Monday, February 6, 2012

Fuck the Police!

by Dan Cunneen

Last Friday I played some rock and roll covers for a couple hours with some pals at their company picnic. After the gig, my friend Tor (the band's guitarist), and I went back to my house to drop off some equipment, have a nightcap and listen to some music

I pulled my car in the garage (which is connected to my basement rumpus room) and left the garage door open so Tor could let himself in.

I had an unopened bottle of tequila sitting on the bar, so we cracked it open and had a couple snorts. Two pals, a few drinks and some muted music. It was a mellow scene.

At about 1:30 in the morning we heard a knock on the door that connects my garage to the basement. I gave Tor a curious look. "Huh? That's strange. Who would be knocking at this time of night?" I said as I walked over to answer the door.

I opened the door and was greeted by one of Seattle's finest.


"Good evening, sir," the police officer said, "One of your neighbors saw that your garage door was open, so they called us to come check it out."

"Uh, what?" I said.

"One of your neighbors noticed that your garage door was open, so they called us to come check it out," he repeated.

Right away I started to get annoyed that the cop had taken it upon himself to walk into my garage (which, of course, is my home) just because the door was open.

I stepped into the garage to talk to him. "Well osafur," I replied calmly, "We're just having a drink and listening to some music. There's no trouble here."

I had a few beers at the picnic and then had continued to drink for awhile back in my basement, so my lowered inhibitions naturally made it easier for me to question the officer's actions. "So, you just walked in here?" I asked with more than a whiff of annoyance.

I could see right away that the officer was not happy with my question. Evidently since he had no real reason to come into my house, he just decided to change the subject. "You're drunk," he correctly observed.

I'm drunk? Is that all he had? Where the fuck are we, Saudi Arabia? I'm sitting here quietly talking (and yes, drinking) with a friend and this guy walks into my house and says, "You're drunk?" His comment only served to further infuriate me.

"Yeah, so what if I'm drunk!" I replied angrily.

It was then that Tor (a fairly foppish fellow) made his presence known by walking into the garage from the basement.

The officer looked Tor up and down and then looked back at me with an ignorant simper.

The cop's facial expression belied his thoughts: "Two guys drinking in a basement at 1:30 in the morning, huh? Fags!" It seemed fairly obvious that the cop thought that we were having a homosexual drinking party. Another threshold of anger had been passed.

He smirked at me and said, "Well sir, your neighbor was worried so …"

To my tequila soaked ears, it was as if the cop then continued, "…I, being the jack-booted fascist thug that I am, saw this as a prime opportunity to walk into your home to degrade and harass you for no reason whatsoever."

My rage boiled over and I cut him off. "Get the FUCK out of my house!" I yelled.

"Listen, I was just…" the cop replied.

Tor gamely tried to diffuse the situation, but I was having none of it. "Get the FUCK out of my house!" I repeated.

At this point the cop had enough. Suddenly he put his arm up to my chest, shoved me against the garage wall and seethed in my face, "Listen, I'm just trying to look out for your property and you guys are down here drunk."

"Yeah, that's right, we're drunk and you know what? After you leave, we're gonna fuck!" I said mockingly. At the time I thought that my bold statement would make the cop extremely uncomfortable, but in retrospect he probably thought I was just filling him in on our plans for the rest of the evening.

I may have uttered a few blue words, but the cop knew he had nothing. So he turned and walked out the garage door. I straightened up and yelled after him, berating him like only a drunken cop-hater can. "You can't just walk into my house without a warrant!" I shouted.

"I can if I have probable cause," he shot back.

"We committed no crime!" I screamed.

As he walked out of the garage, I pressed the garage door opener. The cop turned around and said, "Have a good evening sir" as the door shut behind him – just missing him as it descended to the ground.

Tor and I went back inside and talked about what had just happened. He agreed that the cop assumed we were “together” and thought my comment to the cop about our intending to make whoopee was hilarious. Tor also thought it was very funny that I told a cop to get the fuck out of my house, but he also thought I had overreacted.

