. . . which this reminded me of.
It was about seven in the evening, the end of a nice spring day, and my older kid, then a junior at Washburn High in Minneapolis (a school so badly run that they had to fire all the staff, including some of the best teachers, and start over, but I digress…) hadn’t returned home.
Not a big deal; she often went over to a friend’s house after school, and had been known to stay for dinner, and the nice thing about cell phones is that it makes it easy to check up on things.
So I called her cell.
“Hey, kiddo. About time to be heading home, no?”
“Sure. I’m on my way right now.”
“Oh? Where are you?”
A suspicious pause. “In a car.”
“[Julie] giving you a ride?”
“No. I’m getting a ride from a nice Minneapolis police officer.”
I opened my mouth, closed it, and opened it again. “Put him on.”
“I’m not in trouble.”
“Good. Put him on.“
“I can’t; I’m in the back, and there’s that — “
“It’s called ‘the cage.’ Slide the phone through. Now.”
The cop — I’ll call him Deputy Mike Williams, ’cause I got a strange sense of humor — got on the phone.
Nice guy. He started off by explaining that no, my kid wasn’t in trouble, and in fact, she and her friends had done a good thing. He couldn’t go into detail, he said, as there was another minor involved, but a friend of Judy’s had disappeared from school, and Judy and her other friends had helped the police locate her, after which, well, he couldn’t say more.
“You know my kid’s going to tell me all about it.”
“Sure. But I gotta follow the rules; I can’t.”
Which was fair enough.
I met him and Judy at the curb, and we chatted for awhile*. Officer Williams couldn’t go into detail, but Judy could, and she explained that a friend of hers — I’m going to arbitrarily say it was a girl, and call her Granola Oatmeal-Smythe, which isn’t her name, honest — had was going through some not atypical teen drama, involving a boy having dumped her, and making noises about maybe doing some harm to herself, and disappeared from school in the middle of the day.
After the school administration had turned a deaf ear to the concerns of the kids — the administrators at Washburn High in Minneapolis were not exactly reknowned for having working clueservers — the kids had ditched school to find Granola in Minnehaha Park, and enlisted the aid of a bunch of the boys and girls with guns and badges, and Granola had been located, unharmed, but still making those sorts of noises.
She was taken to the nearest hospital for the appropriate sort of observation, with very little protest. (My own guess is that the kid might, but probably wouldn’t, have hurt herself if she’d been dared into it, but the badged adults and kids involved had all taken a sensible approach, and it probably didn’t come as close to being tragic as it sounded to me, then, so I’m trying to downplay it a little.)
I could go more into detail, but if I do, that might identify Granola, so I won’t.
With the kid safe, it was starting to get late, and the cops involved all decided that they weren’t all that comfortable with just leaving the kids alone at the park to make their various ways home, so various squads had gone off in different directions with kids in the back, and if it turned out that that wasn’t exactly according to MPD policy, maybe I wouldn’t have any trouble with that?
I allowed as to how I wasn’t in the business of enforcing even sensible MPD policy, much less stupid policy, and we parted with a handshake, and a mental note to myself that if I ever blogged about this to fudge a few details to hide Williams’ identity, which I just did.
I was actually proud of Judy — although fairly irritated that she hadn’t informed her father (that would be me) as to what was going on, until it was all over. Minnehaha Park is not the safest place in town — there had recently been some remarkably unpleasant events there —
And she did agree that she should have, but pointed out that the kids actually were being driven around there by cops, and were probably pretty safe, under the circumstances.
Which is where I thought things ended.
But I was wrong.
Turns out that there were at least two people irritated by the whole thing — one of the vice principals, and the school
mall ninja security guard; I’ll call him Ken Jones, even though that’s not his name. Seems that their decision that there was nothing to worry about had turned out to be demonstrably wrong, and, let’s face it, tinpot dictator types don’t like to be proven wrong.
So, the next day, when Jones was searching through Granola’s locker, what he was really doing was trying to find some way to get the kids who had embarrassed him in trouble.
Which he kinda sorta found — Granola’s diary, in which she talked about all sorts of stuff, including some musing about how she might take an overdose of drugs. His keen quasi-cop mind leaped to a stupid conclusion, and he summoned all the kids who had embarrassed him into the school security office, to engage in a little amateur interrogation.
I think his theory, such as it percolated through Ken Jones’ pointy little head, is that if a kid is talking about taking drugs, other kids must be dealing drugs, and maybe that could be used to punish them for embarrassing him.
Which didn’t work, which irritated the mall ninja. So he called in the school “liaison officer”, a cop who I’m going to call “Dan Grout” — the name is pronounced like that stuff between tiles — because that’s the guy’s name.
“I know you kids were dealing drugs to her,” he opened with. “And if you don’t confess to me now, when she kills herself, I’ll see you all charged with first degree murder.”
At which point the kids started freaking out, just a little.
Including, on the inside, my kid. But only on the inside. “I want my father and I want my lawyer, now.”
Daddy’s girl did Daddy proud.
Grout snorted. “Like you got a lawyer.” (Not sure I exactly agree with your police work, there, Danny.)
“I have a lawyer, and I want my father and my lawyer, now.”
. . .
Which is kinda where I come in, a few minutes later, with the Vice Principal of the school calling me, out of irritation. He gave me a rather abbreviated and not entirely accurate version of the events — “We have to do these sorts of things for the children, of course” — and asked what I planned to do about it . . .
“Well, I guess I better get in the car and head over there. David on his way?”
“My daughter’s attorney. He’s on his way, right? I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t heard from him.” Then again, if he’s representing Judy in this, I’m just the guy paying the bill, not the client, and he’s got to at least talk to the client before he —
I think this is the moment where I realized that I was talking to an idiot: “Why would a child need an attorney?” he asked.
“Because of jackbooted thugs with delusions that the Constitutions’ been repealed for their fucking convenience,” I said, about as gently as I could.
“I don’t think I like your tone.”
“Well, good. Let me ask you a question — do you own your own home? Got a lot of equity in it?”
“Are you threatening me, sir?”
“Play the tape back, if you’ve got any questions. And, in case I’m not clear, nobody at your school — not you, not your mall ninja, not anybody — is to interrogate my kid on anything without either her attorney or me being present. You can talk to her about her homework, but anything else, David or I are to be there. On a good day, you might get us both. You got that?”
Long pause. “I want to hear a yes on that right about now.”
That was the last time the Vice Principal of that school and I had a chat about anything.
What we can learn from this is left as an exercise for the reader.
* Since I know somebody’s going to ask: yes, yes, there was a gun visible on my right hip when I met them outside, no, that didn’t enter into the conversation on either Williams part or mine. Wasn’t relevant.