Do-it-yourself Law Enforcement: the Self-Service Final Frontier

June 16, 2021

Appeared in the Christian Science Monitor

It was late afternoon and I was working in my home office. A 2-way radio crackled, and through slits in the closed blinds to my office I saw men moving past my window toward the back yard. I got up from my chair and quietly moved toward the bedroom. I pushed the blind open just a little and was startled to see three men pointing large handguns up into the big tree in my back yard. The back of their shirts proclaimed “POLICE” in large black letters. They stood there awhile, guns aimed at the branches, and then, weapons back at their sides, they conferred.I considered knocking on the window to get their attention. I weighed the odds of their shooting me, and then knocked. They walked over to the window.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. A bad guy was in the neighborhood, the black cop said. The do-badder was tall, dark and Hispanic, with a shaved head, he told me, and I should keep the house locked up and call 911 if I saw him.I assured him I would. I didn’t mention that two of the three cops in front of me met their bad guy’s profile. Instead, I walked over to the living room and peeked out the front window.

Half a dozen police cars were lined up on the street. A big, black, unmarked Maria stretched diagonally across my driveway, and a squad car blocked the street.My yard was at the center of the search.Then, I remembered. The side door to the garage was unlocked, thanks to my husband, Bob, who thinks safety precautions like locking doors are an affront to his manhood.

“You’re just paranoid,” he tells me .Darn right; just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t a bad guy hiding in the garage. I walked outside and up to two uniformed officers.

“Excuse me,” I said. They looked up. “My garage door has been unlocked this whole time,” I said. “Would you check my garage?”

“No,” said one of the uniforms. “The guy in your driveway would’ve seen him.”

I stewed. That door had been unlocked for hours and I’d have to open the garage door when I went out later. What if someone was hiding in there?A few minutes later I slipped out the front door and headed toward the officer standing guard in my driveway. I asked if he could check the garage.

“Can you open it from out here?” he asked. No, I couldn’t. My opener was in the car parked in my garage, so he’d have to open the unlocked side door and go in that way.

“I can’t open that side door now,” he told me. I looked at him quizzically. “Well, he might jump out,” the officer explained.

My eyes narrowed. My point, exactly. Would it be better for me to open it on my way to the mall? Armed with my credit card and the bag of sweaters I’m returning? When the bad guy pops out, I’ll just throw the sweaters over his head and tackle him. I’d do it myself. Just like airline passengers learned to do after September 11. I called Bob’s cell. He pulled up on the street a few minutes later, got out of his Jeep and showed the driveway officer his remote garage opener. Did the officer want him to open the garage door with his remote? The uniformed cop allowed as that would be ok. The door opened; the officer entered the garage and walked slowly around. Then, he did something that probably hasn’t happened since the Boulder Police asked John Ramsey to help search the house for his missing daughter.

He asked Bob, a civilian, to look under my car. “What do you see under there?” he asked.

“An Hispanic do-badder with a shaved head and a big gun pointed right at me,” Bob replied.

Well no. That wasn’t what he said. But he should’ve.

His actual reply was “I see a muffler.”

I wonder: Have we finally taken self-service to an extreme?

I don’t mind pumping my own gas, I don’t mind checking out my own “blue-light specials” at K-mart and I don’t even mind being vigilant on an airplane. But must we civilians now search our own neighborhoods for bad guys?
Please advise.

I’m off to buy a shotgun and a Kevlar vest. I want to be prepared for the next time.

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