I wondered which neighbor had called the cops - or if a neighbor had really called the cops at all. I live just north of White Center, inside the Seattle city limits. It's not known as a better-quality neighborhood. Also, I live on a fairly busy arterial, so a neighbor calling the cops simply because my garage door was open seemed a little odd.

Tor suspected that the guy who wandered into my garage wasn't even a cop at all. He thought Officer Unfriendly looked too perfect, like he came straight out of central casting. The idea that some dude, dressed up like a cop, would walk into my house freaked me out a little bit. If he was a fake cop, he definitely wore a real uniform – and a real gun.

As we talked, I became more and more concerned about the potential consequences of my drunken eruption.

Anyone that knows me reasonably well knows that I'm not the type that buys tickets to the Policeman's Ball. It goes way back to my formative punk rock days. This century’s "officer involved shootings," massive fugitive sweeps and warrant-less wiretapping have only hardened my disregard for law enforcement.

I, and presumably you dear reader, have committed scores (if not hundreds) of felonies in my lifetime. I consider myself lucky because I have been indicted or convicted for not a one. I now had palpable fear that my luck was about to change.

I was worried that after what had just occurred in my garage, the police officer was more than a bit curious about me. There is no question in my mind that even if he didn't know my name when he walked into my house; he looked it up on his computer after climbing behind the wheel of his patrol car.

I started to have visions of the vindictive cop following me around Seattle as I went about my business, ominously making his presence known to me as I jaywalked or failed to slow down in a school zone. The last thing I wanted to see was the cop sitting in his squad car out in front of my house waiting for me to commit the pettiest of crimes. ("Excuse me Dan; did you know that pizza boxes are recyclable?")

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Tor was probably right. I did overreact. I know the cop stepped over the line when he made comments about my level of intoxication and resorted to violence. But I actually think he showed some restraint after I told him to get the fuck out of my house. I could easily see a more aggressive cop getting more physical or even arresting me.

While I had every right to question why he had come into my house, I should have remained levelheaded. After he inquired about the open garage door, I should have simply said, "Everything's fine here, have a good night, officer," and then escorted him out.

The combination of the fear of retribution and doubt about my actions made me decide to remedy the situation.

----------------------------

The Seattle Police Department's Southwest Precinct is located about a mile from my house, in the corner of a Home Depot parking lot on Delridge Way. It's a handsome modern brick building that is only a few years old.

I pulled my motorcycle into the parking lot of the Home Depot the following Monday evening about 6:00 pm and and went inside the station.

Just to the left of the precinct's lobby entrance there was a reception area. Beyond a pair of sliding glass windows, I could see a couple empty desks and a cop standing further in the back. I nervously approached the window.

After a few moments, a police officer who looked to be about 50 years old with stylish round black plastic glasses and short gray hair came back to his desk and noticed me. As he reached over and slid the glass partition open, I noticed that the words WATCH COMMANDER were stitched on the breast pocket of his uniform. "Can I help you?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah," I stammered, "I know this may seem weird, but I have a question."

"Okay," he replied warily, "What's up?"

"The other night my neighbor called the police because I had left my garage door open. It was about 1:30 in the morning and I was in my basement with my friend and we heard a knock on my door. I opened the door and there was a police officer standing in my garage."

As I spoke I saw a cynical look creeping over on the officer's face, like he knew what was coming next. "Yeah," he said, looking certain that my monologue was merely a prelude to me filing a complaint. At this point, another rather rotund (and sloppily dressed) officer came to the window and joined the conversation.

"Well, I was kinda drunk and I was pretty rude to the officer, so I came down here to apologize."

The cops looked at each other in astonishment.

"Well, that's a first!" said the sloppy cop with a laugh.

After the first cop, who was obviously the one in charge, regained his composure he said, "Well sir, people are rude to cops all the time. We're used to it."

“I just felt kinda bad about the whole thing, so I was wondering if there was some way I could find out who the officer was so I could tell him I was sorry for being such a jerk."

"Okay, I'll see what I can do."

The commander sat down at his desk and punched a few keys at his computer keyboard. "When did you say this happened?" he asked.

I told him it was last Saturday morning and then gave him my address. He started hunting and pecking for a couple minutes, trying to find a record of the call. As he searched, the big guy asked the commander, "Wouldn't Norman have taken that call?"

