How to Get Out of Jury Duty

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Cops like bonehead Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate are not the norm. Every city in America is full of stories about graft and greed and corruption on the other side of the thin blue line, and while many of those stories are true, you still don’t find the average, upstanding law-enforcement officer pounding a small, defenseless woman into the ground because he’s not man enough to admit that he’s had a few shots too many. There are limits even those in uniform will be damned before they cross, and attacking a woman for the hell of it is pretty much on the top of that list.

Not that I’m a L.E.O., myself. But being a native New Yorker, a converted Chicagoan, and as into guys in uniform as any other gay man with a healthy libido, I’ve certainly dated my way through the ranks in my time. And I’ve gotten to hear a lot of those corruption stories firsthand. No cop I’ve ever known has been involved in illegal activities. But every one of them knew someone who was. I tell you that without judgment. I don’t think anyone is above reproach and we all have skeletons in our closet that we’d rather never see the light of day again.

My point is simply that there are lines you don’t cross even when you’re a cop. And what’s unfortunate about that is when some rogue, butthead, blindly drunken officer does go there–he or she–they drag down all of their fellow officers right along with them. And they make it harder for the public to place their trust in their local finest.

Trendy though it always seems to be, I’ve never felt a need to jump on the bandwagon and vilify all police for the actions of a few. Maybe that’s a perspective that comes from having known a few officers personally. Still, in Chicago, we’ve certainly come a long way since the ’68 Democratic National Convention. Just this week, downtown hosted the fourth annual peace march in opposition to the Iraq war, and though the riot gear, as always, was over the top, and 2005 notwithstanding, Chicagoans and their police force co-existed pretty much peacefully.

That’s as it should be. But it still chills me to wonder how many in that crowd from Tuesday night just can’t see a police officer as a fellow human being–or how many of them will find it harder to do so in light of the Abbate incident.

At any rate, besides a more considered (if not exactly popular) perspective, my history with the boys in blue has had at least one incontrovertible benefit. I’ve never been seated on a criminal jury in my life. Every time a judge has asked me whether I could trust police testimony in a courtroom, I ‘ve always had to say, “No”. Because of all the stories I’ve heard first-hand. Because of men like Abbate. Because every cop I’ve ever known has told me to be careful what I believe about them.

There’s no experience curiouser in this world than watching a judge’s eyes bug halfway out of his head when he asks me why I can’t trust police testimony and I answer, “Because I’ve dated too many of them”.

I can’t help but feel some readers will find this post a little contradictory. I say I won’t generalize about the police on the one hand, but I won’t believe what they say in a courtroom on the other. Life’s like that sometimes. You can’t always package it up neat with a little bow on top. Things aren’t always white or black. Sometimes you just have to be happy with deciphering shades of gray. I know there are some of you out there who get my meaning in all of this.

In uniform, yet.

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