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Police story

The great Ken Layne tells it as only he can, a personal reminiscence that provides a bracing look back at the kind of old-time cop we all used to respect, trust implicitly, and admire—a noble breed which has become all too rare in Amerika v2.0, alas. They used to be the norm rather than the exception in America That Was, but tragically for us all, America That Was is no more.

Ripley was a Riverbank cop for a good long while until he went to work for the Sheriff’s Department around 1985 or so. He was one of those old skool small town cops, Officer Friendly if you will. Him being called out for something did not mean automatic arrests of everybody involved would be made “to let the courts sort it out”.

He was one of those cops that actually took the time to listen to both sides of a dispute, would pull over to help a motorist make minor repairs rather than just calling a tow truck, and would even give you a ride home instead of automatically arresting you if you had a little too much to drink provided you weren’t so fucked up you were driving on the sidewalk and giving whiney-ass sober citizens a reason to complain. On top of all that, he had a great sense of humor.

That’s not to say he took shit off of anybody. He treated people the way they treated him. 

Real Pancho was drinking at Sanchez’s Cantina one night and shooting the shit with Tony, the owner. Things got a little spirited between a couple of the customers, and the shit spilled out into the street. Rip was either called or was just driving by and stopped to break it up. After he got everything settled and turned to walk back to his patrol car, one of the drunks slapped at the back of his head. Rip spun around and dropped him with a hard right. Real Pancho told us later, “That motherfucker went from Andy Taylor to Buford Pusser in 1.5 seconds flat, homie.”

A bunch of us were sitting around drinking beer one Friday evening and his name came up, then everybody started throwing out theories on why he was so damned lenient, everything from compassion and understanding to being a local boy to whatever. George burped and said, “Y’all are overthinking this. Rip just hates paperwork with a passion, is all. He’d rather drive around in his patrol car than sitting in the station filling out arrest reports.”

Rip had a soft spot for anybody that worked out at the ammo plant, having worked there himself during the Vietnam war before enlisting in the Marines to go kill commies. As a matter of fact, on my very first day at work, the line boss I was working for told me to keep my work badge in my wallet with my driver’s license and if Officer Ripley pulled me over, hand him both and I’d probably get off with just a warning.

He wasn’t lying, either. A couple weeks after I started there, I rolled through a stop sign at about 10 mph and was pulled over by Rip, the first time I had ever laid eyes on him. As I was digging my license out of my wallet, he saw my work badge and forgot all about my traffic infraction. We spent the next 15-20 minutes talking about the plant and the mutual friends and acquaintances we had.

That’s not to say he didn’t write us tickets if we pushed it. We got a couple warnings but if we continued to misbehave, we got a ticket with him bitching about it so much we almost felt bad for putting him on the spot. “Now here I am trying to do my damnedest to be a decent human being by not holding y’all to the literal letter of the law, but do you appreciate my kindness and good will? Oh nooooo, you test my patience time and time again. I gave you a warning for speeding, then not a week later I see you blasting through town endangering law-abiding citizens and Mexicans. I’m gonna introduce you to my Maglight if you keep this shit up. Sign here.” It was hard to hold a straight face while he was ranting.

He was welcome out at my place and showed up quite a few times with his wife Jeri and sons. They fit in well anyway with about half my friends knowing him their entire lives. He wasn’t Rip the cop when he was there, he was just Rip the local guy. He left his job at work.

People smoking weed wasn’t an issue because he was usually gone by dusk along with others that brought their kids, and back then we didn’t smoke dope around kids. I doubt anybody would’ve put him on the spot by firing up a doobie anyway even if there were no kids around.

His youngest son pulled a trigger on a real gun for the first time out at my place, and him and his boys came out fairly regularly to hunt pheasant or dove when the seasons were open.

Rip’s story is a long ‘un, and also one of the best damned reads you’re ever going to see. It pains me no end to see my daughter’s terror and dread at every interaction I’ve had with po-lice in her presence—there’s been a fair few, none of them at all adversarial and/or confrontational, all of them relaxed, casual, even cordial.

True story: once, when we were pulled over for some piffling infraction or other (a busted taillight bulb, I believe it was), the poor kid actually burst into tears as I was talking with the cop—gasping for breath, shoulders heaving, great sobs racking her little body. The cop was horrified, and tried his dead-level best to calm her down, speaking directly to her in soothing Daddy-voice tones to assure her she didn’t need to be afraid, that he’d never dream of harming a beautiful little girl like her in any way, that his job was to help people like us, not to hurt them. Finally, he gave the effort up as a lost cause, apologized profusely to me, and we all went our separate ways. I felt sooo bad for the poor guy, I really did; it was perfectly obvious to me that he was a loving parent himself, the thought of any child actually being terrified of him just absolutely wrecked the man.

