POLICE AGAINST CRIME
Next day, the same blue-eyed young policeman was on guard in front of the police station entrance. When he asked my business, I explained about Volusia imprisoned in the iron box. He shook his head.
‘We have more important things to do today.’
‘But you have to help. You’re the police. You’re sworn to uphold the law.’
He huffed. ‘There’s no respect for the law. Look at this.’
He turned around to show the words scribbled on the back of his blue belted jacket:
HULLO, HULLO, HULLO!
I shrugged. ‘What does it mean?’
‘Disrespect for authority. Someone did it when I wasn’t looking. And I’m not the only one.’
He turned to face me again.
‘We’re not going to put up with it any more. We’ve decided to take action.’
‘A police demonstration. We’re having a demonstration against crime.’
I thought fast. ‘That’s a wonderful idea.’
‘There ought to be more respect for the law. I’m amazed that anyone would dare to write words on a policeman’s back. Let me have another look.’
Obligingly, he rotated once more in a half-circle. I slipped in through the door while his back was turned.
Inside the station, teams of policemen were working with hammers and paintbrushes, putting the final touches to their placards. I moved quickly away from the entrance lobby before the young policeman could follow me in.
The painters and hammerers were too busy to be interrupted. Nor did I want to make my plea to Inspector Strigor—in fact, he was the last person I wanted to meet. My attention focused on a party of senior officers who were circulating round from team to team.
One officer looked especially important. A dozen medal ribbons decorated his chest, a moustache covered half his face. The ginger of his moustache was not dyed but natural, which I took to be a sign of the highest eminence.
I hurried up and boldly introduced myself. He turned out to be Superintendent Trofim, in charge of the whole police station.
‘Would you say you’re a typical member of the public?’ he demanded.
His face was flushed and he seemed to speak with difficulty. Perhaps it was the weight of moustache on his upper lip. He didn’t wait for me to reply.
‘So what do you think when you think of the police?’
I decided to play along for a while. ‘I’m not sure.’
‘Then I’ll tell you. You think of criminals. Police arrest criminals, criminals are arrested by the police. Police and criminals. It’s an automatic association.’
‘Well, we’re sick of it. How would you like it? Always dealing with bad and nasty people. Always seeing the seamy side of life. It’s depressing. It makes us cynical.’
He gripped the lapels of my coat and pulled me closer.
‘It’s not fair. We don’t get to meet enough normal decent people. Like yourself. Are you normal and decent?’
‘All we ask is a chance to express our positive human side. Would you approach a policeman with your personal problems?’
I thought I saw my opportunity. ‘Yes, and I have a problem right now.’
‘Ah. A desperate problem? Are you in despair about it? No-one will listen, no-one will understand?’
‘That’s right. The woman I love is imprisoned in an iron— ‘
‘Good, good. Member of public approaches policeman as a friend. Person to person, no bureaucracy or red tape.
‘She’s being held captive by a group of religious fanatics—’
He beamed. ‘Excellent. This is exactly what we want to encourage. When you’re in trouble, turn to a policeman.’
‘What will you do about it?’
‘Do about it?’
‘You ought to arrest the whole group.’
His brows furrowed. ‘Why, are they criminals?’
‘Yes. No.’ Too late I realised my mistake. ‘I mean—’
‘We’re not arresting anyone today.’ He blew out through his moustache, which puffed up like a ginger cloud in front of his face. ‘We’re having a demonstration.’
‘What about tomorrow?’
‘You’ll have to fill in a pink form. It’ll go to the bottom of the pink form pile.’
‘Here.’ One of the other senior officers snatched up an official-looking form from the nearest desk. He thrust it into my hands. ‘Help yourself to a pen.’
I was brushed aside and the party moved on. Superintendent Trofim inspected the placards and uttered a few well-chosen words to each team of placard-makers.
I sat down and filled in the form. I don’t know why I bothered. There were boxes for
Nature of Crime
Level of Crime
Level of Person Making this Statement
I had just completed the last of the boxes when there was a clanging of bells. Everywhere, policemen jumped to attention, holding their placards high above their heads. Now I could read some of the slogans they’d been painting:
POLICE AGAINST CRIME!
CRIME NO, AUTHORITY YES!
WE’VE GOT THE CELLS IF YOU’VE GOT THE CONSCIENCE!
SHAME, CRIMINALS, SHAME!
They formed up in ranks, four abreast. I noticed they had small Austro-Hungarian flags attached to the spikes on their helmets. When one of the senior officers barked an order, they marched towards the entrance in a long crocodile. They chanted in time to the pounding of their boots:
‘One. Two. Three. Four.
No-one ought to break the law.
Five. Six. Seven. Eight.
We support a well-run state.’
After their departure, the hall was suddenly silent. I looked round and found a desk piled high with completed pink forms. I put my form on the top of the pile. Little did I guess the consequences.