The job? Okay, let me tell ya. Today, it’s all about the numbers. Don’t get me wrong, it was always about the numbers. Only today it’s harder to make the numbers. Time was you’d take a guy down to the cells, slap him around a bit - you ain’t been a cop as long as I have and not know how to hit a guy so it doesn’t show but the guy knows he’s been hit; know what I’m saying? – and he’d cough for whatever and you’d make your numbers. Now, what with Miranda and Civil Rights and, Jesus, they’re talking about human rights now, you look twice at a guy and he’s screaming for his lawyer. And these guys are criminals, right? I mean, if they weren’t criminals they wouldn’t be down in the cells in the first place, right?. That’s an old cop joke.
What? The numbers, you know the numbers. I’m talking arrest numbers here. They come down from the Mayor because, oh I don’t know, the number of burglaries or, or whatever’s he’s getting pressure about that month, and the hell with whatever it was last month. And don’t think you can make them just with misdemeanours. They chew your ass out for that. They chew your ass out if you don’t make the numbers; they chew it out if you make them the wrong way. Hell, I’ve been doing this a long time. You think they’d let up. I mean I’ve proved myself, right? I should be chewing out the younger guys’ asses, right?
The past? Well, the forties and fifties, now that was a sweet time. Back then, you made your numbers for the month and then, well, you were free for some private enterprise, right? You get what I’m saying here? Guy doesn’t wanna get slapped around, doesn’t wanna to spend any more time in the cells, so what if a fin or maybe a sawbuck gets slipped my way? Where’s the harm? I mean I’ve made my numbers, I’ve got some extra dough, the guy’s not getting slapped around, the lieutenant doesn’t have to chew my ass out, everybody’s happy.
Justice? What the hell’s justice got to do with it? I don’t make the rules. I just gotta make the numbers. That’s another old cop joke. Not that I don’t take the odd guy down to the cells and slap him around time to time. But now it’s harder to get away with. I mean most guys in the cells are dumb, right?, or else they wouldn’t be there in the first place but even the dumbest know enough to say ‘I want my lawyer’. Then the rules say you gotta lay off.
And cops today? These young guys fresh outta the Academy; all college degrees and Brooks Brothers, fast tracked outta uniform, looking like they just walked in off Wall Street or something. It's easy for them. They know about the constitution and rights and how to slap down a con or his lawyer without raising a hand. They make their numbers OK, no sweat. It's all computers and analysis and charts and profiling and stuff I know Jack about.
Yeah, you got it; it’s all about the numbers. Sometimes the numbers work for you. Mostly they don’t. There was this pal of mine, joined after the army same as me, down at the four-two. The numbers didn’t work for him. Only with him it was a pair of nines against a pair of jacks; you catch my drift? Then the sharks stopped giving and wanted paying. You get what I’m saying? In the end he ate his gun before the sharks did it for him.
My old lady? She don’t say nothing. On account of she ain’t around no more. Nah, it ain’t what ya think. Muriel, she didn’t mind being a cop’s wife but she didn’t wanna be no poor cop’s wife. After a year she saw that the numbers weren’t never gonna work for her.
The future? What future? Come the fall and I’ve done my 25. Maybe a box of half decent cigars – they don’t give away gold watches down here – but no one’s gonna miss me. The pension will just about pay the rent and keep me in beer and hamburgers. I’ve kept tight with a few PIs, sort of you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours type of thing. Not top drawer PIs. I mean they’ll cut a few corners; you get what I’m saying? So they’ll always be a little private work to put a pint of good rye on the table.
Am I gonna miss it? Miss being a cop? Well I ain’t gonna miss getting my ass chewed out over some numbers and I’m sure as hell not gonna miss some Brooks Brothers suited kid looking at me like I was something he stepped in, you know what I mean? Nah, what’s to miss? It’s not what it used to be; and it was never that great back then.
Like I said, all about the numbers. Only sometimes the numbers don’t add up. Yeah, that’s an old cop joke.
About the author
P. A. Westgate is an enthusiastic but sporadic writer. He lives quietly in his native Essex.
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