by Wally Setter
A lighter look at an Orwellian future.
|Law and Order
Red queen on the black king, black jack on the red queen, black five on the red six, “Hmmm,” it looked like NYPD Captain Orville Bingsley was about to lose his sixth straight game of solitaire.
Orville is the All Precinct 2nd Watch Commander. He was four hours into his shift. He looked over at Officer Waldo Feinstein, who was manning the control center. Waldo is a bright young man only six months out of the Academy.
Patrol Officer Maria Martineze is the third member of NYPD’s afternoon shift.
Feinstein was monitoring Martineze’s location while watching for any criminal activity that may be occurring in the city.
Captain Bingsley decided to get up and stretch his legs a bit. He didn’t want to spend the whole day playing solitaire. He thought maybe he’d check on Feinstein, just to see how the rookie was doing.
The captain was not yet completely vertical when Feinstein excitedly blurted out, “Captain! We have an armed robbery in progress.”
An armed robbery! It had been years since Orville had a case involving armed robbery. “Are you certain Feinstein?”
“Positive sir. It’s at the First Bank of Manhattan. We have six video feeds on the screen. He’s threatening one of the tellers with a baseball bat. He’s demanding that a million credits be added to his account. I’ve dispatched Officer Martineze to the scene. She will be at the bank with one of the robotic transports in ninety seconds. Shall I put him to sleep?”
“No, not just yet. I want to see how this goes for a while. Just dial up his chip and keep your finger on the send button. We can’t allow him to swing that thing but this is fascinating, don’t you think Feinstein?”
“It’s fascinating and a little bit scary, sir. Captain, according to regulations, the proper procedure would…”
Orville cut him off, “Patience, my boy, patience.”
A real bank robbery! Orville had only read about bank robberies. They had all occurred in the distant past. He sometimes secretly fantasized about the old days, back in the times when the good guys battled the forces of evil in daily confrontations. How exciting those times must have been. Orville watched the event on the eighty-inch display, split into the six different angles. “What’s our robber’s name?”
“Harold Meeks, citizen id number 003-266-417-993. I’ve started a search of our surveillance database. We should have a complete dossier on Citizen Meeks in a couple of minutes. Sir, how could anyone think they could get away with committing any crime, let alone bank robbery?”
Orville grinned and said, “Well it’s apparent from his choice of weapon that he’s a Yankees’ fan and since the Yankees haven’t even made the playoffs in fourteen years, he simply had to vent his anger and frustration somehow.”
With a look of total confusion on his face, Feinstein questioned his superior’s reasoning, “Sir?”
Orville laughed. “It’s a joke son. Lighten up a little. Don’t take things so seriously. That’s an order.”
Officer Feinstein, wearing just the slightest of smiles, said, “Of course it was. Lightening up, sir.”
Orville thought that maybe there was some hope for the boy after all. “Mr. Meeks is clearly committing an act of desperation. I believe you’ll find a great many things have recently taken a turn for the worse for Citizen Meeks. I don’t see him spending one minute of jail time. From his actions I’m willing to bet he’ll be enjoying a nice long stay in one of our mental facilities.”
Shocked, the young police officer said, “Captain! Gambling is a felony, punishable by up to…” Seeing the grin once again on the captain’s face, Feinstein blushed and said, “Lightening up, sir.”
Their conversation was cut short when the alarm monitoring Meeks blood pressure sounded; he was clearly more agitated than before. “It’s time, Feinstein.”
Harold Meeks felt the buzz in his head as he slowly collapsed to the floor. Within minutes Citizen Meeks was being whisked away. In a few more minutes he would wake to find himself in temporary lockup, awaiting a judge’s decision concerning his future.
“Which judge do we have today, Feinstein?”
“Let me see. It’s Judge Barnsworth.”
Barnsworth, that grouchy old bastard, well you couldn’t pick ‘em. Barnsworth would want hardcopy transcripts as well as all the video and audio files. “Prepare a full report and send it to the judge along with the rest of the evidence. Send it to the prosecutor and the defense attorney as well.” If the judge wanted to read it off pieces of paper, instead of a monitor like normal people, he could print it out himself.
“Captain, Harold Meeks doesn’t have an attorney. He is his own self-appointed council.”
