This week is National Police Appreciation Week, a time to honor the hundreds of decent cops doing great work in the city, instead of dwelling on the few trigger-happy, force-heavy, arguably racist ones who have dominated the last year's worth of headlines (because being good at your job is never breaking news). These are the stories of the cops we have loved.
The Cop Who Saved My Ass
A lot of cops aren't great to homeless people like me—either they hassle us or they ignore us. But last summer, one cop probably saved me from getting my ass kicked. I was panhandling on the downtown waterfront and had made about $20. It was in a baseball cap in front of me, but my legs were around it so nobody could snatch it (and also because my right knee is pretty messed up). I saw these thug-looking kids, three of them, eyeing the money. The sun was setting, and they kept getting closer and closer. I wanted to get up but I was afraid to—I knew these kids were going to mess with me if I moved. Then this bike cop rolled up. I don't know if he was watching or what, but he pulled between me and the guys. Then the cop helped me stand up. He asked where I was going and if he could walk with me. So I said, "Sure." He walked with me to get a burger, and we talked about the weather and seagulls and guns. The kids didn't follow us. It was a really good thing that cop did, a really kind gesture. I don't know his name, but I'll always appreciate it. JERRY
The Cops Outside the Club
I promote shows at the Crocodile in Belltown, where there's a significant amount of open-air drug dealing and violence. We have two beat cops—one's a little guy and the other's this massive dude, like 300 pounds or a robust 280. I think he used to be a Husky football player. They're always walking around, talking to people on the street, joking with business owners. About a year and a half ago, we saw a drug deal go bad outside of the Crocodile. And as we watched, these two beat cops went tearing after the dealer, chasing him down the middle of Second Avenue, right through traffic, on foot. Not only was it a hoot to watch, they caught the guy.
When we have good cops on the beat, Belltown is safer. These guys make a huge difference in the neighborhood. Huge. KERRI HARROP
The Cop Who Saw Me Drinking
It was a fine evening in May of 2002—that spring was a warm one, if such a thing is imaginable. A companion and I strolled down East Pine Street, enjoying a cold beer in a cavalier manner less than half a block from the Capitol Hill precinct police station. The voice of the law interrupted the strolling. It came from within a police cruiser, stopped at the light a mere stone's throw away. The officer issued a surprising directive: to chug the beer. I complied to the best of my immediate ability, then moved toward a nearby recycling bin. "Don't wimp out on me!" the officer commanded. I followed orders, then disposed of my container properly while exchanging pleasantries with the officer. His parting words (and his only warning): "Remember—throwing away beer is a crime." If we cannot do away with Seattle Municipal Code 12A.24.025, it is a delight to find an officer who recognizes the inanity of disallowing responsible adults to responsibly consume alcohol in public on a beautiful May evening—and one who is willing to disregard the law in favor of a greater universal moral code. BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT
The Cop in My Rearview Mirror
I'm driving west on Highway 16 in Tacoma, middle lane, music up, arm halfway out the window, passing the giant red Target target on a sunny afternoon. I notice a cop behind me, so I check my speed: a little fast. I slow down—he drives closer. I start to feel that familiar feeling I get at the border or the DMV, that I am guilty of something I have not done. I tense up. I turn down the music but not too much. I'm not turning it all the way off! I haven't done anything wrong! Or have I? The police car pulls into the left lane and sidles up next to me. I don't look over at first, but he stays there, stalking me. I am terrified. I get up the gumption to look over, and he is looking at me. Defeated, I switch off the music. I'm grimly ready for whatever punishment is coming my way when I hear, like the principal's voice on a loudspeaker, the flat, serious words "PLEASE. TURN OFF YOUR BLINKER." JEN GRAVES
The Cop Who Caught the Guy
Two years ago, my house on south Beacon Hill was robbed of everything of value.
The first responding officer was straight-up with us: These things don't often get solved. He gave us the contact info for the community patrol officer and sat with us a bit, talking about the next steps in the case.
The next day while cleaning up, I discovered some broken glass under the bed, with blood, so I called the nonemergency line and within an hour, another officer arrived. He apologized for being late—something that blew my mind—and told my wife and me he had come from a robbery just like ours down the street. He thought they had a lead.
A few days later, a detective knocked on my door with some follow-up questions about the robbery. He also had the kid who robbed my place in the fucking van right in front of my house. We ended up getting back some of our CDs and DVDs. I've never had good experiences with cops, but these guys were really professional—they stayed in touch afterward and let us know how things were coming. And really, that's the best you can ask for when you've been robbed, cops who are sensitive enough to make your shitty experience slightly better. BRIAN McGUIGAN
The Cop at the Party
It was New Year's Eve, and the theme of the party was Mexico. I bought 25 bags of different kinds of tortilla chips and poured them into round green tub and called it Chip Mountain. Hours into the party and unbeknownst to me, an inebriated friend dumped Chip Mountain out my sixth-floor window. I live at the intersection of two major arterials, and considering the holiday, the streets were covered in cops, including two of them standing a few feet from where the dozen-or-so-bags' worth of chips landed. When the cops looked up at the source of the avalanche of chips, they saw something even more distressing coming out of the windows of my apartment: fireworks. For a brief, beautiful, unforgettable moment, the party was awash in bright-white cop lights beaming up from the street, and then, like thunder, came that God-is-speaking-to-you megaphone voice. I stepped out into the hallway to greet them—a talkative lesbian (I'm guessing) and a shy short guy (both very pleasant). They asked if I knew that guests were dumping things out my window and shooting explosives at pedestrians. I said I didn't. I was not lying. The amazing thing is they believed me. We had a sincere conversation about public safety, I assured them I would speak to my guests about refraining from six-story projectiles and blowing up passersby, they said they understood that celebrations could get a little too celebratory on nights like tonight, and turned on their heels and left. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
The Cop in New York City
I was in the back of his squad car, crying. Not far away, my then boyfriend was in the back of an ambulance, bleeding, on his way to the emergency room.
