When I was in my late teens, I often walked to the mall near my home. It was about an eight-mile trek which took about an hour, give or take, depending on the weather and my mood.
The road I took was a fairly major road. One of those broad well marked, well cleared two lane highways. About one mile from the mall the road ran over a wide bridge with sidewalks on both sides, the bridge spanning one of the major interstates in the area, I-126.
One day while walking to the mall, when I was about half way across the bridge, the mall just about a mile away, a cop car with lights flashing pulls beside me. I can see the officer’s hand indicating for me to get into the car, in the front passenger seat. I open the door and get in as instructed.
The officer says, “Wait just a moment. I’ll explain everything. Just let me get off this bridge.” He gets back into traffic and as soon as he is off the bridge he makes a lefthand turn across traffic and pulls into a gas station / repair shop.
He gets on his radio and says a few things in code. Then he looks at me and says, “Just wait here,” and he gets out of his car. In what seemed like mere seconds there were cop cars arriving from all directions, lights flashing, sirens blaring. Four of them converged right around the car I was sitting in. What was clearly a Sargent gets out of one of them. The cop that picked me up walks over to him and they talk briefly.
The Sargent comes over to the car and opens the door. “Get out.” I oblige. He says, “Let’s see your license.” I pull out my wallet and hand over the license. He looks it over and then asks, “Where do you live?” I give him my address. I know now he was checking to see if I knew what my license said, a method of determining a false license.
The Sargent nods to the officer that picked me up who then comes over to me and says, “I need to check you for weapons, okay? You aren’t under arrest. At least not yet. Just go along with us okay?” I agree.
This is the mid 1970’s. You didn’t need to do a whole lot of frisking with me. Sure my hair was long but I was a rocker-in-training. I wore a small Greek captains cap; a small bill connected to a floppy top cover. I had on an army jacket which I removed. Some other cop went through its pockets. I had on a knit body-tight collarless long sleeve shirt and tight – as in TIGHT – bell bottom blue jeans. You didn’t need to frisk much as those jeans made the size and location of my gender pretty damn clear and the tight shirt left no doubt as to the location of my nipples. I couldn’t have hidden a pen knife anywhere.
So after a quick frisk the Sargent comes over to me and says, “Okay, this can be easy or hard. We have a witness that says you robbed a liquor store at gun point, just back up the road here. Now the easy way is for us to take you to the store and get a positive ID. The hard way is we go downtown. So which is it?”
I said, “Let’s go get the ID.” He looked a little shocked at that. I think he felt like he had his man and expected some resistance. He says, “Okay,” and directs me to get back into the first car.
We, the entire squad of cars, drive back over the bridge to a little Red Dot store a quarter of a mile or so on the other side. The Sargent gets out and signals me to stay seated. The officer with me says, “Wait here,” and gets out. The Sargent goes inside the liquor store, has a few words and then comes out waving his arm to bring me on. The officer opens my door and we both walk inside the liquor store.
Immediately the owner is shaking his head, saying, “Oh no. No. That’s not him. It was a stocking cap and the guy was heavier, and the hair was stringier.” The Sargent asks him, “Are you sure?” “Oh yes, positive. That’s not the guy.” We all walk outside. The Sargent hands my license back to me, saying, “Sorry about that. Where were you headed?” I said, “To the mall.” He said, “Officer Jones will give you a ride. Sorry for the trouble.”
One by one the cop cars drove away so much slower than they had arrived. There seemed an air of sadness about them. Officer Jones and I get back into the car and he headed back across the bridge on our way to the mall.
He says, “I’m really sorry about that. I was just having some coffee and this guy comes running in. He saw you walking up the street and he swore you were the one that robbed that liquor store yesterday. He demanded I do something.” I replied, “I understand. You were having coffee?”
The officer said, “Yeah, I was across the street, in the doughnut shop, when . . . ”