Probation Officer #123: An afternoon with the police 4

A uniformed cop showed us through to the office of the Police Commissioner, who Jock had been calling the Chief. There was faint derision there. 

tanThe Chief – I’m afraid I’m following Jock’s derisive view  – was Greg Maynard, a trim man with tan spectacles, a greenish tan suit, and neat sandy hair. He was waiting in his office, alone. He was confidant he could handle Jock, as the head of a service with less statutory power, a lower profile and smaller budget. Since I was a junior employee, he wasn’t counting me at all.

Jock shook Maynard’s hand and asked after his wife and health, and Maynard made non-answers and asked back.

Then Jock introduced me. I got a handshake but no questions. I repeated my name, and his. We looked at each other then, and though he was about twenty-five years older than I was, we knew and loathed each other in a second.

He was more like me than like Jock. He was a public servant, and he only happened to be working for the police. He could as easily be working for the City’s Finance department, cutting the police budget as ruthlessly as he currently defended it. He was tied to long term goals that had nothing to do with traditions or institutions. We had different goals, but we knew that we were somewhat alike. We smiled at each other like people switching a torch on and off to test it, and then he turned his attention to Jock.

Jock went through his spiel about cooperation between the police and probation services, the long relationship, and so on. I listened to it because I hadn’t heard it delivered in this setting before. Maynard wasn’t listening, and in most senses nor was Jock.

Then Jock looked at me. “The thing we want to resolve at the moment, as you’ll be aware, is the incident involving Lance Holder and some farm worker he thumped, because that farm worker was trying to lock him in a barn. You’ve charged Holder with assault. Under the circumstances, all of the circumstances, we’d like to suggest that that might be unhelpful, not just to Holder, of course, but also to the City of LA. My young colleague here -”

Maynard waved his right hand at Jock like the tail of a fish. “Just a second. I’m happy to talk about Holder, but there have been a couple of other incidents, even more recent, involving your young colleague‘s caseload. I think perhaps we could clear up some things there first. The City of LA might find that helpful. Mr – Mortimer is it? – last week we picked up one of your clients, a Dwane James.”

I said, “Yeah. That was a serious assault. I don’t think there’s going to any disagreement between the police and us over Dwane” 

“Well, when we picked him up, he was quite belligerent. He said my officers had no right to detain him. He said he knew this because his probation officer had told him so. He assaulted one of my officers, based on his probation officer’s advice. Your advice. He’ll be charged with that too. Do you think it’s your job to give advice like that? Do you think that’s helpful to the City of LA?”

He looked at me. So did Jock.

Probation Officer #122: An afternoon with the cops 3

I understood. There was silence until I turned off the road into the police yard. We’d been driving with no talk and his vast, self-contained displeasure hovering like a black cloud beside me.

ministry of fearI was prepared to do harm to the continued good relationship between the police and probation service. If it got in the way of what I wanted too do, particularly for Ana. Jock wasn’t. He had more invested in that relationship than one Samoan girl, a flasher, and a thug who really did belong in jail.

So I understood that I was only afraid of failing. Jock was afraid of me.

I didn’t consider that much of an advantage. I respected Jock. He didn’t know it, which was a failure on my part. Still, his fear was a fact, and I’d have to take it into account.

I parked and Jock got out of the car. He straightened his shirt and tie, and walked ahead of me to the back entrance of the police station. He said, without looking back at me, “Okay. We’re on.” 

Probation Officer #121: An afternoon with the police 2

I was never going to be as fit as Jock. Not even with gym muscles. I was unlikely ever to confront a guy with an axe when I had nothing in my pockets but hands. No one would ever tell awed stories behind my back.

But there was another difference between me and Jock. He cared about the probation service, and he was in the only job he could imagine doing. 

But I only worried about Anna, and Lance, and even the likes of Dwane, though Dwane was psychotically violent at unpredictable intervals and no brighter than a plate of cat food. But I didn’t worry much about the probation service. 

I could imagine our offices closing and a computer firm or a travel company moving in. So long as someone was still working to keep most of the clients out of trouble and out of jail, I didn’t care where they were based. I could easily imagine doing something else, somewhere else, for a living.

The state of California would still need Jock and his colleagues. But to Jock the probation service had a tradition he cared about, and it was part of his home and part of him.

So he sat silent and grim beside me. Finally he said, “All right. You can talk through your issues with your clients. At the meeting.”

“Thank you.”

"You bumptious little wanker."

“You bumptious little wanker.”

“But don’t waste anyone’s time. And remember I’ll be keeping an eye on you, and so will the Chief. And so will any people he takes into this meeting. Say as little as possible, and don’t you ever take them for fools. If you fuck anybody round, and that includes me, you bumptious little wanker, there’ll be consequences.”


“Think of me, angry, as a consequence. A consequence. Do you understand?” 

