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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 43
A Police Officer's Duty

“Let's take a breath of air,” Billy said to Captain O'Toole. “We could both use it.”
Leaving Kali in charge of the hostages -- they should now be called what they are -- Billy
and Captain O'Toole left Director Carson's office and stepped out the front entrance.
“My God!” the captain said. “Look at all the people!”
They were engulfed by well-wishers. An Hispanic man slapped Billy on the back, saying,
“You showed 'em, kid. Rick and Jag don't send our kids to the lock-up no more. That's all
finished! I saw it on TV with my own eyes!”
The same man pumped Captain O'Toole's hand. “Thank you, Captain O'Toole. Thank
you. What you did in there, we never seen any police officer do. Right on TV you
searched those dirty cops and cuffed 'em. You put handcuffs on cops! We never seen that.
You're a great man!”
The two made their way through the crowd but, with people pressing in on them, it was
slow-going. Every few feet there were more jubilant people, more hands to shake, more
food pressed into their hands.
“The people love you, Captain. Too bad they don't,” Billy said, nodding toward the police
officers on crowd-control duty, who were watching frigidly. “I'm sorry. They probably
think you changed sides. Have you?”
“No, they have.”
“Captain, I suggest we work our way back into the school.”
They headed back to the school and a large part of the crowd followed. At the door, Billy
paused and gave the crowd a big wave and smile. He shouted, “My friends, thank you for
being here today. Your support makes justice possible. I love you all!” The crowd
cheered. Billy said to Captain O'Toole, “Wave, say something to your new public.”
The captain, working up an awkward smile, put an arm stiffly in the air. The crowd called
for him to speak. Gazing out on all the smiling faces, Captain O'Toole saw only the
sneers of fellow officers -- and he turned to go inside.
“C'mon,” Billy said. “Loosen up. Throw them something.”
In a hesitant voice, Captain O'Toole said, “I ... I ... What I mean to say is ... is that ... no
one is above the law.” In a louder voice: “A uniform and a badge do not give an officer
the right to break the law.” The crowd cheered. Louder still and with feeling: “A police
officer who breaks the law is a criminal.” The crowd cheered louder. Now he was orating
forcefully: “He or she should be treated like any other criminal. No officer under my
command, and I mean no officer ...”
Billy tugged at the captain's arm. “Hey, we'd better go in.”
The two ducked into the school.
“Captain,” Billy said. “Sorry, but I didn't like the way those officers were looking at
“Thank you, but I can take care of myself.”
“I'm sure you can, but we're out here to calm people, not stir them up.”
“When I want advice from you, I'll ask for it. Understand?”
“Okay, okay. It would help if we were seen together in the dining hall.”
“To keep my inmates and your police from shooting each other.”
They headed for the dining hall. On the way, Billy said, “Could I ask you not to provoke
the police? Not what we're trying to accomplish here.”
“You don't learn, do you?”
“Sorry, just asking you to think in ... er ... you know ... political terms. Know what I
“Will you please shut up?”
They reached the cell where Dr. Kurlan was being held. He was lying on the floor. When
he saw Captain O'Toole, he jumped up and grabbed the bars.
“They assaulted me! They assaulted me!”
“We shoved him into the cell, that's all,” said an inmate guard. “He fell.”
“Ask Dr. Bridges to come and look at Dr. Kurlan's boo-boos.”
The guard went for Dr. Bridges.
“You're a savage,” Dr. Kurlan said.
“And you are a fraud and a thief.”
“I'll have to report this, ”Captain O'Toole said.
“Make sure you also write up Vera for smacking Emiliano Cervantes, even though he had
it coming as Kurlan did. Assault on a restrained, helpless inmate. Felony charge, I
believe. Guys are in this joint for doing a lot less and I'm one of them.”
“That's different.”
“Oh? Let's talk about how it is different some time.”
When they entered the dining hall, it was the indoor version of the reception they had
received outside. The two of them circulated the room together as the TV cameras went
on and reporters scribbled. East Side mothers rushed up and wrapped them in bear hugs.
The mothers kept telling the captain that they had never heard of a police officer doing
what he had done.
“You are a great man,” the mothers told the captain repeatedly.
“Captain,”whispered Billy. “I'm supposed to be the star here, not you.”
Like the officers outside, the ones inside made plain their feelings toward Captain
O'Toole. Captain Morrill's face was hard with acrimony. He had fallen from commander
of an assault force to enforced complicity in a topsy-turvy, police-bashing farce.
