Sunday, December 1, 2013

Street Cred

"Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." Oscar Wilde


The word is meaningless in Denver. Snowstorms in June are common, 70's weather every February a right. On the last day of November 2013 the sky shone bright blue, thermometer pushing sixty. Short-sleeved uniform and riding weather. I spent nearly three hours on the patrol bike.

The shopping center surrounding Casa Bonita has seen better days. The lot is rutted and poorly patched. Many of the businesses have closed their doors. It has a sad, slouched appearance, the bright pink restaurant's tower a beacon in an otherwise drab landscape. 

Men and women sit at various points on the sidewalk. Outwardly, they are as drab as their surroundings - threadbare brown coats, soiled jeans and boots with laces knotted like a measuring rope. All have deep furrows on leathery faces, and when they smile.... Gaps. These are the hardcore homeless.

Under the veneer of hopelessness - the stories. Benjamin was a tail gunner in B-52s back when the crew member rode, alone, just below the rudder. "It made me kind of goofy" he says. Terrence was a gang member, hopeful that eventually one of the police women he asks for a date will say yes. Robert is an Army veteran who worked in Groton, Connecticut as a pipe fitter for Trident submarines.

They know all of our names, and our reputations. One officer is kind, another a task master. Our comings and goings are the subject of gossip and rumor - "Things are quiet," someone offers. "Is Agent ****** on vacation?" They ask about my Thanksgiving and revel in memories of their dinner at a church. I remind them that the weather is about to change. They already know.

Later, an officer spots a car across town associated with a homicide. The cavalry descends, a suspect detained. Standing at the scene, an coworker mentions to a detective from a mountain jurisdiction that I am also a lawyer. "An especially over-educated street cop" he says.

He means no disrespect. I laugh as heartily as everyone else. In a very real sense he is right. I've learned far more riding a police bike at JCRS shopping center than I did in law school.

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