Probation Officer #120: An afternoon with the police

I’d expected that Jock would call me into his office a couple of hours before the meeting, to discuss strategy and to warn me off doing the things that I intended to do. But he didn’t communicate with me until half an hour before the meeting. If he’d intended to get me nervous, that part had worked. But at three-thirty he’d turned up at my office door, thrown a set of keys at me and indicated with his head that we were going to the carpark.

The keys were for the only car the probation service owned that was less than two years old. Most of my colleagues smoked, and so did their cars.

It’s a job that involves a lot of waiting for other people to arrive, followed by intense work. Nurses, cops and actors tend to smoke, for much the same reason. The probation service’s cars smoke because all the public funding goes into building more jails. Anyway, Jock got in the passenger door. Usually the man who drives has some power deriving from that. Jock wanted me to see myself as the chauffeur.

I drove silently while Jock glared at me. He was trying to keep me ill at ease. I was, so I leaned my arm on the open window and projected utter nonchalance and relaxation.

I said, “We haven’t had time to discuss the meeting. So, you should maybe do the general stuff, about communication and cooperation between the police and us. Those issues. But I’ll talk about the specific cases, Lance Holder, Dwane, Ana and so on, myself. Since I, uh, haven’t had time to brief you. Yeah?”

Jock kept staring.

twofistHe was, as I’ve said before, a physically imposing figure. He had arms like hardwood logs. He’d let the workouts and the boxing go a little since he’d remarried, but he still looked unnatural, his body tapering sharply down to a boxer’s narrow waist. He looked like a cartoon hero, a sketch with every line emphasising strength.

He had a set of white puckers in the skin above his left eye, from when he’d faced down a prison escapee who’d armed himself with an axe. Jock had guessed wrong about the axe-man – he’d thought the guy would back down – but after taking an axe swing to the face, half concussed and nearly blinded with his own blood, he’d broken the guy’s arm, punched him unconscious, and sat on his chest, bleeding onto him, while he called the cops. It was the cops who called him an ambulance.


Happy Christmas, people. 

I’m taking a break from organising dinner for something like 14. It’s started to rain, so my original plan of having ewverybody on the front lawn isn’t going to work. The forecast – heavy rain – suggests that my back-up plan of putting the tables on the veraqndah isn’t going to work weither. So it’ll have to be inside. Which will take a bit of ingenuity. 

star wars pornAnyway, these aren’t real problems.

Good fortune and love to all readers, and I hope that you get good things that you want and good surprises that you never even thought of wanting, you wantons.

And that the Force, the police and the religiously enthusiastic all stay away from your front door. 

Work is over, if you want it

Sorry for blog inaction. I’ve just finished work for 2013. Paid work, anyway, unless some late contract comes in. (I do social and economic research and write things for money. This keyboard for hire! Very reasonable rates!)

Up until today I’ve been advising a corporation on how it can keep its essential services going in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, etc. They’ll never read this blog, so I’ll just admit here and now that I’m no expert on any of that stuff. On the other hand, I said I wasn’t and they didn’t care. Well, they’ve got a few weeks to read the first draft. 

"If we go by the book, as Lt Saavik suggests, minutes will seem like hours."

“If we go by the book, as Lt Saavik suggests, minutes will seem like hours.”

I’m going to build something in the garden, and sit under trees, and do some other stuff that I won’t talk about for a while under the Five-Year Rule. Though the Five-Year Rule is like the Prime Directive. It’s applied intermittently when it feels right, and it’s never allowed to get in the way of a good story.

Anyway, I need to think about how to tell the story of the meeting between the bosses of the probation service and the cops. A lot happened there and if I just tell it topic by topic it’ll read like minutes, and minutes will seem like hours. So I’ll have to shape and select a bit. I should be ready tomorrow. 

Probation Officer #119: A Day at the Office – 5

The search and photography session in Ana’s room was easy in practical ways and mildly awkward at a social level.

I’d flirted with Jane Siebel, but never chased her very hard. Jane had made it clear that even a date would take some serious chasing, forsaking all others, on my part. But we generally took the time, when we spoke or met, to recognise that there was a possibility there. A small possibility and a fading one, but that sort of thing is never completely unimportant.  

But there must have been more spark between us than I’d realised, because she and Sa’afia soon recognised each other, and that each was there for practical reasons and because of the slightly ridiculous way I ran my life. They started by being faintly prickly with each other, and then relaxed when they realised they liked each other. So they spent their spare energy being ironical at me instead. I pretended to be oblivious.



When we’d done Ana’s room we’d found that Ana had been a good girl who did as her probation officer said, and either had no marijuana – which was the only drug she took, I was pretty sure – or kept it somewhere it couldn’t be connected to her. And we had a photo essay that included pictures of the inside of all of her drawers, the imitation burberry suitcase under her bed, and so on.

The dusty space under the loose floorboard in the corner was the most likely hiding place for any drug user, or an alcoholic hiding a bottle, but all Ana stored there was dust. There was more dust, lots of it, behind the books on the shelves in front of her mirror.

We were out of the house by half-past twelve. Afterwards I dropped Jane and Sa’afia back to their workplaces. I gave Sa’afia a boringly formal kiss outside her work, and issued a couple more instructions for her to pass on to Ana.

