She's a nursery school teacher. Let's call her Mary. And
this is a true story, though I don't want to use her real name. Mary is
about fifty-five. Stands about five-foot two. And is - I'd call
her petite (Sorry Mary. Know you hate that word, but there it
is. You are petite.)
Driving home on the upper west side, she comes to a light and waits to
make a right turn onto a cross street. She's in a hurry.
Aren't all New Yorkers? She waits for a while before realizing that the
light is broken. Cars behind her begin tapping - gently as only New Yorkers can - on the
horn. She waits a little longer and then slowly (according to
her) makes the right turn. A cop car comes out
from somewhere. With sirens and flashing lights pulls her over.
A big cop gets out, saunters over.
"License and registration," he says without looking at her.
She hands them to him.
"Officer, the light was broken," she says.
He studies the papers in his hand but doesn't look at her and doesn't reply.
"Remove your key from the ignition, miss."
She does so, and continues, "Did you hear me, that light is busted. I was - "
He continues to stare down at the papers, and she says, "Did you hear what I said? The light was busted."
"Miss, what you did is dangerous. Step out of the car."
It's a cold day, and she stands there with hands in pockets.
"It is a moving violation.
Do you understand that? This is going to add two points to your
"Yes," she continues, "but the light was - "
And back he goes to his car, and gets in.
Five minutes go by. She's starting to get ticked off. She's
freezing. She starts to walk over to ask if she can get back in
the car. He jumps out of his: "Go back to your car. Yes. Back to
your car. "
She turns and walks back. He follows her.
"I just wanted to know if I could - "
"Put your hands where I can see them."
"Officer, do you really think that's necessary?"
"Mam. If you don't take your hands from your pocket - that's
right - slowly - I'm going to charge you with resisting arrest.
Do you understand this."
She takes her hands from her pocket and stands by her car. She
turns and stares at him, trying to memorize his badge number.
This is really too much.
"Sir," she continues, "I just wanted some sign that you heard me about the light being broken. Did you hear me say that?"
And now he comes up closer to her. I suppose she should feel intimidated, but mostly she's just boiling over.
"Mam," he says, "do you understand that you broke the law?"
Now she looks down and just shakes her head up and down.
"Mam," I am going to need verbal acknowledgement.
And there is this long pause, and again she just shakes her head up and down.
"If you nod your head again, I am going to arrest you. I need verbal
acknowledgement. Now, do you understand what I'm saying to you."
She's toying with the idea of nodding her head again, but there are
things to do at home, and is it really going to be worth it.
She's thinking about what this would have been like had she been a
black teenager. She looks over into the police car, and their is
another officer there, a female officer. She tries to catch the
female officers eye - but can't make eye contact. She's wondering
what jail would be like, having only seen it on law and order.
She'd love to go into court and tell this story and confront this guy.
"Yes," she says softly. "I understand."
He hands her the ticket and papers; tells her
to get back in her car. She starts the ignition. Leaning down he says, "And mam, I do not
want you to leave until I have driven off. Understand?"
And she has a brief moment of glory when she nods her head and doesn't
say anything. He takes this in. But turns and gets back
into his car and drives off. She notices the decal: CPR (Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect * )
Another New York moment.
*The Police Department has developed the Courtesy,
Professionalism and Respect Strategy (CPR) to focus
on police conduct and police/community relations.
The strategy outlines various initiatives regarding
Professional Standards, Recruitment Criteria, Training,
Performance Monitoring, Reward and Disciplinary Systems
and Public involvement CPR is an on going process
and the department is continually developing new CPR
initiatives. Copies of the CPR strategy can be obtained
through the Office of The Deputy Commissioners Community