A few days later, I went so far as to go to the Belmont PD HQ and ask to see Officer Whateverhisnamewas (I had caught his name from his shield and jotted it down afterwards so’s I wouldn’t forget), whereupon the SGT on front-desk duty that day brought him out and I offered my thanks for his going so far above and beyond the call etc to be such a sweet, caring guy with my distraught daughter. He blushed to his roots at that, saying t’was nothing, he meant what he said about helping people like us being part of his job, the part he himself found most satisfying of all.

I then told him I honestly had no earthly inkling as to where her reflexive fear of cops might’ve come from, that I was working diligently to teach her otherwise. In my considered opinion, the blame for Madeleine’s mystifying breakdown couldn’t fairly be laid at his doorstep, I said, reassuring him that I bore him no ill will whatsoever over the episode.

After that, we chit-chatted idly about this, that, and the other for a few more minutes—turns out he was a drawling, born-and-bred scion of good ol’ Gaston County like I was, a natural kinship which gave us plenty to discuss—then shook hands warmly and again went our separate ways with a smile on our faces, a skip in our steps, and a song in our hearts.

I have this longtime habit, see, of going out of my way to talk to cops I cross paths with in my daily round, having had many friends, neighbors, and family members who served on one force or another since I was but a wee bairn. I’ve tried to instill in her from early on the idea that cops are not too terribly different from the rest of us workaday schlubs: some of them fine folks, some of them obnoxious pricks, but in the main just regular people who have a difficult job to do, about like anybody else is/does.

I want Madeleine not to shy from the police quaking with fright as if they were the Loch Ness Monster, Nosferatu, or the Wolfman with a badge and a gun, but to treat them just as she would anyone else, taking them as they come, reserving judgment unless and until they give cause to dislike and shun them as toxic assholes. In my extensive experience with them, act as if cops are actually, y’know, human beings and they’ll usually respond positively, granting you the same small courtesy in return.

This is just another of many thorny parental dilemmas every caring Mom and Dad worthy of the name must carefully consider, then choose the course of action that seems best for their child based on the information at hand, which is usually incomplete. As such, it greatly disturbs me to think that—what with today’s militarized police kitted out as soldiers in full combat gear including Level IV body armor, automatic battle rifles, and even tanks (!!!), faces concealed robot-like behind Next Generation Integrated Head Protection System helmets, NOD goggles, and opaque face shields, champing at the bit to engage their Enemy (to wit, US) and vanquish him utterly—by urging my kid not to fear, distrust, or abhor cops I might be doing her a serious disservice at best, possibly putting her in real danger at worst.

As I’ve said so many times, when we passively allowed marauding Lefty wreckers to take our country from us, many fine things were lost in the suicidal shuffle that were very much worth holding onto. Compassionate, dedicated cops of Ripley’s stripe who deem personal integrity, selflessness, and strict attentiveness to duty to be sacrosanct would definitely be one of those things. LESSON TO BE LEARNED: In the next iteration (if any) of the Former USA, after the grassroots uprising I call the Coming Unpleasantness© has concluded and the dust has settled, perhaps We The People will be more willing—better prepared mentally, physically, and materially—to fight, truly fight, to keep them.

Yes, that of necessity means violence, bloodshed, and war, and what of it? Real Americans realize that our freedom, our heritage, our traditions, our very society itself are all worth paying any price to maintain them. The simpering, pusillanimous wretches who preemptively foreswear violent action in defense of our unique American birthright have in effect surrendered already, mewling shamefully in favor of lawsuits, Congressional investigations, higher court decisions, and “elections” as if there was any credible hope in all that endless, proven-futile meat-beatery. So to hell with them then, sayeth I.


1 thought on “Police story

  1. “I have this longtime habit, see, of going out of my way to talk to cops…”

    I’ve always done the same. Usually you get back the same respect you give, sometimes more. In my entire life I’ve only had one experience that was bad, just a bad cop doing a bad job, and all over a routine speeding violation (like 10 – 12 over).

    We had our Officer Friendly at the local high school hangout. He was a professional, and dedicated to the job of serve and protect. Small towns still have those, neighborhood beat cops in the big cities still have them I believe.

    Tough damn job anyway you cut it.

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