I want to share a blurred memory with you. This is definitely a memory, not a dream.
I know it happened, but I cannot recall some of the details. It happened over 8 years ago. I dropped in at Cambridge bookstore, and I want to say it was Porter Square Books. I wasn’t looking for a specific title, just enjoying being among books in neatly arranged rows. The salespeople were setting up chairs for a book reading. The author was a former lawyer or reporter. The book was about a murder case in NH, I think.
I was intrigued by the author’s observations about the police dedication to solving this crime. The police officers were white. The victim was a young, white woman, with an upbeat, likeable personality. The boyfriend, also white, was a ‘person of interest.” The writer talked about how the police had adopted this young woman. They treated the case as though she was family, a sister or daughter.
I was happy they solved the case, but upset when I thought of the number of unsolved murders cases, in which the victims were people of color. I shared my concern with the author and audience during the Q&A session. What happens in the cases where the detectives and officers are unable to identify with the victim and family members? What happens when the police are unable to find that bond, that commitment, with the victims because of group and individual prejudices, stereotypes, racism, classism, ignorance? Who is actively watching and asking the questions about the connections between history, prejudices, and individual/precinct values to outcomes (i.e. the number of solved vs. unsolved crimes)?
A friend, Gail Miles, was the first African American woman officer in Watertown, MA. She retired a number of years ago. In December, 2011, she was murdered in her home. The case remains unsolved. Friends and WBUR reporter Bruce Gellerman, raise questions that have yet to answered.
Closed minds create narrow definitions about what is and isn’t a crime, what behavior will be identified as worthy of investigations. For decades no one talked about battered wife/woman syndrome. Think of how many lives were lost before law enforcement officials recognized battered woman/battered wife syndrome and related violence such as stalking.
Unfortunately, the definition for stalking is defined in very specific terms as related to domestic relationships. The local police precinct in Jamaica Plain, MA provides services/resources to victims of domestic violence (i.e. stalking), but if the stalking doesn’t fit into their definition, well then, you are just out of luck!
Back in the day, when I was in first grade, our teacher “helped” the class write a poem about the Police. I remember the first line. “There is a man all dressed in blue, who is a friend to me and you.” We were all very proud of that poem. Now I ask: A friend to whom?
I know police officers are people; there are good fair officers and bad officers. I appreciate the service the good police officers provide. But I also wonder why the good officers tolerate those who undermine their good work in the communities they serve.
Too many news stories about the victims of gun and physical violence have led me to conclude that unsolved cases of murdered white folks become cold cases, while unsolved cases of murdered people of color become cases frozen in time!
As-salaam aleykum (peace be to you)
Janet Cormier is a painter, writes prose and poetry, and performs comedy. JC prefers different and original over pretty. She loves collecting stuff, but cleaning not so much. Janet also talks to strangers…a lot. Her column appears regularly in Oddball Magazine.