Recently a number of people had gotten around the law, requiring every citizen to have an attorney, by taking a two-week correspondence course in criminal proceedings. All citizens were under constant surveillance and putting together a criminal case was simply a matter of collating data, easily done in a few minutes. Orville wondered about the real need for attorneys at all. There was little for the lawyers to argue about except their legal fees, but then again, the Lawyers Union was powerful.
It was just a little odd that lawyers would have allowed this loophole to remain open this long; an oversight Orville was sure would soon be corrected.
Sorry that the day’s excitement was coming to a close, Orville said, “Then send Meeks the report, for all the good it will do him.”
Orville knew that by now all the news outlets would be buzzing about the bank robbery attempt. The usual fringe groups would be calling for more proactive police action in dealing with criminals like citizen Harold Meeks. He grimaced at the idea of monitoring citizen’s thoughts. Weren’t your thoughts intended to be private? Having to arrest someone for just thinking about committing a crime didn’t sit well with Orville.
He took some solace in the fact that the worldwide monitoring system, as good as it was, just wasn’t up to tracking the thoughts of all of the worlds fifteen billion citizens. He would most likely be retired before it was good enough.
Orville was just turning to go back to his solitaire game when Officer Feinstein exclaimed, “Captain, we have a report from McDonalds. A woman, Gertrude Biddle, just exceeded her dietary limit for fast foods. She’s 88 years old, five foot two inches and 144 pounds. She’s borderline for maximum weight. She purchased two hamburgers, small fries and a diet drink. That’s at least 250 calories more than she’s allowed. Shall I have Officer Martineze pick her up?”
Orville moved to a spot where he could watch Feinstein in action, but intentionally to a place where he was not able to see the monitors. “No. Dispatch Martineze to the area but tell her to stay out of sight for the moment. There’s a big difference between buying it and actually eating it. The difference between a fine and two weeks in jail with a bigger fine, if I remember correctly. Let’s see what plays out.”
“Sir, she’s headed for her car.”
“Turn on her in-car video. Bring up the audio as well.”
“Already done, Captain. I accessed it just after the alarm came in.”
“Good boy, that Feinstein,” Orville thought. He was rather pleased with himself; after all, he had hand picked the rookie.
“Sir, she’s in her car. There’s a cat in the car as well.”
Feinstein was glued to the monitor. “Sir, she removed the almost beef patty from one of the burgers and is feeding it to the cat; unbelievable.”
“What do you get from the cat, officer?”
“Let’s see, ah, mixed breed, female, normal size and weight, fourteen years old. Nothing unusual sir.”
“I would think fourteen is pretty old for a cat; wouldn’t you Feinstein?”
“I wouldn’t know, sir.”
“You know what I think Feinstein? I think this is just a little old lady trying to be nice to her cat. A little misguided possibly, but still simply a case of someone loving her pet and wanting to give it a treat. That’s what I think, but I leave it entirely up to you, Officer Feinstein. It’s your call. What are you going to do?”
“Well sir, she did break the law and I doubt that those burgers are approved for pet consumption. I should at least call in the SPCA. On the other hand, it’s not a very serious crime and she does have a spotless record. Sir, since it’s up to me, I’m going to let this one slide.”
“Let me get this straight Feinstein. You are willing to let a citizen get away with breaking the law?”
“Yes sir. In this case, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
“Very well Feinstein, and, ah, Officer Feinstein, when your shift is over, please come back to my desk. After a day like today, I think a little celebration is in order.”
“It sure has been exciting sir.”
“Well, come on back. We’ll have a cup of real joe and I’ll tell you a few tales from back in the day.”
“Sir, I’m afraid I’ve already had my daily allowance of caffeine.”
“So have I son, but I think we could bend a rule just a little. You don’t have many days like this. Wouldn’t you say a little rule bending is in order, just this once?”
“If you say so, sir.”
Captain Bingsley appraised his young officer. He was indeed a fine young man and was already showing a lot of promise. He just needed a little more direction. You couldn’t always go strictly by the book. Years of experience had taught the captain that rules and regulations, laws, the justice system itself must sometimes be tempered with compassion and understanding. Under his tutelage Waldo would learn what law enforcement really meant. Waldo Feinstein had a great future ahead of him, maybe even someday becoming captain. All he needed was someone teaching him the real meaning of “To Serve and Protect.”
“Yes, Officer Feinstein, I say so.”