Sunday, September 17, 2006

Won’t Someone Think Of The Serial Killers?

I grew up near the extremely historic cities of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia, which are so jam-packed with memorials you can’t even fart there without stinking up some patriotic monument: Washington slept here, Cornwallis surrendered there, and the first African slave auction in America took place on this spot. Meandering through this region is a touristy road called the Colonial Parkway, which looks exactly the way a colonial-era highway would have looked if people had asphalt back then. There are no street lights or roadside businesses, the road is narrow and shoulderless, and the bridges and overpasses are made of rustic-looking bricks.

It’s a gorgeous drive in the daytime. But the dark, isolated parkway could be scary at night, especially in the late 1980s when at least eight people were murdered there by the Parkway Killer. They never did catch the guy. The police and FBI speculated that the killer’s modus operandi was to pose as a police officer and pull his victims over. And I remember the huge outcry when local cops insisted that yes, there’s a serial killer on the loose and he might be posing as an undercover cop, but you still have to pull over if you see a flashing light behind you in an unmarked car on the Colonial Parkway at night. The cops finally relented: okay, if an unmarked car tries to pull you over you can drive to a populated area before you stop. But don’t even think of speeding up in the meantime.

Since I’m not a sports fan I only just heard about what happened to Steve Foley, a linebacker (whatever that is) for the San Diego Chargers (whoever they are) who got shot three times by an off-duty police officer. The cop followed Foley for 30 miles, until Foley pulled into his own driveway. He didn’t show a badge or any ID; Foley was simply expected to take this stranger’s word for it: trust me, I’m a cop. Not in uniform, not showing a badge, not driving a cop car but you have to believe I’m a cop anyway.

I guess Foley didn't take the guy's word for it, so he got shot three times and his career may be over. We've heard about Foley because he's famous even though people like me have never heard of him. If those three shots happened to Steve Foley the office drone or Steve Foley the guy who's out of work, nobody would know of this at all.

Look, I understand why even honest cops who aren’t power-tripping would insist that people obey police with uniforms and badges. But what is the presumed benefit of telling citizens “you are legally required to obey any stranger on the street, so long as he says ‘I’m a cop’ first?”

3 Comments:

Blogger David Macharelli said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:17 PM  
Blogger David Macharelli said...

The same benefit it always is, Jenn. To indemnify police officers against mistakes or misdeeds.

It takes the onus off the individual cop, and places it on the public. That way, even when they're revenge stalking someone, they're still in the right.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Dammit, David. They're not even pretending to care about the public anymore.

5:01 PM  

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