Wally the Cop

Once or twice I might have mentioned that I'm not a 'support your local cops' guy. I don't like or trust the police.

I've never been arrested, never been beaten up by a cop, but I've seen brutality in person, made it around a corner just in time. I've known people who've been bludgeoned by police, and I've stepped over blood on the sidewalk afterwards.

Being a cop is the perfect line of work for bullies. The job is to beat people up, and cops who're especially good at beating people up get promoted.

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A whole lot of years ago, before my opinion of cops was fully formed, there was a policeman I knew on a first-name basis, and he knew me.

In addition to being a cop, Wally had a side job as 'security' at the restaurant where I worked. His job was to wear his policeman's uniform, and hang around looking tough. For this he was paid triple the workers' wages, and got a free meal every shift.

We got to know each other fairly well, and I liked him. When he wasn't in bouncer mode, he was a nice guy, with a rough sense of humor. His idea of a joke was, "I've got handcuffs, fucker," said with a smile and his eyebrows up. The way he said it, honestly, sometimes it was funny.

One night I was low-key flirting with another employee, a girl who became my girl a few weeks later. Wally the Cop was next to us, pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee, and he asked her, "Is this guy bothering you?" She smiled and said no, and he added, "Because if this guy's bothering you, I can make him sorry."

He was kidding. The girl and I both laughed, and I'm completely certain that Wally wouldn't have broken my legs, even if she'd said I was out of line. He was big and tough, that's all, and he enjoyed playing big and tough.

What struck me scarier than his kidding, was when he wasn't kidding. The restaurant had hired him because there were bars in the neighborhood, so occasionally trouble wandered in, loud and boisterous.

The troublemakers probably would've left if Wally the Cop had simply stood with his arms folded and glared at them. That wasn't his style, though. He was confrontational. There was never any of what's now called 'de-escalation'. Wally was an escalator.

He'd say "Leave," and if the person he'd said it to didn't walk briskly toward the exit, Wally would physically push them out the door, and follow. Once outside, anyone who didn't beeline across the parking lot and outtathere was in actual trouble, either with a nightstick or an arrest. I saw it maybe a dozen times, and Wally enjoyed it.

Which isn't merely my assessment. He told me he enjoyed it.

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A few years rolled past. I found a better job, and so did that girl Wally had volunteered to protect from me, but she and I were still dating. One night on her couch, she said, "Did you hear about Wally?" I didn't even know who she meant until she added, "Wally the Cop."

The newspaper said he'd answered an early-morning call about someone who'd eaten breakfast at a restaurant, then skipped out on the tab. Driving in an alley, Officer Wally thought he'd spotted someone who matched the description.

The suspect charged at the squad car, and pulled Wally out of the driver's seat. A struggle ensued, and the man got Wally's gun and shot him dead.

At least, that's the official story. There were no bodycams then, no cell phones, so whatever the police said happened is what 'happened'. I've never believed it, though.

Wally was a big cop — 250 pounds of steroids and muscle. Schwarzenegger in his prime couldn't have pulled him out of a squad car.

And he wouldn't have needed pulling. He would've come at the man like a freight train. He would've been amped all the way up, barking orders and swinging his billyclub, or beating the perp with his fists, or pointing his gun at the man's head or testicles.

My guess is, that's what happened. A man who hadn't paid for breakfast was suddenly in pain or in danger, or both, and terrified. Wally would've wanted him terrified; that was his strategy of police work.

What he hadn't anticipated was that someone fearing for his life would fight back. That, I strongly suspect, is when "a struggle ensued," as the newspaper said, and the man in the alley got hold of Wally's gun and shot him.

You might think I'm awful for disparaging a cop killed in the line of duty 40 years ago, but I liked Wally, remember him warmly, and wish he hadn't been killed.

it's a fact, though, not an insult, that he liked pushing people around. The official story of what happened that morning — with Wally entirely the victim, perp entirely the aggressor — is impossible. That's not the way Wally was.


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