I have an opinion on everything. Thoughts on Detroit, life, and life in Detroit.Ask JD Anything
8:30 a.m. I-94 East. Allen Park.
An Allen Park police car is parked in the median between Eastbound and Westbound I-94, his car is facing east.
It’s not an uncommon sight on 94, which seems to have been built with cops in mind, what with its big shoulders and regular medians for “Authorized Vehicles Only.”
What was uncommon, on this morning, last of the month, was seeing the officer get out of his car to point his radar gun at passing drivers. Normally they’re inside their vehicles (sometimes marked, sometimes incognito) working but this officer chose to make a show of it.
Had the officer been looking to do police work he might’ve noticed the woman parked on the shoulder a quarter-mile ahead, car broken down, hood flung open, and drivers, safely out of his radar gun’s range, whizzing by.
If the presence of police officers is enough to force drivers to pump their brakes — and my daily drives on I-94 indicate it is, even if the officer is in his car — surely this woman could’ve benefited from that police presence.
Whether or not he could’ve helped with her car trouble is irrelevant. Whether or not he called it in is irrelevant. I just know that if it’s me, broken down on the side of the road, I want the nearby cop watching my back, not trying to make his monthly ticket quota. Protect & Serve, right? Those words take on a special importance when drivers are passing at 80 MPH within feet of your stalled car.
The next time your local police force claims poverty, ask whether it is making the best use of the money it already has. If the department can afford to pay officers for sitting in medians, trying to pull over speeders, it has too much money.
— James David Dickson
The time is Summer 2003. I’m working at a cafeteria at the University of Michigan. My boss, let’s call him Patrick, the student supervisor, was an intense guy. Intense and foul-mouthed. And stupid. Just stupid enough to back up his always-trying-too-hard words, if it came to that. Which makes for some fun days in food service but not much of a management career.
But that’s a story for another day.
Patrick was so caught up in being tight with the students, acting 2 decades younger than his age, that he wasn’t as good to the kitchen and building staff.
One of the staffers, an older black woman on the cleaning crew, let’s call her Sherrie, came by my card-checking stand with a mouthful of expletives, directed at my boss.
So I tell him: Hey Pat, did you hear what Sherrie just said?
Of course he hadn’t. Sherrie was talking to me.
I was expecting some of Patrick’s piss-and-vinegar to re-emerge in epic fashion — Sherrie was not built with the stuff that bent or broke — but it never did. Instead he went cold, legalistic. He started talking about going after her job.
Not quite what I had intended. Here I was, trying to arrange a nice summertime belly laugh for me and the crew — had the confrontation gone down as planned, today I’d be blogging about how epic — and this guy wants to cost the woman her job. Not cool.
That’s the biggest reason I don’t do the snitch thing anymore; it always goes differently than you think. Fortunately the unions at U-M would never let an employee be let go for some third-hand loose talk, but what if I actually had cost a woman her job? A woman with mouths to feed? And all to get a stupid laugh out of it? Nah. I’ll pass.
Then there’s life as a snitch (a title no one identifies with until they hold). You don’t realize it until you become one, but no one likes the snitch, even if they weren’t affected by him this go-round.
And you might be surprised to hear this but some people in authority don’t like being snitched to, and will forever regard a snitch with suspicion. Conversely, some people in authority will run with the information you’ve given them — and do it in a way that puts you in center stage, not off in the cut, watching the product of your handiwork, like you had hoped.
Are you ready for your close-up?
Once the tattle has been told, your name is always attached but you have no control of the outcome.
You will also learn that people in power, the people you’re running to, cannot and will not protect you. This is true at work and it’s true with the cops.
There will come a time when you’re the only person on a long hallway or the only person in the bathroom or the kitchen or the elevator with the guy you just dimed on, the guy who knows or suspects you’ve dimed on him.
Those moments will suck. There will be people who open up less around you, and that will suck. It will affect you in ways you can’t anticipate and certainly can’t stop, not even if the Boss speaks up for you. (In fact, this can only make things worse — if the Boss could’ve fixed your problem, it would’ve been fixed.)
If you’ve never understood the difference between being Alone and Lonely, just start snitching.
— James David Dickson
UPDATE: May 1, 2012
The most famous snitch in recent memory is Eric Mangini. When Mangini was head coach of the New York Jets in 2007, he dimed on the New England Patriots, who were illegally filming opponents. Mangini had come up in that organization and knew its little tricks and was not about to allow the Patriots any extra advantage. What unfolded would be known as SpyGate.
As Mangini explains in the video below, the whole incident took an unexpected turn when the National Football League got involved. The Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick were fined ($250K and $500K respectively), the team was docked a first-round draft pick but most important of all is the asterisk many around the League put on the Patriots’ accomplishments, which include 5 Super Bowl appearances and 3 wins since the 2001 season. The Pats have never won another Super Bowl since SpyGate, adding fuel to the speculation that, in a game of inches, the illegal filming gave the Pats just enough of an advantage to win the big game.
Click through to this link, which features Eric Mangini talking about SpyGate, then and now, to understand why snitching is often a sucker move even if you’re in the right.
How to Write a Letter To The Editor
Let me preface this guide by thanking you for reading. No one in the news business can afford to take your support for granted, and we certainly don’t. We’d also like to give thanks for writing us — or thinking about it. Hearing how you respond to our work helps us focus and adjust our efforts. It keeps us sharp and honest.
Unfortunately I find myself throwing out the bulk of the letters we receive. It’s not that we don’t need or want letters, we do. We run a letters section almost every day. Problem is, many letters that come in simply aren’t usable.
Generally, if your letter has a staple in it, you’ve done it wrong — you’ve written too much. How many times have you ever seen a 2-page letter to the editor in a newspaper? Never. Because we don’t have the space for it.
If you want what you send to run in the newspaper, and without major edits, I offer this simple advice: Be concise and be factual. Snark, taking political positions we don’t care for or disagreeing with one of our articles does not count against you, but writing too long and writing untruths does.
Make your point well, get in and get out, and write the facts, and your Letter To The Editor stands a great chance of running in tomorrow’s paper.
James David Dickson, Op-Ed Editor, The Detroit News