Some people tell naughty children that the police will come and get them, if they are not good. No one ever told me that. But I heard it. I still do.
Good cop, bad cop has become an accepted turn of phrase.
It is a reality of life anyway, on which it just, well, depends, I suppose.
I loved her. I was little, and she was like a mother to me.
I heard my father open the bathroom window and talk to them, and then shut the window and tell my mother softly that they were checking passes. My mothers ghostly form drifted into the room I shared with my sister, and touched us both and whispered to us to go back to sleep.
I remember the police vans of the time, with the brown fingers of the men in the back wound around and gripping the wire mesh. I was not sure that I could trust them for myself, but I was told I could.
At university and in the communal houses of my early adulthood I knew the sound of the security police kicking open a door and bursting in. In their uniform of tight jeans, running shoes, leather jackets and moustaches, in the Eastern Cape, I knew some of them by name. Their faces had shouted into mine a couple of times.
I would be lying to say I was not afraid , but being young then, and white, I had felt invincible.
Not so, anymore.
L has been hijacked too many times. Once with a gun to his head, and the trigger pulled, but the stolen, mismatched bullets stuck in the chamber. That drove him to a solitary life on the Crocodile river, with an old land rover and a long drive back to Jozi.
Another was with AK47's in a barrackaded schoolyard .
There was another one, but the details get confused after a while. That drove him back to the Fairest Cape.
The point is, we have not, not been touched by crime
So, last week I did not march into the police station because we do not understand the issues around crime. I served on the Community Police Forum in the Langkloof precisely because I try - to understand the issues, that is.
I marched into the police station because, a short while earlier my son - my seventeen year old, tall and lanky son, with a new cell phone, a bank card, a snazzy purple asthma pump and no doubt a wad of crumpled tissues(rhinitus) , in his pocket - had come riding home on his very good bicycle, with his beanie on his head - visibly shaken.
I have been told that they - asked where he had been, whether he had been using, what he was doing there (on the streets of Sedgefield), whose bank card he had ,how his asthma pump worked (he had to demonstrate),whose bike it was - because they can and will stop, search, and make a young man spread his arms on the bonnet of their vehicle and pat him down, wherever and whenever they like.
I took the complaint as far as my son would let me, which wasn't very far.
He is not very happy.
To him the police are far from being friends.
I understand the feeling.
I thought those days were over.