Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Police Matters

May 31

I had a matter to take up with the Fairhope police yesterday. Not threatening, but serious -- something I'd as soon gone my whole life without having to do. I know the police chief from a situation of several years ago and I knew what to expect: respect, competence, and maybe even a little action in my favor.

It all took me back to the police force of Fairhope in the 1950's. There were two cops and a chief, as I recall. Ellis Newell, father of my friends Jack and Jerry, was one of the cops. He was a gentle man with innocent blue eyes and a sweet smile. Everybody said he looked too nice ever to arrest anybody. It was kind of a Mayberry situation, with Mickey Johnson as the chief, a nice, redheaded guy pretty much admired by everybody. Who that other officer was I don't recall; maybe a reader will remember and post a comment here.

That it all blew apart when Johnson was found with a garden full of marijuana in his possession is water under the bridge, I suppose. The community was stunned, and I still don't know exactly what happened, except that he paid his debt to society and ended up in a city in the north of the county, working on the police force.

Today's police force is a bunch of brawny guys. The man who helped me fill out a complaint form was conciliatory and kind -- easily 6'3" and 250 lbs. -- blonde, and probably about 40 years old. In short, exactly what you want your local cop to be. He may be the one who stopped me for speeding 15 years ago when I was in a hurry to get from Fairhope to Point Clear for a theatre rehearsal and was doing 65 on that straight road. He reminded me that the limit was 35, and let me off with a warning.

Living in Switzerland, I learned that the most efficient communities have an almost invisible police force, constantly reining people in and keeping the peace by issuing warnings. Almost everything is against the law in Switzerland, and the way it is handled is by a severe, "We'll let you off this time, but I must tell you that this is against the law." I've experienced some of that in Fairhope, and, for the most part, I'm comfortable with it.

Because, after all, if you obey the law, you are safe and protected. You hope.


John Sweden said...

Hej ff,

Time to return to my comfortable, but interesting place, in the cool shade of the “Butterfly Tree”. The piece on the police, certainly struck some chords. My dad was the chief of police in the small southern town of Coral Springs, Florida. There is an interesting set of corollaries of oppositions between Fairhope and Coral Springs. Both towns were artificial creations. Fairhope created by a group of idealists and, separated by a generation, Coral Springs was created by the Westinghouse Corporation in the early 60’s. One was created to demonstrate the benefits of a human commitment to social progress and communal living and the other to showcase and market the living benefits of corporate technological innovations. Both ended up with police chiefs being forced to leave town; one, for “a garden full of marijuana” and the other for his philandering ways with the women.

Makes wonder if there is some blogger in Coral Springs writing a book “When We Had Lights”.

Anonymous said...

This was my birthday there Gemini.
As USA teacher in early 70's , I found Mary Jane in the old fashioned AC cooling tower atop the Saenger theater in Mobile....
students , for the shame of it all,
were found out, but not by me.