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by Peter Moskos

August 4, 2010

"I feel as though..."

These are adopted from my field notes:
It’s 1am and ______ and I are on the way to John’s Express to pick up a pizza I ordered 10 min. earlier. They said they’re closing at 1am. I’m hungry. We’re going south on Broadway past Monument and the Hopkins folks are waving to us. I wave back. But they really want us to stop. “Son of a bitch!” I say.

The Hopkins security tells us that a woman with them there has been raped. I suspect she wasn’t. But it’s not an obvious failure-to-pay case so I think it may be real. I talk to the woman and ask her what happened. She was with a guy and says, “I feel as though I was raped.” The cop in me knows that the “I feel as though” means it didn’t happen. Still, it’s my job to figure out what did happen.

She says, “We was just kicking it.”

So I start asking the important questions. These questions might seem insensitive to some. But these are questions that need to be asked. And it’s my job to ask these questions. I can be sensitive, but I’m not a rape counselor. I’m investigating a potential crime.

“What is he to you?” A friend.

“Where did you meet him?” On Central.

“How long have you known him?” I just met him.

“What were you doing on Central?” Walking.

“Where did this happen?” Over down there a few blocks.

I ask some more questions. All in all, she’s pretty straight with me. And she doesn’t look bad for a 25-year-old (later I find out she’s 19). She tells me she wanted $20 and got $5. They have sex. It’s never clear to me exactly how consensual this was. But what she’s most upset about is not the perhaps forced sex but that he took her jackets before kicking her out. And not just one jacket, but three. It’s cold out.

I ask her--sincerely, not sarcastically--what she wants. “I just want my jackets back,” she says. That’s not an answer I was expected. But at least this, I think, we can do.

My partner and I go to the place where whatever happened happened. I knock on the door and someone else answers the door. Then the guy in question comes down stairs. I get him alone and say, “Look, this woman is saying some very serious things. [I don’t use the R-word because I want to cover my own ass, but I make it pretty clear] ... She’s also saying all she wants is her jackets back. Why don’t you make this easy for all of us and find her jackets and give them to us. Then we can go and leave and everything is cool.”

First the guy says he doesn’t know her. Then he says she was with his brother, who left [not very convincing]. Then he goes out the back [luckily he came back] and comes back with three jackets. We take the jackets and leave.

We give the woman back her jackets and she thanks us.

We tell the woman she should quit her crazy lifestyle and wish her the best.

And then we go on our way. I make it to John’s Express at 01:20 and get my pizza.
Best of all (from a cop’s perspective), because the call was on-view and not called in, there was no paperwork.

Did I handle this by the book? No. Was the woman raped? Hard to say. Could I have locked him up? Yes. Could I have locked her up? Certainly. Should I have locked either up? I don’t know. But I didn’t.

She wanted her jackets back and I got them for her. I felt strangely satisfied at how I handled this situation. Was I right?


Dana King said...

This seems to be a perfect example of the policeman's discretion you discuss in COP IN THE HOOD. Whether you did right or wrong from a legal standpoint isn't something that can be argued from the facts at hand, and better facts weren't likely to become available.

At the risk of seeming insensitive, I think someone who was willing to settle for getting her jackets back to call it even would have a hard time proving rape to any kind of jury. The guy she was with may have been/probably was an asshole, but that's not a crime.

I can't say if your solution was right or wrong, but everything seems to have come out about as it should.

Spark Check said...

Everyone walked away happy. And that's all that matters.