Why I'm Becoming a Chicago Cop
Growing up in Flossmoor, Illinois, there was this cop — he used to be a cop. The village took his gun away and made him a public safety officer because he was a terrible cop. He was known as Officer Tim and Officer Tim was just as terrible a public safety officer. Infamous for getting his jollies berating kids who jaywalked. He once raced three blocks down my street in his safety officer cruiser at a criminally insane speed for a residential neighborhood where children routinely played to scold me for jaywalking across the town’s major two-lane highway, Flossmoor Road.
Two doors away from my house, he slammed on his breaks, screeching to a halt almost curbing his vehicle inches from me.
“What are you doing!?” He shouted as he willed his chubby legs and belly out of the cruiser.
“No! The other kid who jaywalked back there!”
“You do know you jaywalked across Flossmoor Road, don’t you!?”
“What’s jaywalking?” I was twelve years old.
“You’re supposed to cross at the crosswalk!”
“You know that! I know you know that!”
“Do NOT sass me, son! Next time I’m citing you! It’s against the law!”
“Where are you going!?”
“Right there.” I pointed two doors down.
He clumsily got in his cruiser and peeled off.
I’ve never trusted police officers. I’ve never had much faith in law enforcement professionals of any kind in part because of Officer Tim, and because I’ve had enough run-ins with mustached tough guys with chips on their shoulders and authority complexes to know that systemically, serving and protecting are but occasional side effects of the job. Sure, some of the run-ins were because I screwed up and got caught causing trouble, but mostly, it was just cops being dicks. And I’m white. So I know that my experiences pale in comparison to what people of color experience during their run-ins. (Had I been black, Officer Tim would have certainly cited me.) And those experiences further solidified my distrust of cops.
The murder of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was the last straw for me. The coverup enraged me beyond my own comprehension.
And then I calmed down. Still angry, I started thinking about how the Chicago Police Department, disgustingly rich with a history of unnecessary and unlawful violence and disregard for poor communities and people of color, could ever be improved. The city won’t fix it. Even with the federal consent decree, the CPD would not shape up. Because cops see themselves as the absolute authority and it’s only their nature to rebuke anyone telling them what to do or how to do it. But the CPD absolutely needs fixing. From the inside is the only way I see that happening.
The best thing about cops is that they don’t ever have to do anything heroic to be considered heroes.
So I considered this and I considered my always present panic of making a living as a writer. I’ve grown tired of the hustle and still coming up short financially or working on projects I could not care less about, and writing books no one reads. And it became clear that I could attempt to solve both problems by joining the CPD. I can say goodbye to the stress and responsibility of having to be creative; I can be one of the good apples while earning a steady paycheck and a pension. And if anything happens to me while on patrol, my family will be well compensated. Might even get our car loan paid off. Plus, I’ll probably get a parade or an honorary street named after me.
I went online. I did my research. I paid my outstanding speeding ticket and submitted my application to become a Chicago cop on October 14, 2018 — one day before the deadline.
I’ve passed all my tests including the background investigation, which is what I was most worried about. In twelve to twenty-four months, as long as I can get through the training, I will be Chicago Police Officer David Himmel. I’ll have a badge, a gun, a body cam, a bulletproof vest, keys to a police cruiser, and the ability to work with the citizens of my community to create a safer city for people like Jussie Smollett.
Most importantly, I’ll be a part of a broken system in desperate need of healing. I don’t care about jaywalking. I care about working with my brothers and sisters in blue to shoot fewer young black men and women. I care about collaborating with CPD brass to create a culture that embraces the law with dignity and respect. Eventually, I hope to join the Internal Affairs Division. Though I hope by the time I make that career move, the CPD has fewer issues with which IA has to deal with thanks, in part, to me.
I’m trying to grow the perfect cop mustache and I have short hair that is easily styled like a cop’s, so I hope that I’ll be accepted by my brethren. I hope that my sense of humor and experience entertaining people gives the CPD more opportunities to post YouTube videos and Instagram photos of cops doing cute things like playing with puppies and offering free Stan’s Donuts to Damen Stop Blue Line commuters. I hope to remove the perception that the Chicago cops are Officer Van Dyke, and instead, are perceived more like Officer Friendly. Or better yet, Officer Himmel.
And if I can’t, if I fail, if the CPD remains the vicious, stupid, hateful police department it’s always been, I can retire with that sweet pension and the knowledge that I tried. Because the best thing about cops is that they don’t ever have to do anything heroic to be considered heroes.
And so, effective as of this writing, I am stepping down as co-editor of Literate Ape. I will no longer be co-hosting the Literate ApeCast or hosting BUGHOUSE! Chicago, or participating any further in any literary efforts and adventures associated with this wonderful digital magazine and business Don Hall, and our writers and performers have created these last few years. I’m going to be a cop. I will bleed blue. That is, if I don’t shoot first.
In related news, Co-editor Hall is also stepping away from The Ape. Shortly after his move to Las Vegas, he was offered the managing editor position at Jezebel, which means he’ll be moving again making his writing about that topic never ending.
I’m excited by both of these opportunities because I believe that with me in blue and Hall on the masthead of a feminist news site, we can finally make America great. Not again but for the first time.
Here’s to our future. Together.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you on my beat.