When I was young there was a television show about a sheriff. It was not an action show. It was human interest. The man was “Andy Griffith.” He played Sheriff Taylor, a simple, sensible man, who brought understanding to the fictitious town of “Mayberry.”
Though Mayberry and Taylor are fiction, I had seen such policemen and sheriffs. I remember them as I grew up, guiding us, keeping us straight, correcting wrongs. I had a Camero back in the early 1970’s. I drove fast.
There was a local policeman, Lt. Reileigh. He was much like sheriff Taylor. One night I was out with friends, drinking beer, underage. We had fun in those days. Fun was ok in those days. We were young and we acted it. Reileigh was always nearby. He was strong. He was wise, and he could not be out-run. We knew where the line was. We never crossed that line. Back then, men were men. They gave their word and they did their job. Lt. Reileigh was, quiet, professional, and knowing. I don’t know if he carried a gun. I never thought about it. He didn’t need one.
One night we were out driving fast and drinking beer. Lt. Reileigh pulled in behind me and pulled me over. “Mr. Cahill, you have been drinking,” he said, standing at the door of my Camaro. “Yes sir.” He did not cuff me. He did not arrest me. He simply told me; “Mr. Cahill, I want you to take these boys home. If I see you out after half an hour, I will take you home in my patrol car.” “Yes Sir, Leutenant Reileigh.”
If Lt. Reileigh had taken me home in his patrol car, that would have been a terrible thing. It would have been an embarrassment to my father and mother. I would not be driving my Camaro or going out with my friends for a very long time. It was an unthinkable punishment.
Imagine an episode of Andy of Mayberry, where he dressed with Deputy Fife and Gomer, and twenty others in body armor, and smashed in the door of someone’s home. Imagine him throwing a falsh-bang and yelling “clear” as he cleared the room with his M-16. We would not learn a lesson from that show, as we saw the children held at gun point in their room, while their parents were cuffed. Perhaps Gomer would hit the accused bootlegger with the butt of his rifle and swear at him. No, Gomer would never do that, nor Andy, or Barney. They were decent men, kind men, they were unafraid. I suppose that Andy would knock on the door, and when answered, he would say something like “Sure smells like something’s a cookin’ round these parts. If somebody was making moonshine, I suppose you might know about it. You might tell that friend that he needs to stop.”
I suppose that if a young man was doing what I was doing then, today, he would be dragged from his car, handcuffed, and four or five patrol cars would line the road, as the boys were processed, cuffed, and transported. That boy would be a criminal for doing what I did.
Lt. Reileigh would never hurt us. He remembered growing up in my neighborhood, driving fast, and drinking beer at Petrucci’s Restaurant. I suppose that he liked us. He, in fact, went out of his way to protect.
Freedom was the environment in which we lived. The police were our friends. If there was trouble, you looked for a policeman. They were there to help. Our parents and society spoke of them respectfully. I suppose that they earned the respect of us all. They did not threaten or intimidate. We were never afraid of a policeman.
Eventually, I totaled the Camaro. Lt. Reileigh helped me out of the drivers side window. He drove me home. He let me off down the road so that my Dad would not see me coming home in a police car. I suppose that he was a friend. Certainly, he was a protector. He saw my beloved car was gone. I had hurt myself enough.
Police are to act with understanding. We have allowed our police to become another military. They are not here to protect us. They are here to protect the government from us. They collect money from drug “seizures” they collect money from the federal government. They collect money by reducing speed limits and ticketing.
What kind of a government would want or need such a thing. Is the America that I grew up in gone forever? Has it been sold out for a campaign contribution? Is America being taken from us, as we sit and light candles?
If there were another continent or land or country, perhaps we could start again, to build a place like the one that I left so long ago, one where strength and honor displaced fear. Alas, there is no undiscovered place. If we are to exist in a form of government, where all men are treated as equals, where there are no segregated classes, or royalty, we must fix this broken machine of our democracy.