A while back back I was riding in 4-D, headquartered at 6001 Georgia Avenue and then a fairly new part of the city for me. The region is almost entirely black, and has everything from pretty tree-lined streets of nice old frame houses to ugly projects. It was about seven in the evening and still bright. I was with officer Brett Parson, a young white guy. He actually likes Washington. Not everybody does.
“We get some of everything in 4-D,” he said as we headed for a drug call. He had that right.
We went a complicated network of alleys and found a couple of police cars and several guys under arrest. It was a dime-a-dozen drug bust, repeated daily all across the city. As best I could understand, the suspects were innocent. Just about everybody who gets arrested is innocent. You could find a guy holding a bolo knife and a severed head and he’d say, “What head? Oh, you mean this head? I found it, officer. I swear it. I went and got my knife to protect him if they attacked again.”
Parson pointed out a circle on the ground littered with champagne bottles. No kidding. Apparently the dealers hung out there, and they didn’t want any of your down-scale Boone’s Farm or Red Dog. I was heartened to see that standards are making a come-back. The cars were high-end, though not BMWs or Mercedes. Parson looked at them and said something I’ve heard before from cops.
“I wish I drove something like that.”
“I can’t imagine how they can afford these,” I said, knowing exactly how they afforded them.
“They’re stock brokers,” said Parson.
Back on the street. For a while we did little stuff, looking for a stolen van, helping a guy who had been locked out of the apartment containing his clothes following a dispute with his girl friend. Then a call came that someone was threatening someone else. Parson sort of sighed and said, “I think I know these guys.”
Repeaters. You get people who call time and again. The next door neighbor is parking in their space. Burglars are in the kitchen, except they aren’t. There used to be a woman who kept reporting that police helicopters were hovering in her yard, looking in her windows. I guess either the choppers had short rotors or she had a low roof.
Anyway, we got to the address and found a painfully skinny white guy, clearly gay I thought, next to a frowsy woman who seemed a bit tottery. They were nearly the only white people I saw in five hours. We had better not care whether the country is integrated, because it isn’t. The couple began a complicated and not very impressive tale of woe. Somebody had done something, there was some kind of dispute, the skinny guy was outraged.
“He threatened me with a weed whacker,” he said.
It was a new one on me. I once heard a radio call for “ADW: needle”-that’s assault with a deadly weapon. But a weed whacker was a new concept.
On further discussion, it seemed that actually the bad guy might have been about to threaten, or had said he might threaten, or maybe he looked as though he might. Parson politely explained that no, he couldn’t do anything without more to go on. The woman was getting mildly agitated.
Finally Parson asked, “Have you had anything to drink?”
“One beer,” she said.
“How big was it?” asked Parson, who has been on the streets awhile.
“Forty ounces,” she said. Oh.
They weren’t bad people, not dangerous, just another unhappy pair in a city full of them and trying to do the best they could with the hand they were dealt. Parson calmed things down and we left. The skinny guy, incidentally, did not have the AIDS I thought he did, but something else.
Shortly afterward we and another car answered a 911 call to a nice house with a porch. We found a middle-aged guy curled up in a ball in the lap of a woman sitting in a chair. His face was obscured. He may have been sobbing. As nearly as I could get the story, he had gotten into a swivet because he didn’t feel loved. I’m not sure who had called or exactly why. The cops asked, Is everything OK, ma’am? Yes, yes, it is. The cops trooped back to their cars and returned to the job. Cops can catch criminals. They can’t make the world a nice place to live.