Friday, 15 May 2015

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Officer Roberts

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Officer Roberts

At some point during last Saturday's Drum Circle I saw a cop coming down from his car. He moved around for a bit, asking a few drummers if they were fine. Usually while drumming my eyes are closed, however, somehow I can see what's going on around. I subtly smiled, though not to him directly, before I saw him return to his vehicle.

This caught my attention as it was not a usual sight in Venice Beach or at the Drum Circle. But I didn't know what it was about. Plus, the copper was a new face in the area, so I guess that drew my attention even more.

Another hour, I could see through the corner of my eye two police vehicles encircling us. It didn't seem like a normal check, it was more like they were screening us. That's because the officers in both cars were talking, then each cars took a cruise around us, then they met further to talk again. Something was happening.

This Saturday, we decided to stop drumming maybe 15 minutes before the sunset. I even told the guys jokingly that we really don't have to wait till the very last minute to do so every time. It's OK to stop by ourselves and not only when they cops come to tell us so.

As we were wrapping, one police car approached us and both officers came down and headed towards us. Strange. Why are they here if we're done before the sunset? One of them was the new one I saw earlier checking up on the guys.

Both men came closer, but the new one led the conversation. Officer Roberts is a white man in his mid-late 20s, tall with blond hair, and has a warm, pleasant face your long-time neighbour would have.

Hey guys, I know you are the ones in charge, as you are the drummers and people come to see you play, so we're trying to work something out here. We want your cooperation on Sundays to stop the circle when the sun goes down and the cops come. I really like that you guys have fun here, it's good for Venice and the tourists love it. But you know what happened a few days ago, so these days security is going to be tight.”

He meant the shooting of an unarmed 29-year-old Venice man, Brendon K. Glenn, by the police a few days prior.

This is when a couple of drummers intervened, mentioning Brendon whom they knew. I only recognised him later when I saw his pic. Officer Roberts showed his sympathy and said that the case is still being investigated. He also said that they don't know much details and there is some kind of obscurity around the whole incident. 

According to the L.A Times, the security video has not been publicly released. So he may be right. It's worth noting that this is the second fatal shooting by the Los Angeles Police Department of an unarmed, homeless black man in just over two months. So the tension between the ‘us’ and ‘them’ may be on the rise these days. Hence, they are asking us to cooperate. Not that I suddenly became a homeless black man myself, but I know you get my gist in a jiffy. 

Tomorrow they will be more police cars around the circle so I though I would come talk to you guys,” he resumed.

Would Brendon Glenn Dizzle’ ever be the last unarmed homeless man of colour to be shot by
the LAPD? Photo taken on Saturday, May 16 on the Boardwalk.

By that time, I was already captivated by the openness of the man and the way he approached us. After all, most cops, as well as most people, still think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ — and the shootings that keep happening are certainly not helping.

For me personally, knowing that we are all essentially One, I want to transcend this ‘us’ and ‘them’ ideology. I really do. So whenever I see an opportunity I jump right in. The system may be full of holes, but down deep inside, behind labels and uniform, they are human beings... just like you and me.

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: The Coke Prank is an earlier article about another cool colleague of officer Roberts.

So first off, I thanked the man for being who he is and for coming right there in the open to explain the situation to us. Then I introduced myself with my first name, saying that I'm a writer who lives by the area. I proceeded by agreeing with him that the outsiders, who usually come on Sundays, are the ones who ruin it for everyone else.

Further proving the point, I told him that my own phone was stolen from the circle on that last Sunday. I also told him that when I first moved to the area last year, I was not particularly happy with the cops' heavy presence around the Drum Circle.

A fellow drummer then intervened, mentioning that the shooting had nothing to do with the Circle as some people believe. Office Roberts agreed, but said that ‘They’ lump the whole thing together when it comes to Venice Beach, the Drum Circle, and violence.

Hm. But how is that fair, I wonder.  

Freddy, another fellow drummer told officer Roberts: “OK, if we cooperate can you leave us regather by the water when everyone leaves, just a few of us?”

The man said he cannot promise now but he'll definitely talk to his superior. We explained that sometimes one of the officers allows it, then another comes later to say that we have to leave. No communication between them is what creates the issue. We said that they had told us multiple times that personally they don't have a problem but it's the neighbours who complain from the noise; therefore the further we go towards the water, it should be OK.

After all, we all know it's not illegal. And according to some of my new buddies who have been attending the Drum Circle for more than 35 years, to stop when the sun goes down is a relatively new thing. They used to play till 2 am not so long ago. So.

Again, the fine officer promised to help out, explaining that his superior is in one of the vehicle further away watching us. “They know I like talking to people, so they sent me here to talk to you guys,” he said.

We need more people like you; we are all humans,” I responded. 

Thank you. OK then see you tomorrow.

