I was on patrol, and saw a little car pull through the parking lot of the convenience store to avoid the stop sign. I shrugged, and pulled it over at the next intersection. The driver dutifully pulled off the state farm highway, and onto a residential surface street. I approached from the driver's side, and introduced myself and explained why the driver had been stopped. He began to contest it, but I told him that I would need his driver's license and insurance. He handed over the insurance right away. Huh-- that's what most people have to look for. I asked him for a driver license. He hemmed and hawed a bit, and I asked him if he possessed one. With his palms up, he admitted that his was under suspension.
"Go ahead and step out, Jerry," I told him, as I stepped back from his door.
I could see it dawning on him: I had never asked his name, and he had never given it during this interaction. Yet I knew who he was.
I could hardly mistake those prison tats, and his scars and marks. I had been a jailer who had hated him, once.
"Hate" is a strong word. I don't use it a lot. But I had felt that emotion for this man, whom I had served many a breakfast in his solitary cell. Jerry couldn't be with other inmates, because he stirred up too much trouble. Maybe that was just the way he liked it, and something that he had figured out in the 22 prior stints that he had done at our jail. Jerry was an equal-opportunity criminal, who, in addition to dealing drugs, seemed to be working his way through the index crimes, though he hadn't yet committed murder, to my knowledge. Bored and in a cell all day, George would figure ways to screw with the jailers. Noisy arguments, spreading rumors to other cells (they could talk to each other), false reports about other inmates, false written complaints about jailers-- he did it all and more. And he had focused on being a particular ass to me.
I will tell you that I never retaliated. Not once. Not after having to explain away BS complaints about me (thank GAWD for CCTV and stored video) by Jerry. Not after having been made late going home to write him up (at my sergeant's direction) for starting another disturbance.
So, when I came across him on this traffic stop, I thought, "Huh. This feels like one of those tests which we sometimes have to give ourselves."
I decided not to arrest him for his suspended license. I issued him a citation for Failure To Present Driver License. I did not impound his vehicle. I asked him about drugs in the car, which he denied having. He offered to let me search his car, and I did. He then shook my hand, thanked me, and drove away.
I thought: man, there was your opportunity for a little payback. John Van Maanen might have been a bit disappointed with me; I had not kept "The Asshole" in check.
At some points, though, you just have to let a thing go, and I guess that I had. I'm a little embarrassed that it even occurred to me to turn the screws on old Jerry, just because of how he had been.