Years ago, I said I was going to interview my dad and get all the stories down and then write a book. I joked that the names would be changed to protect the guilty.
I don’t feel like protecting anyone anymore.
I don’t think my dad would let me interview him now. He’s changed, become very right-wing. But we do agree that cops didn’t used to have military weapons and probably shouldn’t have them. Too much can go too wrong too easily.
Dad still remembers that Carl Hanushka was a racist cop. He harassed and beat up black suspects. He was (is? he might still be alive) an evil bastard.
I never thought to ask why that was tolerated.
I knew cops who dealt drugs. I know stories of arrests that were never made or went away because the suspect was rich and/or connected.
I knew black cops and played with their kids. I was lucky enough not to know there was a difference when we were really young. Donna was a secretary at the police department and a friend of my dad’s. I remember her boys (one a year older, one a year younger than me) introducing me to Parliment Funkadelic.
But I also knew where the ghetto was and not to go near there.
I was always proud that my dad was not a corrupt cop in a very corrupt town.
I think I got cynical very young from hearing all the stories, all the mob connections, all the drugs, all the wealthy bastards who got away with murder (literally in at least one case I know of).
This was in a steel town of about 30,000 people, by the way. Not a big city.
I know how cops protect each other, even when they hate each other. It’s so easy to get into an us-versus-them mentality when you have a gun but you could die any time. You ever seen the movie Serpico? I read an interview with the real Frank Serpico a few years ago. Cops in NYC who never knew him still hate him.
My dad nearly died. He was the only cop shot in the line of duty in our town. I don’t think that’s changed.
My parents raised me to see people based on their actions, not their color or religion or any other bullshit, and I’m grateful to them for that.
Cops watch the same TV shows and the same movies the rest of us do. They read the same news. You ever notice how many of the “bad guys” are, shall we say, “not white?”
They also see some of the worst of humanity, day-in, day-out, for years. And it changes them. My dad was not fun to be around by the time he’d been a cop for 15 years. He was a lot better after he’d been retired for a few years and gotten to Arizona.
It makes me so pissed off that Fox News and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have made my dad the way he was again after years on the force. I hate it.
Anyway, I’m rambling now. Maybe I can write something more coherent later.
Just remember: cops live in the same bullshit we all do, plus more, and it can make them crazy and paranoid. Not an excuse. Just something to remember.
And most of them get more training on how to work their gun than on dealing with people.