Thursday, October 12, 2006

Recently I was desperately groping for some kind of law enforcement topic to blog about so I could somehow use a wonderful line from Firesign Theater’s Lt. Bradshaw: “Take a tip from a cop who does….” Then it struck me, like the hot kiss on the end of a wet fist -- I was once in law enforcement! I used to mete out two-fisted justice! In fact, I used to be a lieutenant myself!

School Patrol badge

The law enforcement agency with which I was connected was the AAA School Safety Patrol, or the Patrol, as we liked to call ourselves. I think I was in sixth grade at the time. Our mission was to keep the street intersections around our grade school safe for the kiddies younger than ourselves, to whom we were like gods.

Being in the Patrol was considered quite an honor, at least to geeks like me. We got to wear white canvas shoulder harnesses with badges on them, we were issued whistles, and we got to yell at kids. “Walk!” we would scream at a running child. “Cross or die, runt!” we would holler at some unfortunate little tyke. We would catch a kid carrying a concealed slingshot, whisk him off the sidewalk, then haul him screaming into the basement of our Patrol Headquarters and “debrief” him. Often he would never be seen again. We were quite the miniature Nazis. This stood us in good stead later in life when we became parents.

A really cool thing about being in the Patrol was that we got to show up a little late for class in the mornings and leave a little early in the afternoons. This was so we could practice our swaggering and clean the blood off our truncheons.

A select few of us were SS Patrol Officers. There were a couple of Lieutenants (I was one, heh heh) and the Supreme Overlord, or Captain. We officers quickly became strutting little martinets. It was us that maintained unflagging discipline within the ranks of the SS Patrol and kept it from degenerating into a (worse) bunch of thugs. In other words, we were the only thing that stood between the AAA rules and utter anarchy. It was a thankless job, I can tell you.

My function as Lieutenant was to run a string of informers in our grade school. The little weasels would come to me and tell me of overheard threats against the Captain, give me advance warning of potential runners, and squeal about planned uprisings in the fifth grade. As you might suspect, the SS Patrol would then execute the lot of them, often without the express consent of the Principal. We called it “plausible deniability” at the time. (This phrase has since found a wider usage.)

It’s funny, at this late date I can’t recall if the Captain was elected by a majority of the Patrol members or just appointed by the school dictator. Regardless, it was quite the honor (see geek comment above). Our Captain was John Peterson. I still salute him out of habit when I see him at our class reunions. At these affairs, by the way, we former School Patrol officers always manage to sneak away from our spouses and end up in a dimly-lit bar singing the forbidden AAA drinking songs far into the evening.

So now you know the story of the heady days of my career in law enforcement. It was indeed an intoxicating few months for Hulles. This is where I learned that power corrupts, and absolute power is actually pretty cool.

- Hulles

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