Arrested for Attempted Murder: Don’t You Hate it When That Happens? By CAROL DENNEY

Friday April 15, 2005

I was arrested a couple weeks ago for attempted murder. The police take me to jail a lot for sport. I’m starting to think they should thank me for providing some recreation in their day. 

My friends are used to my getting arrested. I told one friend I was arrested for attempted murder, and she smiled and said, “I hope it was for a worthy cause.” Another said, “Don’t you hate it when that happens?” 

I’m not sure who I’m supposed to have tried to murder unless it was the traffic cone I took out of my driveway so I could go borrow a friend’s drill to install a cabinet in my bathroom. Perhaps the police thought I removed the plastic orange traffic cone from in front of my driveway so that I could kidnap it, and torture it to death. A friend pointed out this could technically be called coincidence. There may be a special penal code section on the mistreatment and abuse of traffic cones, with appropriately severe penalties. 

I would consider this, except that technically I rescued the plastic orange traffic cone from being run over, which infuriated the truck driver who’d put it there, who then blocked my car and called the police, who were only too happy to handcuff me, knock me around, and take me to jail. I’m a fifty-one year old woman, but this doesn’t seem to matter. 

They towed my car from my own driveway. In this way they manage not only to inconvenience me, but also to unnecessarily cost me lots of money. In the world of police business, if you couple knocking someone around with unnecessarily towing their car from their own driveway, it’s considered something like a royal flush. 

I photographed my own bruises, a lonely business. They will drop the charges after lots of pre-trial hearings. I’ll sue them, another mini-drama with no perceptible satisfaction. And that will be that, until it happens again. The last time it happened, around three years ago, it cost them lots of money, and no, it is not worth it. It is something you have to do otherwise they will do it all the more. 

There used to be a modest commitment toward police accountability in town, which would swell and recede with tides of police abuse. But little by little the outrage erodes, the old slogans seem unfashionable, and the budget for police review is bled to nearly nothing by a crew of liberals who state in perfect deadpan that there is no longer much need. 

Cast an original thought in this pond at your own peril. You will never be convicted of a crime, but your arrest record, in all its ridiculous pomposity, will stay with you. You will learn the assemblage of light jokes one makes when asking the tow-truck driver the favor of cutting your plastic jail wristband off with his pocketknife. And you can never call the police without knowing that they’re more likely to side with the person assaulting you, if they stop to listen at all. 

If you’re prudent, you always carry a tape recorder and camera, as I did that day, so that a little bit of the truth is allowed into the room over time. It may not save you immediately, but it will help down the line when the police are forced to explain how their stories managed to leave out so much. 

But no one gives you back your time, your unbruised day of casual carpentry, your sense of trust in the ordinary nature of the universe. These are the little things lost when a community turns its back on its commitment to an above-board police force. The big things lost, the potential for reduction in crime that can accompany a cooperative relationship between citizens and police, are reflected in the sad priorities of a cash-strapped budget that leaves a sparkling new jail where the old brand-new jail used to be, while the librarians are fired. 

The police faxed a copy of my arrest to my workplace. This has an interesting effect on the executive director of a non-profit. They appreciate the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, but that “where there’s smoke there’s fire” maxim keeps peeking around the corner. 

Off I go to a long series of court dates at the public’s expense. It is an odd sort of entertainment watching uniformed police officers try to convince the court that I should be convicted, this time of being a grave danger to the public safety of plastic orange traffic cones. And, who knows, maybe this time they’ll get lucky. 


Carol Denney writes the Pepper Spray Times, published montly in the Daily Planet.›