A little more Andy and a lot less Barney | Patty Luzzi

Our sons and their friends made it through those crazy high school years without any serious incidents. But they have no idea about the coalition of parents who were monitoring their activities.
We felt free to communicate, and uphold each other’s decisions and discipline. Our motto was “Trust, but verify.” We felt no shame in checking to see if they were where they said they would be. We knew one older (our age) King County Deputy who helped us if we had questions. He stopped many of the kids he knew for “teaching moments” once they got behind the wheel. He was friendly but stern. But he wasn’t always on duty.
Joe was tall in ninth grade, but many of his closest buddies were still waiting for the big growth spurt. During spring break, several kids went to watch movies at the home of a classmate. The mother of Joe’s friend, Benny, was going to pick them up afterwards at a nearby corner, because the friend lived in a very confusing neighborhood.
When Benny’s mom got to the corner, she found Benny, Joe, and their friend, Sam, on their knees, handcuffed, and guarded by deputies. A deputy screamed at her to leave and come to the precinct in an hour. Shaken, she gathered the other parents and we fetched our kids. No charges were ever filed.
Apparently when the guys approached the meet-up spot, they saw two squad cars with lights flashing. They approached the officers to find out what was going on, and were immediately arrested.
Now, I know that kids do stupid things, but for a host of reasons, we know the kids were not car-prowling or stealing mail that night or ever. Friends and parents at the movie location verified their whereabouts. But one young deputy wouldn’t let it rest. He said that they were “three white males,” and that was enough. Joe wondered if the description also said that one was tall and two were really short! The deputy also lied about what he had seen in an effort to manufacture evidence, and he harassed the host friend for weeks.
I think what we had here was Deputy Barney Fife when the situation called for Sheriff Andy Taylor. The sad part is that the kids had noticed mail strewn about that was not there earlier, and they knew who had a (boastful) reputation in the neighborhood for doing this sort of thing. They might have provided some valuable information.
I know that law enforcement officers wake up every day carrying equal amounts of authority and vulnerability, and the neighborhoods are hardly like Mayberry. But it takes maturity and commitment to learn about neighborhood characters (like the woodcarver?). It takes time to listen, to share information, to be tempered by the more experienced officers. If we could just have a little more Andy and a lot less Barney, I think that there would be more respect from the citizens.

Patty Luzzi has lived on the Eastside for 33 years. Readers can contact her at pattyluzzi@yahoo.com.