"It's okay," the cop told me. "We're going to find the guy."
We had been walking together down Sixth Avenue south of Chelsea when some guy—young, menacing, mad about something—walked past us and, without saying a word, punched my boyfriend in the back of the head as hard he could.
Maybe it was a gay-bashing. Maybe it was something else. It was hard to tell. The guy just kept on walking.
We needed help. The guy had been wearing a ring that gouged the back of my boyfriend's head, and now there was blood everywhere. All over my boyfriend's neck, his shirt, my hands. It was terrifying.
I held it together long enough to get my boyfriend into an ambulance. But once I was in the back of the cop car looking for the guy who attacked my boyfriend, I lost it.
I felt embarrassed. I was blubbering about something that was probably, in the scheme of what he'd seen, relatively minor. Also: I was blubbering—like, really blubbering—and the cop was a big, beefy, commutes-in-from-Long-Island type.
He was a total pro, though. He helped me calm down enough to describe the guy's clothes, height, and—this is the part I remembered most clearly, because it was so ridiculous—the guy's row of gold-capped teeth. The cop got on the radio, and pretty soon, as promised, they got him. We drove over to a brick apartment building wall the guy was being held against, and the cop got out of the squad car and stood next to me, protective-like.
"That him?" the cop asked.
"Yes, officer," I said. "Thank you so much." ELI SANDERS
The Cop Who Didn't Shoot Me
"Shit!" I yelled as the flashing lights appeared in my rearview mirror, just days after getting my driver's license. Had I run a red light? Was I speeding? Maybe. I was too nervous to be sure. So I pulled to the curb and anxiously waited for the officer to approach.
After what seemed like minutes, I rolled down the window and stuck my head out to see what was happening. It was then that the officer, crouching behind the door of his patrol car, swung his revolver toward me, screaming: "Freeze... drop your guns!"
It was 1980. Dressed as Arab terrorists for a skit in a high school show, we'd made a last-minute burger run—in character—my comrades-in-fake-arms shooting their cap guns and starter pistols out the windows as I white-knuckled my way through traffic. Stupid fucking teenagers.
"But they're only toys..." my friend Philip half-giggled, oblivious to the danger, as he extended a particularly ludicrous prop out his window, a flimsy plastic caricature of a tommy gun held together with a piece of silver duct tape. "Drop 'em!" the officer repeated threateningly, swinging his very real weapon in Philip's direction. We carefully complied, slowing sliding our ridiculous arsenal of toys and cardboard cutouts onto the pavement, as the absurd reality of the situation slowly dawned on the officer.
Holstering his gun with an audible sigh, you could see a mixture of relief and embarrassment cross the officer's face as he muttered something into his microphone. The excited radio chatter suddenly ceased. There was a long pause, followed by a disappointed "Oh."
Nowadays, such an incident would likely end in suicide-by-cop. If we had been shot, the cop would have been excused. But thanks to the composure and common sense of the officer, we all walked away with nothing but a stern warning and a story to tell. GOLDY
The Cop Who Is All About Being Nice
If someone calls 911 for a nonemergency—say, a neighbor's outdoor cigar smoking is drifting over the fence and polluting their life—chances are the complaint will be forwarded to Seattle police sergeant Paul Gracy. An affable 31-year-veteran of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), he runs the West Precinct Community Police Team.
"We are the friendly face of SPD," intones Gracy in his West Precinct office on Eighth Avenue and Virginia Street.
A typical day for his team? Driving cold-weather vans around to hand out food and socks, and give free rides to shelters. Or visiting with school children. Or calling the Seattle Department of Transportation on behalf of a neighbor to report bad lighting or a crumbling sidewalk. Or linking mentally ill people up with the appropriate services. "It doesn't matter which population we're dealing with, it takes multiple contacts to build trust," Gracy explains. "But every positive encounter helps build our good reputation."
This sort of function—building a good rapport with residents—is exactly what SPD needs more of to combat the public's negative associations with less-friendly cops. "A lot of interactions people have stem from public fights, robberies, being pulled over, generally the bad stuff," he says. "It'd be nice if everyone liked us. But when you arrest people, a certain level of dislike comes with the territory, so the most honorable thing we can do is be as nice as humanly possible in the face of anything that's thrown our way. It's a simple thing—being nice. But it reminds people we're here to help, not just police." CIENNA MADRID