I was counting police cars when the lump on the lady’s shoulder moved. “How old is that baby?’ I asked “Seventeen days,” she said with no small amount of pride, before turning her attention back to the fracas beyond the yellow tape. I nodded silently before following her gaze across the street. There, blue lights swirled and men in black milled about with heavy weapons held low. A few dozen feet away, a cluster of plainclothes huddled under a tree and fondled their walkie-talkies. Beyond them a K-9 officer and his dog stood ready as two SWAT team honchos gestured toward a yellow clapboard house on the corner. Through my viewfinder I could see what I thought was movement in the front window, but it may have been wishful thinking. Having circled the three block radius no less than four times, I was jonesin’ for some closure.
But police standoffs don’t come with itineraries; nor invitations, for that matter. Instead, they occur spontaneously , drawing the usual crowd of constabulatory, cameras and calamity fans. The inaction can stretch on for hours, until the individual in demand wisens up, falls asleep, or sucks in enough tear gas. Once in a while however, said bad guy can lose his grip on the spiraling situation and comes out guns a blazin’. While this happens far more regularly in hour long TV dramas, it’s not out of the realm of possibility in real life - especially with several dozen officers chafing under their Kevlar vests. Several years ago, I watched a deranged man run out onto his porch with a rifle in his hand. By the time I hit the pavement, several cops twitched their fingers and the man was crumpled down his humble home’s stoop, blood darkening the dirt…
“Don’t you think you oughta take her inside?” I asked the woman with the newborn on her shoulder. “Naaaah,” she said - as if I’d suggested she wrap the kid in tinfoil. Pointing toward the house on the other side of that not so thin blue line, she leaned over and whispered “It’s just Larry in there. Cops tried to serve papers on him and he didn’t wanna go. He’ll come out when he runs outta dope.”
Of course. How silly of me. Guess I’m one of those helicopter parents who swoops in on their offspring every time a SWAT team invades the block. Next thing you know I’ll be insisting they stop licking the asbestos from the walls of that old crack-house down by the broken glass factory. Of course I said nothing of kind to that young mother, but as we both stood there waiting for Larry to reenter incarceration, I marveled at the rifts of opinion that expose themselves along socio-economic faults. Hey, I’m no Dr. Phil, but I got sense enough to keep my babies safe should the neighborhood turn into a made for TV movie. I know people who slather bugspray on their kid every time he flips by the Nature Channel. Yet there are plenty of folks (white, black, plaid- don't matter) who’ll pour out of their homes and into the streets each and every time the blue lights began to dance. Just ask any photog who’s responded to a midnight murder. I’ve seen folks tailgate at drive-by shootings, clamor around dangerous barricades and heckle approaching coroner vans. But nothing got my goat like last week’s mother of the year, who drug her brand new baby to a violent felon’s going away party. Eee-diot!
There. I feel better.