The bus sped past the old man with the bright yellow jacket and the funny fur hat.
He stood in disbelief that turned into anger when I called “What the hell was that?”
“Motherfucking police!” he yelled, pointing at the two illegally parked squad cars that had blocked the bus driver’s view of the stop. “They park there, not fucking policing anything!”
I commiserated for a second before heading inside the Chinese restaurant to pick up my curry beef. The four cops who just made an old man miss his bus were inside, laughing and joking in bullet-proof vests and city blue.
The Chinese place is always thick with cops. I don’t know if the attraction’s just a friendly face or if they’re getting a free egg roll on the play. I do know that day after day, night after night, the bus lane is filled with cop cars and the tables are filled with blue.
The Mexican place next door with the free parking never has a one.
“TIP- if you are walking down Ashland and need a police officer, just run inside _____- you will be safe there,” a Yelp review of the Chinese place says.
I’ve gone back and forth on how to finish this piece.
It would be wrong to posit a direct path between on-duty cops not bothering to look for legal parking during their dinner break and the torture confessions committed by the likes of Jon Burge and alleged in a thousand more cases.
It would be wrong to insinuate a causal relation between the egg-roll-loving officers that fill the bus lane nightly and the “code of silence” that seals disciplinary records and makes criminal charges against police officers vanish.
However, it would be naïve to imply they’re not all symptoms of an endemic disregard, of a police force that knows no one can do anything about their actions, big or small.
Cops risk their lives for us. They make the streets safer. They look out for us and protect us. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice for us, giving their lives in the line of duty. I don’t minimize that.
But I’m not the one trading on that sacrifice. I’m not the one turning a uniform that should make people think of heroism into one that makes people think of special perks and folks who can’t be bothered to follow the rules they force on others. I’m not the one whose actions make people respect the police less.
And for such low stakes.
The officers laughing it up in a little storefront restaurant on Ashland traded on the respect due the uniform, respect gained through the blood and sacrifice of brave men and women. They took that respect, took that trust and honor and traded it in.
They traded it in for slightly better parking for Chinese food.