Sometimes – not often – I bump into something so good that it would be bordering on criminal not to share. On this occasion, I felt that just passing on a link would be insufficient, as the original piece was in a language that only a small portion of the world’s population is able to understand. So I approached the author with the question if I could reproduce his piece in English, and he kindly gave me permission to do so. I really hope I’ve done his work justice. (If at any time and for whatever reason he chooses to withdraw his permission I will remove this post. This is, after all, his work, not mine.)
Ron and Mike Original by Derek Otte (translated into English by Jo) Once upon a time, in a society not dissimilar to ours, a select group of people was legally in charge of maintaining public order and providing assistance to those who needed it. This group officially went by the name ‘police’, although society referred to it by other – less neutral and at times unfair – monikers. After twenty years of serving the community, none of these were new to Ron, an armed, uniformed veteran of the irregular shift pattern. Ron was no stranger to anything anymore; verbal and physical assaults, stabbings and shootings, murder and manslaughter, suicides, road traffic accidents and other gruesome stuff, he’d seen it all. Over the years he had built a mental shield to protect himself against other people’s pain and hurt, although his compassionate nature prevented him from shutting off his emotions altogether. At times he’d find himself being kept awake by echoes of victims’ cries for help he had been unable to answer, and memories of moments when his own life had flashed in front of his eyes. Ron had seen it all, yet never stopped doing his job. He felt it was his calling, and it had become second nature to him; a call of duty he had been born into coupled with an almost insane hunger for excitement. Ron wanted to serve a purpose. He witnessed the worst, experienced the impossible, dealt with inhumane situations and processed even the most awful of cases, always with the utmost sense of pride and duty. Nothing could get him down, not even the aggression – bordering on hatred – he felt his uniform provoked among some memers of society during every shift. The hatred was something he found understandable, but nevertheless tough to deal with. He himself would find it difficult sometimes to distinguish right from wrong. Still, he would try to look beyond his occupational bias, knowing that respect is reciprocal – “You get what you give” – and his awareness that, at the end of the day, everyone’s human. Just like him. Though not so much like his colleague Mike. Mike was a country boy who, upon graduating police training academy top of his class five years ago, had moved to work in the big city. Mike did everything by the book and particularly thrived when it came to maintaining law and order. During coffee breaks he would visibly revel in telling wild tales of his heroics on the job. In reality Mike’s days were mostly filled with issuing tickets to ‘chavs’ and ‘muzzas’. Or ‘wogs’ and ‘gyps’, as he would call the ‘scum’ as well. Mike was an immoral prick. On cases of persistent domestic violence, where a woman would keep going back to her abusive spouse, he loved to come out with trite remarks of “fistfuls of love” and that “a man shouldn’t have to repeat himself”, which would always garner laughs among two-thirds of his colleagues. Mike was a self-absorbed, narrow-minded dick who would sell his own mother if he believed it might get him ahead. Within the ‘macho’ police culture he’d stopped just short of sleeping his way to the top: he had bullied, elbowed, brown-nosed, arse-kissed and sucked his way up to a dominant position in his team and within the department. His job wasn’t his calling, it was just his job. A job with authority and a weapon – that’s what it was about for him. It was that sense of power – and nothing else – that had made Mike join the force. A natural progression from his childhood days of being bullied, which had left him with a deep-rooted sense of inferiority that no one knew about. His self-esteem had long ago made way for a sense of emptiness that he’d been trying to fill with reproach by way of a big mouth and a pointing finger. Because he “ruled the street, god damn it” in a town he’d never even visited before he took on the job there. In the past year Ron had been sentenced to Mike whenever they were partnered up on duty. Mike would often give civilians a pompous rollocking, thus escalating perfectly peaceful situations into explosive scenes in a heartbeat. Whenever the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan, Ron would be there to clean up the mess, only to hear Mike boasting afterwards to colleages and supervisors how “he had sorted it out”. In reality, the likes of Mike were the main reason behind society’s ever-diminishing faith in the police force, and as such in Ron. Society would make no distinction between Ron’s professional demeanor and that of Mike, because the likes of the latter determined the police force’s public image. Ron would increasingly hear self-appointed experts spout their opinions in which he would find himself tarred by the same brush as the twits in uniform that generally deserved to be mocked, ridiculed, abused and condemned. Ron and at least 40 percent of his colleagues had given up the battle against this. They had either resigned themselves to this state of affairs or been slowly ground down by it until they could no longer cope. I would have liked to have been able to talk about how Ron successfully managed to plead for stricter selection of candidates recruited for any roles with a level of authority. I would have loved to have been able to break the news that he had been promoted to a coordinating position within the police force. I would have liked to have been able to tell that the media and society were shifting their attention to what the likes of Ron had to say. But nothing could be further from the truth. Even I have to conclude that politicians have shown no interest whatsoever in the stories told by Mike’s victims. After Mike beat up a drunk homeless man one day, supposedly because the guy had been resisting aggressively (even though another officer had stood and watched), local authorities sent Mike flowers as consolation to the public outrage poured onto him so undeservedly. Media and society were given yet another reason to pass their one-size-fits-all judgement on police as a whole and as such Ron found himself on the defensive again. Which was tragic, but understandable. Why? The higher up in the echelon of police you look, the greater the proportion of Mike-like characters you’ll find. Every ‘Mike’ incident like the one above further deteriorates the police’s public image; in turn society’s faith in and respect for the force diminish. As this vicious cycle goes on and on there will be less space for nuance, and an ever-growing gap between government and society, no thanks to political and media intervention. The solution for this problem is written between the lines of the above narrative. I think we’ve got a long way to go.
© 2012 Derek Otte. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.