The police are rotting my brain.
Let me explain. It’s not police officers who have gradually turned me into a jaded journalist with a suspicious eye on all of my fellow citizens. No, it’s this endless pile of reports.
Every business day, CMPD employees print out a pile of hundreds of incident reports for reporters willing to tackle it in search of a good story. And nearly every one of those days for the last 10 years, I have dug in to the pile looking for the most bizarre crimes to have occurred in our city limits.
I go through the reports at night for a couple reasons, not the least of which being that if I were to go in the morning I would have to fend off a slew of other TV reporters and/or their camera operators, all in search of the day’s juiciest story (as the venerable Glenn Counts once half-jokingly told me with a pile of police reports in his lap, “The truth is in here.”).
It can get mighty confusing trying to break a pile of reports into four and keep track of which pile you’ve already read and which you haven’t. Most folks in the TV game will help each other out, as they all have a similar nose for news and know which stories the others will be interested in, so they pull reports and share them around, saving time for everyone involved. Except me.
When I’m going through the daily incident reports, which cover everything from vandalism to murder, I’m not looking for the hottest breaking news story. I’m looking for the oddest news story, broken or not.
So I show up late, the rogue reporter sifting through the spent piles, all the breaking news squeezed out of them … or one might think.
By the time I begin my work, everyone in the records department has gone home and it’s just a couple cops manning the dais inside CMPD headquarters in Uptown, where the reports are printed each morning (Yes, this is done manually every day rather than placed online, but that’s fodder for some other, whinier column).
And that’s when shit gets weird. So much drama in the CLT. Going through these reports every day has turned my mind to mush.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am quick to be critical of police behavior when I think that someone or something is out of line. I think all people in power should be questioned and criticized regularly. A lot of people take issue with that and equate any criticism of law enforcement as being anti-police on its face. There’s just no room for nuance in today’s climate. That’s ok, and I think anyone whom I’ve reported on directly in the CMPD could tell you I’ve never been unfair to them, but again, I digress.
I say all that to say this, and I say it often: Anyone who goes through as many incident reports as I have over the last 10 years cannot help but have a healthy respect for the crazy shit that patrol officers go through on any given day.
It’s long been my belief that a police department is only as good as its worst apples, and building trust with a community means holding your brethren accountable from the inside.
So if I’m going by that principle, it’s only right that civilians do the same, right? On that note, get your shit together Charlotte. It would be hard for me to express in words just how much fuckery happens in this city on a daily basis.
You can try to get a grasp on what’s happening by watching the news. You can read the annual crime statistics. You can even read The Scanner every two weeks. None of that can make the everyday nonsense more apparent than reading every one of those God-forsaken reports.
I try to be conscious of what I include in the column. I don’t include incidents of domestic violence, suicide attempts or clear economic desperation (reports regarding the regular theft of diapers or formula hit especially hard). Some of the more bizarre reports may deal with mental illness or other issues that deserve real attention.
But even after all that, there’s still no end to what’s possible when you mix assholes and alcohol. It can be disturbing, it can be depressing, and yes, sometimes it can be downright entertaining, and one thing I can be sure of: It’s not going to stop.
So keep shit weird, Charlotte, I’ll be waiting … and wading through the reports.