I hear scary stories all the time about cripples getting roughed up at the hands of cops. Like for instance, a deaf person is driving and a cop pulls them over and the deaf person starts doing sign language and the cop assumes they’re flashing gang signs or something and roughs them up. Or someone who’s schizophrenic or has PTSD gets stressed out and has a shit fit because a cop is ordering them around and so the cop roughs them up.
It almost happened to my friend Jay way back when, way back in the 1970s, when he was a long-haired hippie freak. He was out cruising one night with his long-haired hippie freak buddies. His buddies lifted him into the front passenger seat of the car. They put his wheelchair in the trunk. Late that night in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, a cop car squealed up behind them. Two cops jumped out. “Get out of the car!” they barked. Jay’s friends got out of the car. “Open the trunk!” It seemed these cops were convinced that these long-haired hippie freaks must have had three tons of cocaine in the trunk. One cop saw Jay still sitting in the car so he went around and whipped open the passenger door. “I said GET OUT OF THE CAR!” As the cop prepared to drag Jay out of the car, the trunk opened. There wasn’t three tons of cocaine. There was only a wheelchair. The other cop called his agitated partner off and they scurried away.
Some say the problem is cops don’t understand the complexity of dealing with cripples. They need more training. That may be true. But I’ll still always be afraid of the cops because no matter how extensively trained they are in the proper care and handling of cripples, there will always be some crazy scenario where they freak out and don’t know what to do. Like for instance, there’s this concert place called Lincoln Hall. It’s an old movie theater that was gut rehabbed into a concert venue. And when they gut rehabbed it they installed an “”””””elevator.”””””” I put the world elevator in six quotes because it’s really just a lift that goes up a 15 foot shaft. You roll into a lidless box that’s just big enough for a standard wheelchair and you feel like you’re in solitary confinement. And when the box goes up it sounds like gears crunching and the shaft shakes. And the box moves soooooooooooooooooooo sloooooooooooooooooowly. I swear it takes an hour to go 15 feet.
Lincoln Hall isn’t the only place with an elevator like this. And whenever I go up or down in one I dread that it’ll get stuck right in the middle and then what? The police will be summoned to rescue me but what can they do? It’s like trying to rescue a grown man in a motorized wheelchair who somehow managed to fall down a well.
Here’s the safest and simplest scenario for rescuing me: The police cut a hole in the roof of Lincoln Hall directly above the lift. A police helicopter hovers above and drops a giant U-shaped magnet attached to the end of a rope down the hole. The magnet attaches itself to the metal of my chair and the helicopter lifts me up out of the box and through the hole in the roof and sets me down gently and safely on the sidewalk outside. A crowd of gawkers has gathered as they do when there’s someone out on a ledge. They all cheer! The television news crews capture every dramatic moment on camera.
But that ain’t gonna happen. Instead some hapless and bewildered cop will lasso me and assemble every able-bodied male in the vicinity to pull on his end of the rope like they’re dragging a dead elephant out of a ravine. That’s bound to end badly.
Cops will never be totally prepared for cripples. We’re just too whacky.