Charlie pulls this pink slip out of his pocket and gives it to me. It's a copy and the print isn't clear enough to read, so he starts his tale.
Charlie and his best bud, Keith,
walked over to a friend of Charlie's who had borrowed Charlie's cd player a few weeks ago. The kid lives about 8 ~ 10 blocks away. So, he and Keith walked over there, talked to the kid for awhile and got the cd player. Then the kid and his mom are going to leave for the library, so as they're leaving, Charlie and Keith are saying their goodbyes talking to them through the car window. As their friend and his mom start to pull off, a police car pulls around the corner, stops and the officer gets out with his hand near his gun and yells at Charlie and Keith to stop and get their hands out of their pockets.
This is what angers me, Charlie's friend and his mom just pull off and leave. I've got issues with this mom now, but that's a whole other story.
Anyway, apparently poor Keith doesn't get his hands out of his pockets quite fast enough. Keith is this sweet and extremely shy kid. Trust me, shy. Catch him off guard and he looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Sweet kid. So, the officer is telling him to get his hands out of his pockets again while he keeps his hand near his gun belt, and then tells them both to put their hands on his car and spread their legs. Another police car pulls up and they begin to frisk Charlie and Keith, asking them questions about why they're in this neighborhood and who had they been talking to in the car that pulled off.
This is where I started laughing a little. Well, the part when Charlie was telling me about being on the car with his hands and legs spread and the policeman patting him down, because he told it so fully animated.
Charlie said that he tells the police that he was just visiting a friend from school to get his cd player back that the kid had borrowed, and the car left because his friend and his mom were going to the library.
Charlie said that after the police let them go, they'd gone straight to Keith's house instead of home because Keith wanted Charlie to help him explain to his mom what had happened. Keith's mom was all in an uproar and wanted to sue the police. Charlie's all excited, saying the woman thinks we could get a lot of money because of the way they'd stopped Charlie and Keith for no reason. I tell Charlie that if the police thought there was suspicious behavior in a neighborhood that had been having problems, then they were within their rights to stop them and ask what they were doing there. Yeah, I didn't sleep through those two semesters of Criminal Investigations a couple of years back... Keiths mom wants me to call her so we can plan our strategy, lol. Sorry, I'd rather find out what happened and why.
I called and left a message for the officer that signed the pink slip (a 'juvenile field inquiry') and he called me back pretty quickly. I explained who I was and why I was calling, that I wanted to understand what had happened and why. The officer told me that they were in a neighborhood that has a lot of drug activity. He said it's an area where they patrol often and have had a lot of trouble with not only drugs, but with gang activity. He told me that when he'd turned the corner and saw a car stopped in the middle of the street, two guys (Charlie and Keith) leaning in the car and one take something from the car (the cd player) and put it in his pocket and the car take off quickly, it was suspicious.
The thing is, I can understand this. Charlie and Keith are big guys, both 6 foot, and Charlie is close to 200 lbs, long hair, baggy jeans... Am I stereotyping? Sure, but I'm just saying that I understand why it happened.
Then the cop starts to tell me how much fun he had talking to Charlie. Huh? Yeah, I guess they stayed and talked to Charlie for about 20 minutes. Charlie forgot to tell me this. Charlie saw the cops name, and asked if he was the dad to a kid he knew. Turns out he is, so Charlie knows this cops kid. Charlie tells him he has this kid in one of his classes and that the teacher seems to always pick on this cops kid. The officer told me that he really appreciated hearing that because his kid had been getting into trouble a lot in this class, and his kid was always telling him it wasn't his fault, and Charlie had just given credence to what his son had been telling him. Then the officer told me that he and Charlie got to talking about music (what a shocker there, lol) and Charlie had told him all about his guitar and the kind of music that he plays. He told me that it made him feel rather old when Charlie called the music that he (the officer) still listens to 'classic' rock. Yeah, I know that feeling. So, we talked for quite awhile, with him telling me several times what a great kid I have, and how respectful and personable Charlie was. He said that Charlie had been a good way to end his shift, that I had a great kid there.
When I hung up with the officer, I told Charlie that he failed to mention that he'd 'made friends' with the cop. Charlie then began to tell me that, yeah, the cop was a really nice guy. He told me how he knew the cop's kid and got to tell him how the teacher seems to pick on him for no reason. Charlie told me that the cop seemed really interested in what music Charlie played and they talked about guitars and how they differed in their opinions of what classic rock is. Nice guy, Charlie says.
I explained to him why the policeman stopped him, I told him about the gang and drug activity that is in that area and that what the police had seen when they turned the corner looked suspicious. I didn't know that where this kid lived was considered a 'high risk' neighborhood. The officer told me several things that have happened there in the last year or so and how it's one of their higher patrolled areas. Good to know. I told Charlie that if he needs or wants to visit his friend there again, I'll be driving him and picking him up.
The thing is, I think this taught Charlie a couple of lessons. First, it was his own up close and personal 'scared straight' moment...just in case . Second, there are consequences for even the smallest actions, such as being in a "bad" neighborhood (which Charlie told me that, yes, he did know there was that sort of activity on that and surrounding streets, but he was only walking through to get to his friends house).
Charlie told me yesterday after school, that Keiths mom had quite a different reaction when she called the officer I'd spoke to. Apparently she'd called saying they had no right to stop her child and treat him like a criminal. Their conversation didn't sound even remotely like mine, but she's seeing $$ with this and I see it as a lesson to all of us. Mostly, that at any and all times, you may find yourself having to be accountable. That's not such a bad lesson to learn, especially at Charlies age. Let's hope he never forgets it.