Monday, March 12, 2007


Whenever I arrested someone during court hours I had to take them over to the courthouse on Lake Street and lock them up in one of the holding cells to await our audience with the judge. Typically we had to wait two to three hours before being ushered upstairs into the courtroom. There was a small table and a folding chair at the end of the hallway where I would sit and wait. I hated waiting. The only thing I had to entertain myself with was a tired stack of old Field and Stream magazines that some thoughtful court clerk had deposited there. Unfortunately, I had already thumbed through them during my first visit to the court, and no new magazines had appeared to replace them.

The four holding cells under the courthouse were painted yellow with a stainless steel toilet and metal bench. They were pretty stark, but the yellow walls were almost entirely covered with graffitti, which had been scratched or written into them. I have always enjoyed graffiti. Given an option between two bathroom stalls I will always choose the one with the most graffiti. It's interesting.

I remember one day when I was babysitting a guy under the courthouse and the other three holding cells were empty. I wandered in and out of them reading the graffiti. It was unusually interesting stuff. The messages had been scrawled with intense visceral and under the most emotional circumstances. The authors poured out their hatred for police, their enemies, life, society, etc... They wrote funny little rhymes. They drew lewd pictures. They claimed that so and so was a whore and a slut, and that Sgt. so and so was a "faggot liar." Interesting stuff.

I looked around. I was all alone except for the perp in the next cell. I reached into my pocket, fished out a pen, and made my own contributions to the wall of graffiti. Just to be cheeky I wrote things like:

"Officer Tate is one tough cop. Don't mess with him."

"Officer Tate is sooooo cute."

"Officer Tate is tough but fair."

"Officer Tate arrested me, and I deserved it. Thanks Officer Tate!"

I tried to think of some Bible verses to add to the wall, but I couldn't remember the references for passages that seemed relevant so I wrote things like "Turn to Jesus," "The truth will set you free," and of course "Jesus loves you."

I would love to have that opportunity again. The word of God never returns to Him void, and I wish I could scrawl some choice verses on the walls of those Holding Cells- where they would be read and reread in the two to three hours before the deputy came down to usher us upstairs into the presence of the judge.


Andrew Peck said...

Yep, that Tate, one tough cop.

Abigail said...

I enjoy these stories from your days as a cop. Keep 'em coming.