Sunday, July 27, 2008

Policing is only by Consent of the People

Scene: Small wheat belt town, population 90. Shortest distance to next town 70km.

Time: 10.30pm.

The pub is well and truly closed, the streets are empty, there will be no traffic before daylight, the silence of the bush (as much as there can be silence where 90 people dwell) has descended upon the hamlet.

A dozen or so assorted drillers, contractors and farmhands (one of which is Mine Host) sit on benches or lean on the wall outside the cafe opposite the pub. The cafe (which closes at sundown) has a large forecourt around the fuel bowsers, and is where these men have gathered to ponder their next move.

Their assorted vehicles remain centre parked facing the pub.

For the local cop is away, the town is under the reign of a relieving cop. For those not from a one-man police district, a "relieving cop" is exactly what it sounds like. A cop sent from elsewhere in the state to man the station whilst the regular copper is on leave.

A relieving cop is generally somewhat tougher than the regular cop, however this one is a nutter. Clearly sent by his current city station just to get him out of their hair, he swings between incredible ineptness (can't go anywhere without getting stuck/bogged/hitting gateposts or somethinng) and insane excess in policing petty bylaws (eg, bawling out kids for roller skating along the footpath).

Tonight he is exhibiting his naivety by believing he is going to book for drink-driving everybody who was in the pub.

Which is why everybody is sitting outside the cafe drinking stubbies instead of driving home.

The cop hasn't announced this is his plan. Just that at five minutes to closing time he drove to the school of arts hall on the edge of town and parked, waiting for the pub crowd to drive past him. (Yeah right, they are farmers, not fools)

Observing this, the pub clientele resignedly ordered a dozen or so stubbies each from the pub, and trudged accross to the cafe forecourt (where they can't be seen from the school of arts). Their patience will outlast his.

A little time passes, the cop begins to tire of waiting in vain. He suspects that his cover is blown, so he drives back to the police station and parks.

The crowd (well, dozen) at the cafe keep on drinking, their stubbies aren't finished, and nobody believes this cop has gone to bed.

Sure enough, shortly the cop slowly drives by the back street (the town has 2 streets) back up to the school of arts (he must think he is cunning).

The dozen at the cafe open another stubby, not sure which is the most ominous sign, that the cop drove back up thinking nobody saw him, or that he did it with his headlights extinguished, thinking that meant nobody could see him. What it means is trouble ahead.

Time passes. Still plenty of stubbies in reserve outside the cafe.

Irate that nobody is making a sitting duck of themself by driving drunk past the waiting police car, the cop blows a fuse. Inevitable.

It transpires the town isn't entirely asleep. A religious group (one of those hand clapping mobs) had been using the school of arts hall for bible study (or something like that) on this night. The class had gone late, and broke up as the cop sat outside waiting vainly for the pub clientele to drive past him while drunk.

One young man in the bible study group, aged about 20, lived right accross town from the school of arts. Probably the cop picked him out as the rest were old ducks or obvious "preacher" types. Also this young man was half-caste.

As the lad drove the 500 metres accross town from bible study, a route which took him straight past the cafe, the police car followed him closely, so closely it looked like they had locked bumpers.

As the young lad drew up to his family home, the cop pulled him over and proceeded to conduct a full drug check on driver and car.

He had the young man adopt a star pattern against the car, frisked him. Then had the hood & boot lifted, and proceeded with a full check of the engine block, battery holder housing, etc, all the places where drugs are stored in cars.

Watching with mounting interest, the dozen at the cafe are most unimpressed at this. While they view the religious clan with suspicion (due to clan rules like no drinking, no socialising with drinkers etc) they knew the religious to be of impeccable probity. On top of this the young man being frisked was well respected as a hard worker, an honest man, a thorough gentleman, and of upstanding character.

Their sense of fair play was outraged. This cop had gone too far.

With a nod to each other, three of the more well built & agile type, stepped into the street and yelled toward where the policeman was searching the young man.

The language Mine Host will not repeat here, for it was fouler than even his practised ears care to stand, but it was aimed at the police officer, and more or less translated to "pick on your own size".

With a "bite" at last the policeman terminated his drug search of the bible study lad, executed a u-turn and charged at the kerb of the cafe. Hitting it diagonally he bounced over it & came to a halt diagonally in front of the cafe.

Leaping out of the car he triumpantly demanded to know who had spoken like that to him.

Slight pause.

In a very matter of fact voice, one of the dozen spoke: "Get back in your car and get out of here so we can all go home, otherwise we'll drop you, throw you in the cage on the back, lock it, then we'll all go home and you can wait there all night in the main street locked in your own paddy wagon, waiting for the cafe to find you & let you out when he gets up in the morning"

For about half a second it seemed this cop was going to fall victim to his own hubris and try to arrest someone.

Something in the eyes of the dozen told him that they wanted him to make a move. The air was thick with threat.

The cop made a tough statement, but being as it was made as he stepped backward, got into the car & locked the door, his tough statement lacked any ring of authenticity to it.

He drove back to the station, parked, went inside the house, and the lights went out.

The dozen drinkers continued the party, finished the stubbies off, and drove home.

1 comment:

Umm Yasmin said...

Silly bugger.

I used to live in a town that only had two main streets, a school and a pub, up in far north Queensland. In that place, even after twenty years you weren't a 'local'.