Law and Order: OKC

7 Jan

Anyone who knows me, knows what a fan I am of the original TV series, “Law and Order.”  Place into evidence of my allegiance Exhibit Number 1:  the ring tone on my cell phone.  Smiles of recognition break out whenever it rings and the famous “dun dun dun dun dun dun dun” of the well-known theme song fills the room.   My loyalty to the long-running show has remained intact throughout the years of notorious pairings and re-pairings of detectives (my faves, of course, Jerry Orbach and Chris Noth), DAs (though none fills the shoes of the inimitable Steven Hill), and ADAs (I stand by my commitment to marry Sam Waterston, should he ever become available).   I can quote the opening lines:  “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”  Fascinated by these “ripped from the headlines” stories, I especially appreciate the two separate but equally important groups, enjoying how the show (unlike its equally popular spin-off “L & O: SVU”) is divided into two equally interesting segments:  the street and the courtroom, incorporating the best of both worlds.  My enthusiasm has known no bounds:  one time I even caught myself—a little late, perhaps—excitedly sharing details of a recent episode with the  students in my prison classroom, asking if they found the show as absorbing as I did.  Their looks of dismay did not necessarily curb my enthusiasm, but they did serve to remind me to reserve my “Law and Order” remarks for when I was outside the prison gates—a privilege we did not share.

My interest in law and order is not exclusive to “Law and Order.”  As mentioned above, the appeal of crime and punishment (also including but not exclusive to Dostoyevsky’s classic) attracted me to teach nearly eight years in the Kentucky prison higher education system and continues to contribute to a hefty classification of my library.  If I recall correctly, the first profession I professed as a child to wanting to pursue when I grew up (aside from longing to be a fairy, which is a state of being, more than a mere profession, of course) was the law, and I am not sure when teaching replaced that noble (or ignoble, as the perspective demands) calling.  The similarities are obvious, though the paychecks not “separate but equal.”  Even settled in my middle-aged vocation, I sometimes still find my mind drifting toward law school, though PTSS acquired from watching “The Paper Chase” years ago manages to shroud that phantom (pun intended).  And in spite of pejorative stereotypes and caricatures of cops both on and off the screen, I must admit uniforms do attract even cynical and seasoned feminists such as myself.

So when my colleague and friend invited me to “ride along” on his patrol last night, I jumped at the chance to see the underworld drama first-hand, from the front row seats if not the very stage itself.  Confident we wouldn’t see much action in OKC, I was rather surprised to learn the fair city’s crime rate ranks in the top 10 of the nation, though I was not privy to seeing much of it play out.  Just enough traffic stops of intoxicated or unlicensed drivers, the odd drug deal or gang activity, and the ubiquitous presence of “working girls” reeking of marijuana kept the graveyard shift from boring me to death without scaring me to death at the same time.  Granted, I don’t scare easily—I found as few years ago being in Belfast during the middle of an IRA raid “exhilarating” rather than terrifying, for example—but I wasn’t exactly on a suicide mission, either.  Many of the night’s scenarios were more amusing than disturbing, though it comes as no surprise to what depths human beings will sink these days; as I said, I am a seasoned viewer of cop shows.   What did surprise me was the calm compassion my friend and his associates showed toward every one of their “clients,” for want of a better term.  No matter how low the life, how obvious the guilt, each was innocent till proven otherwise, and each cock-and-bull story was listened to with respect and understanding.  None was made to feel inferior, though their choices that night surely landed them in the “stupid” class if not the city jail, and even repeat offenders—my friend recognized every one of the working girls from previous arrests—were treated with patient tolerance.  This certainly wasn’t the stereotypic behavior of our men (and women) in blue we’ve been led to believe.  It was a lesson worth losing sleep over.  Thanks, Jeff.

It got me to thinking about God.  How patient he is with our repeat offenses.  How stupid we are making the worst choices over and over.  How guilty we are and how weak, no matter how many times we vow to “never do it again.”  How calm and compassionate he is.  How blessed we are to have him patrol our lives to try to keep us out of trouble, keep us from damaging ourselves or others any further.  If we let him.   I noted how some of the lawbreakers last night weren’t so compliant.  Their sullen stubbornness only succeeded in elongating the ordeal.  Those who cooperated immediately were rewarded with quick and helpful treatment.  Like Jeff and his partners, God only wants what’s best for us; sometimes we’re too pig-headed (no pun intended) to let go and let him work things out for our good. 

Knowing Jeff is working on a PhD in English and teaching college courses part-time, I asked him if he were to leave the police force would he miss it.  Yeah, he admitted, though he did reveal it wasn’t easy being in a profession where everyone hates you.   Sometimes it’s hard getting people to do what’s good for them; in their arrogant ignorance, they resent the very one who is truly on their side.  And the more ignorant they are, the more arrogant; the more guilty, the more resentful.    Let me enter into evidence Exhibit Number 2:   a flashback of the vote against God at the DNC last year. 

But that’s a blog for another day. 

Rebecca Luttrell Briley, Ph.D.





One Response to “Law and Order: OKC”

  1. mickie January 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Thanks Beckie for letting me experience the interesting life you have had. I can read about it as I set in my comfortable chair.

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