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September 13, 2011

Cops “In The Street”

Roy Meachum

Many local residents were astonished when they learned the Fraternal Order of Police insisted City Hall should raise property taxes to pay the member cops off. As readers know, the boys and girls who wear badges on their issued-blue costumes already make an average $20,000 more than other municipal employees.


This supremely arrogant attitude was on full display at Saturday’s In the Street festival. My yellow-door house is in the middle of North Market that was marked out with No Parking placards. Fortunately my old car rests out back on the spaces that were carved out when a common alley recognized the dawning of the automobile age. They are private property and not subject to public laws.


Respecting the city ordinance that forbids four-legged creatures this particular Saturday, Pushkin led me on a stroll toward East Street, noticing the many children streaming to the festival. Furthermore, the first friend that shook my hands that morning was Police Chief Kim Dine; I dashed out for Thai chicken sold on the sidewalk that backs up to my stoop. He confirmed the no-Pushkin law.


My daughter-in-law was coming to Frederick’s malls to fetch clothes for her two teenage daughters. Waiting on them, my principal participation in the festival was to open the yellow door and to assure other people sitting on the blue stoop, they were all right. It’s my choice to live on Frederick’s main drag; I cannot deny anyone else the temporary pleasure. A four o’clock call informed that Kari, Elizabeth and Emma were running to make a birthday party, back in Howard County. So, I set out, all by myself.


Opening the yellow portal, a handsome white standard poodle stood up and blocked the doorway; his young owner claimed to know nothing about the no-pet ordinance. The chief and I had joked about the police tent directly across from my house: “To protect you,” Kim said. I went straight there that afternoon and learned no “sworn” officer managed the desk; wearing an official-looking tee shirt, the young woman fidgeted. There was nothing for me to say.


On every corner and in-between appeared eating-snacking concessions; side-by-side on the crossing streets, musicians and singers wailed forth. So many organizations, societies and official agencies manned — mostly womanned — tables, I lost count. Children of all ages were offered new faces by makeup artists. WFMD funeral-parlor type fans in hands, not always young, compensated for the lack of wind. After a week of rain, the sunshine broke out, generating humidity and sweat. I dallied in Volt’s courtyard and visited with friends for more than a few moments; that was on my return from Square Corner.


On the way back from Patrick Street, I noticed a half dozen critters bouncing along, leashed to adults. There’s no way I could complain to the numerous cops I saw, mostly coming in-and-out of stores; some bearing snacks and soda cans, which I assumed were gifts of merchants and concessionaires. At various points I asked them for Kim Dine; the answer was invariably polite and meaningless. The chief was said to be on South Market but he was not. I gravitated to a uniform with three stripes on his shirt; I made the observation the force was doing a “lousy job” in keeping pets off North Market. The sergeant replied in heavy sarcasm: “Thank you very much.”


Proceeding to the house, two officers blocked the sidewalk, seemingly expecting that I should walk in the street, to avoid disturbing their view. Not this time. I waited until both of them understood I was holding my ground, despite their rudeness. The English pointer patiently waited while I hooked up the leash to his color. We walked, maybe for a half-hour. Saturday was a thoroughly unpleasant day; and I was there for the first In The Street, in 1983.


Since the three places I bought since moving to Frederick have all been downtown, I have bases for comparison. The early years saw roaming drinkers; beer and wine very available. Dogs were allowed then; why they were banned, I have absolutely no idea. And I’ve read the justification. The police have no choice. When an ordinance or law is on the book, they must enforce it, or officially request an explanation. That is their duty. They goofed off Saturday.


The frequent “blue” attitude I’ve encountered borders on arrogance, i.e., the demand for a tax hike to meet FOP demands. readers were exposed to the harassment sent my way for ridiculing a police official elaborately staging a raid to impress the then-mayor. Of course, I paid, in money and great inconvenience for the continuing hassle.


But here I’m still writing, like the poet in Goethe’s “Prometheus,” and I’ll write for the rest of my life, decrying tyranny and bullying — until the One God removes me from the yellow door on North Market Street.


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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