This is the third occasion in less than six months that I’m writing about cops on TriMet. There was the arrest at the Sunset Transit Center in which a crew of boys (and a girl) in black (not blue) were collaring a scrawny pipsqueak in what looked like a Special Forces operation. And there was the cop who almost lost it when a woman loudly and persistently called him out for harassing a kid who apparently did not have a fare.
Generally, I respect the police. I very much appreciate the hard job performed by peace officers, a job that a guy like me could never do. Long ago in Detroit, cops interrupted a pair of bad guys who were robbing me and a friend at knifepoint. I’m forever grateful that cruiser happened by when it did. And cops cleared a mean drug dealer out of our Portland neighborhood a few years ago. So any police who read this, please understand that not only do I see you as people, I believe that some of you, sometimes, are heroes.
Last week, as I was getting off the Max, again at the Sunset Transit Center, two cops boarded – a big one and a small one. The small one held a leash in both hands against which tugged an eager German Shepherd. The dog led the cops through the car, sniffing for all it was worth – empty seats, backpacks, shoes, even crotches.
Before the team got far, a young man burst out, “What is this, Nazi Germany?”
The dog handler smiled photogenically. As they worked the car, the heckler revved up: “Do you want to know my race? National origin? Ethnicity? Age? Sexual orientation? That’s what the Nazis did. They used dogs. Hey, maybe I’m hiding an alien under the seat.”
When the dog sniffed him, the heckler said, “Look at this. What do you hope to find? This is an illegal search!”
Perhaps that’s not word for word, but it captures the spirit.
Credit to the cops, they stayed cool. Not to their credit, they brought a big dog into a car full of people without warning, maybe a well-trained dog for their purposes but with no apparent respect for riders’ personal space. The heckler has a point. The situation reeks of fear and sadism.
The big cop was about as warm and friendly as the mountain he resembled. The small one seemed to genuinely enjoy the sideshow they were creating. They finished and without a goodbye disembarked and waved the train onward. I passed them on the platform, sharing a nod with the big one. His name badge said “Stoner.” Really. But his face read, “On duty. Don’t touch.”
I was able to ask a TriMet guy who was checking fares about the searches with the dogs. He told me these are training runs. The dogs are learning to find explosives.
“Not drugs,” said my informant. “It’s fun, though, to see all the people who get off the train when the dog gets on.” And he gave me a wink, which I had trouble returning.