MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Do you ever get the feeling that you are starting on the wrong foot and that you are a centipede ? Well, that's the feeling l got when l entered my Chief 's office that day. I was six months into the Metropolitan Police Force and the Chief still regarded me as a sixth finger on one of his immaculately manicured hands. I had topped my class at the Police Academy, had several medals for martial arts, sports, even boxing but all that seemed quite irrelevant as far as the Chief was concerned .
"You are here to chase, catch and arrest criminals - not mollycoddle them ! Haven't l told you that more times than there are hairs on your shaggy head ?" were his favourite lines to me
The other three who had joined with me were doing remarkably well. Every other day there was a violent arrest and the law breaker was brought in bruised, bloody and broken. The Chief loved this.
" Well done ," he would say. " We have to cleanse society of this vermin."
He would always have a word of praise for the police officer making the arrest , looking pointedly at me. If looks could kill , l would have died many times over.
" This is a society on the boil - anytime it can spill over into violence. We need to pre - emt that. We need to be feared", he always cautioned us.
How could l tell him , l was fighting fate and my own DNA - my father had been a belligerent, violent man , always beating up Mom, my kid brother and me on the slightest pretext or no pretext at all. We had relative peace when she divorced him and vowed to keep us away from his violent influence.
" My sons will not grow up to be even a bit like him ! " she swore and under her gentle upbringing we had grown up into fine young men. I had joined the police force and my kid brother was in medical school.
" But surely we can be friendly with the people ?" l had asked once asked my Chief .
" Yeah ! As friendly as cats are with mice ! "
He had laughed uproariously.
That morning l was particularly nervous. The day before I had caught a kid peddling drugs . I had not arrested him but had handed him over to his School Counsellor . She had been truly grateful.
" Dalton has never stepped out of line before - he has always got straight As , its just that his mom's cancer has seriously disturbed him..."
" Glad to be of help, Miss."
" Melissa , please, officer. Glad to see that police officers have hearts too !"
I smiled. I always believed in giving second chances.
To add to my list of growing misdemeanors, just that morning l had let off a girl who had been speeding.
" Officer, my grandmom is seriously ill," she had said with tears in her eyes. How could l give her a ticket ?
My Chief had a notoriously low boiling point at the best of times. That day when l walked in feeling as calm as a cat on a hot tin roof , he looked like a volcano about to erupt. He turned to me.
" Okay , Boy Scout , go and make arrests. Do you think you are here to win a Mr. Congenitality contest ? Well let me tell you, you are not ! You are here to locate, engage and destroy all criminals. Remember, fear is the key. "
I knew better than to say that l wanted to make a difference, l wanted to separate the first time offenders from the hardened criminals . I knew he wouldn't listen - he always treated me the way Cinderella 's stepmother must have treated her. No wonder l could never jump into the fray but always remained hovering on the fringe. Don't get me wrong. I loved my job but l wanted no unnecessary violence.
Feeling like an extra in a multi - starrer movie, l slunk out unobtrusively. I looked back on my performance so far. Was l really making a difference? Okay , so l was winning hearts - but were criminals really scared of me ? I had no answer.
I decided to go check on Dalton - actually l wanted to see Melissa again. She seemed kind and gentle - the qualities that always attracted me. The qualities l always admired, the qualities that reminded me of mom.
When l got to the school, l felt instinctively that something was very wrong. There was no one at the entrance, no one at the reception . The glass panelled cubicle was empty. The classrooms were empty too. Where was everyone? Then l heard a whimpering . I tiptoed to the stage entrance of the hall that served as an auditorium . A function had obviously been in progress . But what was this ? From the half open door l could see the teachers and students standing shell - shocked while a gunman stood on the stage , holding Melissa by the neck , " One move and she gets shot !" he intoned. He had a gun just inches from her beautiful , terrified face.
Then something strange happened - the hall, the students, the teachers , even Melissa disappeared. All l could see was the gunman. With an ear - shattering yell the kind l had heard on TV, l kicked the door fully open and flung myself on the gunman. The expression on his face was ludicrous. The gun flew out of his hand , two well aimed kicks had him on the floor . To say he was shocked out of his wits would be an understatement . I took out my so far unused handcuffs and handcuffed his limp unresisting hands behind his back. As he lay prone at my feet too frightened to even move, the world gradually swam into focus .The click of the handcuffs seemed to have broken a spell. Melissa rushed forward and clung to my one free arm . The Principal recovered enough to say , "Wow , Kindergarten Cop ! That was amazing ! Well done !"
And the hall erupted into frenzied cheering. The students and teachers could not stop clapping.
Finally , l was making a difference !