Whenever Captain O'Toole neared a trooper under Captain Morrill's command, the
trooper turned away. Even his own officers were cool, except for Officer Wynette and a
couple of other rookies. Still in their riot gear, the troopers had come to storm the place
and put down an inmate uprising; instead, they had been treated to one of their own
humiliating two of their own, in public, with the press grinning like jackals.
It was an affront to police officers everywhere. Unforgivable! One of our own turning
against us! Captain O'Toole the traitor!
For Captain O'Toole, it was his first experience on the other side of the legendary blue
wall, and it hit him like a kick in the head. This time, he made no remarks that could be
upsetting to police.
Nor were the officers any too pleased with Billy, the sicko molester of Joy Stojak and
who knows how many other innocent girls, dressed up in a fancy suit and playing
prosecutor, lawyer, judge, jury and hangman. With that turncoat O'Toole and that snake
Carson cooperating every step of the way, the kid had sandbagged Rick and Jag and
commandeered the media in a vicious attack on law and order.
Whenever he got within choke-hold range of an officer, Billy attempted to mollify these
impulses with chat about how delicious lunch was going to be. (“Oh, the oven-roasteds.
Garlic, olive oil, fresh chopped parsley; then, under the broiler until crispy brown.
Yummy!”). It was nearly noon. Billy told people that lunch would start in about twenty
minutes and the program was tentatively scheduled to begin again at around two.
He had no idea how he was going to feed everybody.
Sentiment in the dining room eventually tipped more toward a free lunch than an
immediate showdown shootout -- the lunch had sounded especially good -- and Billy and
Captain O'Toole eased out of there.
They went to the interrogation room where they sat down at the little table in the middle
of the room. Billy waited for Captain O'Toole to speak. When he didn't, Billy said, “So
you see the situation. Emotions are running high. There's a lot of confusion and a lot of
“What's on your mind?” Captain O'Toole said.
“I'm sorry. It must hurt.”
“I'll deal with it.”
“Having them treat you ...”
“What do you want to tell me?”
“Do you believe that I am innocent?”
“I don't deserve to be shot down like a dog?”
“Do you think I should be released immediately?”
“Yes -- with an official apology and compensation.”
“Captain, are we on the same side?”
“I'm on the side of the law.”
“Captain, I'm innocent and in prison. You're the officer who arrested me. If you come out
and say publicly that I am a victim of official misconduct and that I should be released,
the politicians will have to listen to you. I'm asking you to do that.”
Captain O'Toole took a Yoga-like deep breath, then let out a long, controlled exhale. He
studied the young prisoner sitting across from him in a fine suit, who by some strange
mystery held a mesmerizing power over his own daughter, who had the temerity to talk to
him man to man, and yet whose courage and resourcefulness could not be denied.
“Billy, I'm not a politician. I'm a police officer. My duty first and foremost must be to
enforce the law, not make or influence law or try to go around it. No, I can't do what you
ask. That would be taking your side. My place is on the side of the law.”
“Oh, my God. Javert. You're Javert!”
“Nothing. Maybe we'll talk about it some time.”
“Are we finished?”
“No, I am worried about Joy's safety. You heard what she said. Right now I have her out
of sight with two reliable inmates watching out for her. They have orders not to leave her
side. But if I ... if I'm not here to protect her .... Captain, can you put Joy Stojak under
protective custody?”
“Yes. There is a clear and immediate danger here.”
“Thank you. Also, Joy's charges against her father need to get into the hands of District
Attorney Conroy. Can you ...”
“Yes. It is an accusation of a serious crime.”
“I can consider it delivered?”
“I'm also worried about Vera.”
“Vera is my responsibility, not yours.”
“Captain, I have been here for seven months. In that time, I have had two visitors -- a
reporter I had to beg to come and Vera. Sir, Vera is the beat of my heart. If there is
shooting ... I can't bear the thought of her getting hurt.” Billy paused. “I am also worried
about your own safety, Captain.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“That may be, but in the chaos of shooting, a stray bullet could find you. Vera loves you.
I don't want her to be deprived of a father. She wants to be your loving daughter. She has
told me that many times. Captain, take her away from this doomed madhouse. Take Joy,
too. No one will stop you.”
Captain O'Toole got up and walked out of the room, leaving Billy alone to contemplate
his fate. He eased his upper body onto the table, head nestled into his arms, and remained
there in a soggy, ambivalent haze. He had made a strong case -- but why wouldn't the
system crush him like an ant running around on the living room rug?