My speech to the academy
In part 1, I took up way too much of your valuable time listing the virtues of our City of Decatur. In this concluding chapter, you will finally find out what happened that night. Considering that no City officer has shot a suspect in almost 30 years, don’t expect a tale of carnage and sorrow.
I was charged with delivering a speech about my ridealong for the City of Decatur Citizens’ Police Academy graduation ceremonies. I present you with my speech (which includes a few redundancies from part 1) in its entirety:
Hang ’em High
As of 2010, I had a perfect driving record. Over 25 years of being a licensed driver, and I had yet to receive a single moving violation. Then, two years ago, my spotless history got a big ugly stain on it: I got a citation for running a red light. On my bicycle. That ticket was given to me by Decatur Traffic Patrol Officer Robert Lindsey, whom many City residents and passers-through know only as “Motorcycle Bob.”
Every time I recounted my embarrassing story to my fellow over-entitled Decaturoids, someone present would invariably tell a horror story of how “Motorcycle Bob” either COULD have let them go with a warning and didn’t, or showed what they perceived as an unusually high level of enthusiasm while enforcing the laws of the land.
Two years after pleading nolo contendre to riding my granny bike across Trinity and Church, I show up at Decatur PD headquarters for my ridealong. Wouldn’t it be funny, I said to my wife before leaving the house, if I got paired up with Motorcycle Bob?
The Good Lord must have been listening that night, and like that afternoon two years prior, He or She was in a joking mood. When the duty officer led me outside, who is waiting for me by his cruiser? You guessed it: good ol’ Officer Lindsey?
Runnin’ With the Devil
I won’t keep you in suspense any longer: Motorcycle Bob is a alright. As we’d say in New York, he’s good people ovah dere, if y’ze knowwhuddimsayn. I discover almost immediately that he is a big Van Halen fan, so there is no way that he’s NOT cool–unless he had expressed a preference for the Sammy Hagar-fronted version of the band, which I can assure y’all he did NOT.
For my ridealong, I had chosen the night of the Decatur Beer Festival, hoping that a day of chugging down opaque brews would make for a night filled with tipsy yuppies just asking for a night in lockup. I was disappointed to learn that the kind of people who can afford a ticket to the festival are also the kind of people who drink responsibly.
The night was not without incident, though. There was one moment of festival-related tension when Officer Lindsey stopped a group of 20-something pedestrians holding plastic cups. After he and another officer had what appeared from my viewpoint in the passenger seat as a friendly chat, he sent the folks on their way, AFTER having them dump their cups. I was a little disappointed. If it were me, I would have brought them in. I have no tolerance for drunkards. He told me that their honesty was a mitigating factor in his decision.
Only one other thing happened in the next hour of the ridealong: Officer Lindsey attempted to assist an elderly woman who was locked out of her apartment. As locksmithing is not included in the Police Academy curriculum, the officer could do little more than contact maintenance and keep her company until help arrived. I hope he got some cookies or ribbon candy out of the deal.
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
After an hour of bupkes, we returned to headquarters so Officer Lindsey could make a scheduled call to a witness. When we got back in the cruiser, he pulled out of the lot and, without warning, turned on his lights & sirens and floored it..
I have always wanted to drive through Decatur at twice the legal speed limit, so there’s one thing I got to check off my life list that night. We ended up on the Southeastern edge of town on what the in-car monitor labeled a “burglary in progress.”
Officer Lindsey parks the car, and before he can even get out, another cruiser pulls up behind us. Both officers exit their vehicles, draw their guns, and disappear into a dark driveway. After a tense half hour or so of telling folks passing by that I have no idea why four police cars are parked on their street, Officer Lindsey returns to the vehicle and tells a story about a drunk couple, a shower, a possible divorce, a broken windshield, and what ultimately turns out not to be a burglary, but a spat between a husband and wife who both had too much to drink.
That one incident made my night. Yes, it sucks that Mr. and Mrs. Jack Daniels can’t hold their liquor, but I wanted to see Decatur PD in action and I got Decatur PD in action.
I should mention that I never brought up my traffic citation with Officer Lindsey. Even if I wanted to, I doubt we would have ever gotten around to it. He had stories from his career as a police officer which I lamely tried to one up now and then with stories from my stint as a Unit Chief with the Boston DA covering violent felonies. I may have had more bodies come across my desk, but this guy doesn’t work from a desk, so the win was clearly his.
We found much common ground, from our disdain for people who think the law doesn’t apply to them, to our appreciation of classic rock, dogs, to our shared inability to understand why anyone needs a house the size of some of the ones that are going up around Decatur.
Here’s what I took home from the Citizens’ Academy in general and my ridealong in particular:
Though no town is crime-free, the decrease in crime that our city has experienced over the past few decades is no fluke: It is due in large part to the concerted efforts of our police force–a team of folks who not only enforce the law, they encourage and inspire citizens to share that responsibility.