Thank YOU. Bye.

I have to say I was quite impressed by the manners of the man. Many police officers have ego problems so they don't ‘talk’. They somehow believe that they are in power and totally forget that initially they are public servants who are here to protect and serve. Others may be shy.

Luckily, though, not all of them are like that and every now and then we bump into cool, rational, humane ones like officer Roberts.

A little later, a few drummers and I gathered by the patio on the boardwalk and this was when I saw the man again. I then remembered that I wanted to let his colleague know about the Coke Prank article I had written about her. I thought maybe also I could get her name to add it. So, I went towards him, briefly telling him the story and giving him and his partner the name of the article, the name of the blog, and my full name.

When the subject of the recent shooting of Brendon Glenn was brought up again, I recall him telling me that in every profession there are the good and the bad. I agreed. However, I was about to say that when the burger flipper, or the janitor or the sales exec mess up, people do not die in the process. Though I did not, perhaps because I felt it's too common sense; perhaps because I was happy to talk to the man and didn't want to add any awkwardness.

We chatted for another 10 minutes then we parted ways. I believe this may be the longest time I have spoken to a single American cop.

For a moment afterwards I felt weird giving my info like that to the authorities. And then I reminded myself that they are humans being who go online and check blogs and stuff. I want them to know that some of us appreciate them for who they are. I really hope they get to read these lines.

Besides, I am who I am. So getting to know that I'm an Eclectic Sapiosexual Philomath Lexophile Hedonist Psychonaut BoBo should be completely fine.

As I was heading to my bike, I saw two guys whom I saw talking to officer Roberts earlier during the circle. One was drinking and the other was smoking but was totally wasted.

Did you get a ticket?” I asked the drinking one.

“The officer told me, give me the bottle and I won't ticket you.

Yeah, he seems like a good guy.

Yeah, officer Roberts
,” he smilingly said.  

I was quite surprised that the homeless man already knew his name. I had already decided that I was going to write about the whole thing so I eyed his name tag twice. But for the drunk guy to retain the name of the new officer, he must have been equally impressed.

“He gave me a ticket for smoking, but I was hslnkdhdshjfhsvdklnkD @#$%^!&*()j,” the other one who's always wasted mumbled incoherently.

I think you out of all people deserve it, dude.

Goodnight, Brothers.”

On Sunday, I went late to the Drum Circle. At some point, officer Roberts came by to check the area, we locked eyes and he headed towards me to say ‘Hi, Omar’. We shook hands and I went back to drumming. Of course some people were looking at me, not really understanding what they had just witnessed. One of ‘us’ and one of ‘them’ amicably greeting each other

An outsider I have never met before even came to inquire:

What's that about?”

I explained to him that we spoke yesterday about wanting to wrap the circle seamlessly as soon as the sun goes down since we want to keep things on the down low these days because of what had happened.

Why, bro? But now...  .” He sounded like he was objecting and started to rant. 

This is when I didn't feel the need to even listen to what this stranger dude had to say. I closed my eyes and went back to the drumming world. 

Again on Sunday, I stopped playing before the time was up. Before leaving I thought I would tell officer Roberts and say goodbye. He was standing right there with a partner. I shook hands and said see you next week. To my surprise, however, he said he won't be here and that he'll be off to Chicago.

Oh well, the good ones always leave.

We need more of you,” I told him again as we bid farewell.

You see, good guys are good guys, anywhere. I could see it after a couple of interactions, the homeless man could also see it. And as I mentioned in the Coke Prank article, since most of the times I'm against what cops do and how they behave, when I encounter some of them acting so differently I feel compelled to let them, and you, know.

More please.

EDIT (Sunday June 7th):

Today at the circle, officer Roberts and I met again and said ‘Hi’. He asked if I have Twitter so I can share the article with the LAPD 911 account, since they have 50K followers which will generate more views. He even got his phone out of his pocket to show me their page.

I told him that I don't but I can share it with them on Facebook, and thanked him for the thought. He really seems to be a genuinely nice guy.

“So did you like the article?” I asked.
“Yes I did, I read it all. My mom loved it.

How splendid.”

I hope she's proud of her son.

We then said goodbye and parted ways. Of course, onlookers were once again baffled by what just happened. As for myself, I like knowing that a man like him is in the force. I also like to have him as a new friend. Glad to have written this article.

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Officer Roberts by Omar Cherif
Give Peace a chance

Also View:

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: The Coke Prank

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Sergeant Pepper

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Evolution
A Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos

Another Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos 

One More Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos (2017-’18)

How Drumming Changed The Way My Brain Processes Music

Drum Circle Etiquette — The Do’s and Don’ts  

The Intertwining of Music and Sexuality ― A Djembefola’s Tale

Stop-n-Search That Hippy

Banged Up Abroad — My Few Days @ The Don Jail

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