"Yeah, probably," he muttered.

The big cop asked me what I had said to the cop and, seeing as I had come this far, I thought I'd just tell them the truth. "Well, after he told me why he was there, I told him to get the fuck out of my house."

Both cops looked at each other and laughed. I was relieved. No doubt these boys had seen a lot so my little tirade was probably pretty mild.

The boss cop turned his attention back to the computer screen. After an awkward minute or so he said, 'Well, I can't find it."

"Ha!" I thought, "The rotten pig just skulked by my house, saw the open garage door and then just waltzed right in, looking to bust some heads, huh? That dirty fucker!"

"When did you say it was?"

"Saturday morning at about 1:30," I replied.

"Oh, Saturday morning!" He pecked a few more moments at the keyboard and then exclaimed,”Here it is!"

"Okay, let me see," he started, "The call came in at 12:55 am, Neighbor says garage door left open, Neighbor attempted to make contact at subject's front door, There was no answer, Dispatcher asked if the neighbor wanted contact from the officer sent to the scene, Neighbor requested no contact, Officer arrived on scene at 1:25 am…"

So it was all true. The cops were actually trying to help me.

Suddenly the watch commander stopped and chuckled. He turned to me and said, "Well, I'll just give you the gist of what he said."

"Did he write, ‘Drunken asshole then told me to get the fuck out of his house?” I asked.

"Oh, what the hell, I'll read it to ya," the commander said.

I cringed as he continued:

"I entered garage to make contact, I heard voices, An intoxicated individual answered the door, I explained that a neighbor had called about the open garage door, The intoxicated individual yelled repeatedly, "Get the fuck out of my house!" A second, less combative individual then appeared and said he understood why the police had been called. I determined that no crime had been committed, so I started to leave the premises, The intoxicated subject followed me outside and  attempted to shut the garage door on me. He missed."

Both cops were laughing heartily by this point and the commander turned to me and said, "Norman is a funny guy."

I had to admit that hearing the officer's dry account of the incident was pretty funny.

The watch commander told me that since no crime had been committed, no proper police report was filed. He then wrote the officer's name, the incident number and the station's phone number on a piece of paper, handed it to me and asked me what I wanted to do.

"Can you just tell him that I came by to apologize for being such an idiot? Can I give you my card? If he wants to give me a call, that's cool. If he doesn't, that's cool too." I said.

"Sure, no problem," he said, "He has to be here in about 30 minutes for roll call. I'll give him the message then."

I shook the watch commander's hand, said thank you and said, "You guys do a good job, thanks." Wait, who said that? Those kind cop words surely didn’t come from my lips.

I hopped on my bike and headed home. After I pulled into my driveway, I heard a voice behind me. It was my neighbor from across the street. "Excuse me!" She came over and before she could say another word, I smiled and said, "You called the cops the other night didn't you?"

"Yes," she sheepishly replied, "We that saw your garage door was open and you didn't answer the front door, so we though we should call the police."

I immediately put her at ease by thanking her profusely for calling the cops. I told her I felt bad because I was pretty rude to the cop and I felt so bad in fact that I had just come from the police station, where I had apologized. I also told her that if I ever noticed anything out of the ordinary at her house, I would do the same thing for her. She seemed pleased that I wasn't angry about it and she went back home.

I went about my evening and forgot about the potential phone call. Then, a couple hours later my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number.

"This is Dan."

"Yes, this is Officer Patterson from the Seattle Police Department," he said in a stiff tone.

"Oh, hey man. Uh, I just wanted to apologize for the other night. Uh, I talked to my neighbor and I know you were just trying to help out. I was a little freaked out to see a cop in my garage, but I totally overreacted. I was a real jerk and I feel pretty bad about it, so I just wanna say I'm sorry, man."

"Well sir, don't give it another thought. There was no harm done, so there are no hard feelings," he said, "Thank you for taking the time to apologize, I really appreciate it."

"Okay, thanks for calling. Have a good night." I hung up the phone and promptly went downstairs to make sure my garage door was shut.

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