Thursday, June 19, 2014
Tuesday – August 29, 2006: “Why shouldn’t someone talk to the police when they get arrested?” That was my question when my two “cellies” began to criticize my open communication approach with the arresting officers, as well as the detective the County I.T. guy eventually overruled to order me arrested. My father worked in law enforcement for nearly 35 years, the last eight years or so as chief of a large metropolitan police force. He and his friends were as good and decent as any people I ever knew, but this was a new generation; weaned on ‘Dirty Harry’ movies and being used as political tools, drifting ever further from the role of peace keeper. Police officers did not have quotas like sales people in prior times. In fact, the philosophy had changed 180 degrees; where once, how few arrests were made in a precinct was the determinant of a successful force, now how many convictions it could produce determined success. Also, to be frank, neither of my cellies struck me as particularly erudite gentlemen, though I’ll admit, both were shockingly well read. They had favorite authors, some of whose names I did not recognize, and yet, when writing, could not spell rudimentary words when necessary. They read incredibly fast too, different than myself, scanning information more than absorbing provocative thought from the page. I am still working on a theory explaining how someone can be a speed reader and an illiterate writer. I thought an unspoken competition existed between them to see who could read faster. This was the perfect place for such an illogical contest; there was a constant shortage of books, so why not rush through and get back to staring at the ceiling or conducting impromptu seminars on methamphetamine manufacturing. The uncontested king of conversation topics was what your charge was, and what strategy you would choose in court. Everyone knew how to work the proceedings in court to minimalize their time. It was familiar territory for the vast majority, and with few exceptions, they received lesser time than originally offered by the DA, or much less time in some cases. “Never take the first deal,” I heard dozens of times as I skulked around the dayroom. My first offer was five years at 85%, which I refused, and before I left the courtroom, I became guiltier and a more horrid criminal in the DA’s eyes (another cog in the machine whose modern office has quotas) and the offer was raised to seven years at 85%. It did not go that way for too many people, especially white people. At mail time legal papers would also be distributed. I was handed the latest police reports on my case. Now I understood why one should never speak with police unless a lawyer who is paid excessively to be there is in attendance, just as a lie detector with no attorney present to stop the tester from manipulating results was a bad idea. If a detainee opts to discuss events leading to the arrest, what happens is the retelling of events is opened to the interpretation of fiction writers with conviction quotas who recreate events to best serve their agenda.