Then I drove back to work. It was three and a half hours to the meeting with the cops. 

Probation Officer #118: A day at the office – 4

Suddenly we're back to land lines.

Too retro to hack. Suddenly we’re all back to land lines.

Sa’afia didn’t sound enthusiastic when she picked up my call. She wasn’t supposed to take personal calls at work, and I’d made her look bad. Why hadn’t I just called her cell phone? But she rallied when I explained that I was calling because Ana was in trouble. And that my cell phone, and possibly hers, weren’t as reliably private as we might like, right now.

I told her what Ana had told me, and let her spend some time being outraged and sympathetic. She’d experienced police racism, but nothing quite as ugly as the things that were being directed at Ana.

I told her I thought this had happened because Curnow had heard there was a high-level meeting between the police and probation service this afternoon, and that it had something to do with my case load. He guessed my agenda might have something to do with him. Which it did.

So he wanted to frighten Ana. It would soon be occurring to him that he’d also need to discredit her, in case she wasn’t frightened enough. Curnow had various kinds of advantages over Team Ana, but one thing we had going for us was that he wasn’t very bright, and he was very lazy. My observation of the unusually corrupt local cops was that it wasn’t so much that they were greedy, because corruption didn’t pay all that well for most of them. It was more that they were lazy. Being corrupt was easy.   

I said some of that to Sa’afia. There was a long silence from her end of the phone. Then she asked what she could do. So I asked her if there was a room at her firm where Ana could sit with the door open so there’d be no shortage of witnesses to prove she’d been there all afternoon. Sa’afia thought, and said there was. Then keep her there till five, I said.

And I said I was probably being silly, but she shouldn’t use her cellphone to say anything she wouldn’t want Curnow to hear. And when Ana arrived, she should take her cell phone battery off her. That’d be the only way to keep Ana from using her phone, and it’d help her see that this was serious. 

Then I asked her to take an early lunch and meet me at Ana’s place. I’d bring Jane Siebel, a friend from the Community Law Centre, who I hoped would want to do the work even if I couldn’t get her Ana as a paying client. Because it might mean nailing Greg Curnow. Jane would be there to witness us searching Ana’s room, taking photographs as we went.

Sa’afia could be back at work in less than an hour because we only had to search and document her bedroom. If Curnow came round to plant drugs, or maybe stolen goods, it’d be in her room. There’d be no point in planting anything in the kitchen, lounge or bathroom. Those rooms were shared.

This afternoon I’d sort out all the things that needed sorting, including a safe place for Ana to stay that night. Sa’afia said she could probably help with that. 

I wanted to say something sexy to her then, since this was a personal call on the boss’s time, but Sa’afia stopped me. She said there seemed to be some sort of subdued chaos going on in the foyer. “Subdued chaos” was Sa’afia’s phrase.

I said, “that’ll be Ana, you think?”

“Not think. That’s Ana. I’ve got to go.” But there was a smile in her voice, and some of it was for me. That would have to do.

Probation Officer #117: A day at the office – 3

“I’m just outside work,” Ana said, eventually. “I’ve finished my shift. Finished this job, probably.”

“Okay. Have you got any money on you? Like twenty bucks?”

“Yeah? I’ve got … a ten buck note and some coins. Probably about twenty.” 

“That’ll do. I want you to consider that it’s possible that someone’s watching you at the moment. There probably isn’t, but if there is we want to lose him, don’t we?”

“All right.”

“Okay. I also want you to pretend that someone’s listening in to your phone.” I wasn’t sure if there’d be someone watching her in person. But I was sure that her cell phone would be being monitored. Curnow would have had no trouble getting her phone hacked, with or without a warrant. You can’t have drug prohibition and not have police corruption. “Including listening to this phone call. So I’m not going to give you any detailed instructions. What you’re going to do is talk to your tuakana.”

“Ah.” Tuakana means an older, respected cousin, of the same sex. It meant Sa’afia. But it would take Curnow, for example, a while to find someone to translate the word for him. “Okay. I can do that.”

“Good girl. Talk to your tuakana in person, not on a phone. I’ll have contacted that person by the time you get there, and they’ll know what to do. Um, I don’t care exactly how you get there. Just make it hard for anyone to follow you. Can you do that?” 

cops and robber“Oh yes I can.” Ana had cheered up a little. This was a game, and she liked games. 

I said, “Good. Make sure you win. I’ll talk to you soon.” 

I hung up. I was worried that if we talked longer Ana might say something that identified Sa’afia. 

I considered my desk phone. Probably it wasn’t tapped. It’d be hard to get a warrant to intercept calls going in and out of the probation service. It would also be hard to do it illegally, in this building, without getting caught. But still … 

Down the corridor, I found Jock’s office empty. I sat in the visitor’s chair, not that that would make him much less annoyed if he returned before I’d finished. I picked up his desk phone and called the landline at the law firm where Sa’afia worked.