Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Respect For The Badge:

   Before I began driving, my father told me something that has stuck with me throughout my life. "If you get pulled over, whether the cop was right or wrong, you answer him politely and always with respect. We'll get things worked out later." Dad wasn't one to dole out advice, but when he did -- I listened,  cause he was usually spot on correct.  
   Being I was bit of a free spirit in my younger years, I'm glad I understood that Big Vito was teaching me respect for the badge, which helped me out quite a bit during, as my mom calls it --my crazy years. As an adult, I'm proud to call many who wear, or have worn that badge, my friend. It's certainly not an easy job. Not in today's day and age. They are normal people, who must work an abnormal job. Many raising families, and getting their butts out of bed every single day to support them. When I go to work, I complain because I've got to deal with my boss every day. But every single day I go to work, I'm pretty confident I'll be going home to my family later.
   The topic of the day in Troy is the recent bar fight, and how the cops handled things. How everything transpired will all come out in the upcoming days. Jumping to rash conclusions is an easy enough task. Monday morning quarterbacks, and justice junkies are debating the issue in coffee shops, and restaurants city wide. Living here all my life, and old enough to have actually experienced the old Strip along River St. - it's not the first big bar fight I've seen, or have been involved in. The difference between the large bar brawls of my hey-day, and the most recent one, is respect for the badge.
   For those of you who don't know, 'The Strip' was a stretch of bars along lower River St. I remember in 1975 one HUGE brawl between a local biker gang and a big contingent of RPI jocks. It began at the Poly Sage, over to the Campus Inn, and then out to the street. There had to be more than 100 people, throwing punches, bottles, and anything else they could get their hands on. Four cop cars roll up, night-sticks out, and within seconds, most stopped fighting, except a few drunks with Poyeye muscles being stupid enough to go after the cops. The officers did what they had to do, and messed up a few guys pretty bad. When the last ambulance left the scene about a half hour later, Officers Charlie O Konski, and Charlie King (first African -American Troy cop), stood in the middle of the road and yelled -- "In the bars or in your car's!" Not one person in the crowd that was left, including myself, did not comply.
   This was respect for the badge. When a cop tells you to halt --you halt. When a cop ask's to see identification --you show him your ID. And when a cop tells you to stop fighting --you stop fighting.That's not servitude, it's common sense, and respect for the law. When I was operating my 'Burgh Watch' group, we witnessed quite a few arrest. I've seen officers being spit at, kicked, punched and called every vile name imaginable, while trying to detain a suspect. We watched criminal's of all colors being arrested, and all were always treated the same. If the officer was in danger, he did what the situation called for. 
   They are paid to Protect & Serve, they are not punching bags for the public.  I understand that it's a new world we live in, and things are much different than when I was growing up in Troy in the 60's & 70's. But one thing never changes, is that we are a society of laws. Good or bad --they are there for a reason. 
   8 police officers walked into that bar last Saturday morning, up against a couple of hundred people who had been drinking, and who knows what else. Just try to wrap your brain around those odds for a moment. Then think of your family. Put yourself in the middle of an angry mob scene, getting pepper sprayed, not knowing if anyone has a weapon -- what exactly were the officers supposed to do? We're just lucky that no one got shot in that situation, a situation that could have been diffused, if there had been quick compliance. 
   So now, I'm sure there will be some lawsuits, along with the political posturing. If the people in the bar had just left, none of this would have happened. Only a fool would believe that the police went in there just to bash heads, or do this because of someone's skin color.  They went in to do what they are paid to do, protect the law abiding public, and the streets of Troy. 6 officers wound up in the hospital. With the odds they faced, we should thank God that they all got to go home to their families.