Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 30 2013

Armed and Not Dangerous

Once upon a time, we had a pretty serious incident at school involving a knife and some police officers (and me crying in my office as I realized one of my favorites had ruined his life and I couldn’t save him, but that’s for another story). Unfortunately, it also involved me being new to my job and not knowing knife procedure, which means I didn’t realize that police documentation and school documentation are not the same thing. I stepped back and let the police handle it without ever realizing that I was supposed to pop in and say, “Excuse me, Officer, could I borrow that knife from you and take some pictures of it?” (I wasn’t raised to take weapons from policemen.) They took everything when they went back to the station, leaving me with absolutely no documentation for my own report. It took me about two hours to realize I was in enormous trouble.


And so began a long series of phone calls to everyone in the police department. We don’t keep weapons – call Evidence. No one turned anything in to us – call Records. We can’t release information on a minor – stop calling. Finally, I reached a detective who took pity on me and invited me down to the station. I’m sure we can turn up something.


When I got there, I waited on our side of the bulletproof glass with a bunch of very unhappy-looking people until the detective showed up with an enormous report. This was a relief for the fifteen seconds it took for me to flip through and realize there was no picture included. When I asked about it, he was as confused as I was. Well, there should be a picture. I wonder what happened to it. Why don’t you come on into the back and we’ll try to figure it out. I followed through a series of metal detectors into the back offices of the police station. Not the jail part, but the part with coffee machines and neighborhood gang maps and Officer of the Month. We met a dizzying number of officers before finding one who happened to still be carrying the knife in his briefcase.


Now I want you to imagine me, sitting at a big table in a heavily secured part of the police station. One officer puts a knife down on the table and leaves to get a camera. The other officer remembers something else and leaves in the other direction. Suddenly it is just me, sitting at the table alone with a big ol’ knife in front of me.


Now imagine the look on the face of the next officer to pass through that room. Me, unsupervised with a weapon, hanging out in the conference room. It may have been the double-take of the century.


That’s probably the moment I realized that I have a really, really strange job.

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