The following is a work of fiction, based on actual events. The encounter between police and suspect were based visually on an actual incident, seen here at the Seattle Times website. Photo by Mike Siegel of the Times. All dialogue, characterizations, and actions are solely my invention.
“All officers, I have a heavyset African-American man heading south, 800 block of Maynard,” came a voice on Jon’s radio.
Jon glanced around. He was headed south on Rainier… he flipped the lights, blasted the siren for a second to get people’s attention, and whipped across two lanes onto Dearborn.
“Be careful,” the dispatcher warned. “Wait for backup.”
“I’m nearby,” Jon said. “There in 60 seconds.”
Chill, Jon told himself. Use the rage, don’t let it use you.
About five patrol cars reached the target all at once, and there was already a photographer on the scene. A plainclothes officer had detained the suspicious person by the wrist; another officer had a rifle cradled in his hands. Jon grinned like a wolf. Yeah, that’s right, show them that we don’t f*** around when it’s one of our own. Put the fear of God into them. We take care of our own.
After all, without that, how could anything be kept under control? Criminals were harassing good, law-abiding people in the streets. It was always the thin blue line between murderers and rapists on one hand, and citizens on the other — and now four of that line were dead. Jon could feel eyes on him, and even with the other officers nearby, even with the rifles and sidearms, he felt very lonely.
The plainclothes officer was handling the questions. “I’m gonna have to go talk to their families,” he was explaining to the man he’d stopped. “I have to look at their wives and their kids and tell them I did everything I could to find the man who killed their husband, or their dad. So if you’re not telling me something, I need to know it.”
“Even if I knew anything, why would I tell you?” the detainee said.
“I’ve got four good reasons why,” Plainclothes said. “Mark Renninger. Tina Griswold. Ron Owens. Greg Richards. They were good officers, and they got killed for being good officers, and we’re trying to find who killed them.”
The man looked him in the eye and said nothing.
The officer with the rifle tried a different approach. “Asshole, we could haul you down for obstructing justice.”
The black man raised an eyebrow. “Justice? That what you call it?”
“Okay, that’s it,” Plainclothes snarled. “Motherf***er, if I don’t beat everything you know out of you,”
“Hey, chill!” Jon said quietly. “Cameras.”
The plainclothes officer let out a sigh. “Let him go. It’s not the suspect, we’ve got nothing on him.”
The black detainee nodded, straightened his coat in a satisfied fashion, and walked on.
“You know the hardest part of this job? The people who don’t let us do it,” the plainclothes said.
“F***ing aye,” Jon said. “They tell us, get tough, keep the peace, break heads. They tell us, lock him away for the rest of his life. But they yell ‘brutality’ any time we try to arrest a guy who’s even wriggling, and let f***s like Clemmons out on bail or parole, and ignore us the rest of the time… unless they need us. Then it’s, ‘I called two minutes ago. What took you so long?'”
“Everyone’s gonna love us for the next few days,” the officer with the rifle said morosely. “Like when Tim Brenton was killed, or the Oakland officers. Lots of calls, lots of emails… I mean, I appreciate the support, but I wish, just once, that they knew what it’s like to be out here. Really knew. Juggling everything, always having to make the tough calls…”
The plainclothes straightened up. “Okay! We keep looking. Clemmons is out there somewhere, and we will find him. Good hunting, everyone. Now move!”
Jon swung back into his car. Every day he put on his uniform; every day he holstered his gun and prayed he wouldn’t have to use it. So far his prayers had been answered. But he knew he would not hesitate, if it came to that. No way to bring the dead back to life… but he could stop any other cops from dying.
You take care of your own.