Friday, February 13, 2009

From Cufflinks to Handcuffs

I’ve written before about picking my wife up after work in the summer, but today, with snow falling hard, I picked her up early to avoid a messy commute as a big snowstorm was just beginning to push through town. While parked outside of the large bank building where she works, directly behind an empty police car, I saw a sight that I’m used to seeing every day but which seemed out of place before a bank.

An executive-looking man, probably mid 40’s to 50, with the trademark blue banker suit and red tie, was escorted out of the building, handcuffed, coatless, surrounded by three uniformed officers, as the snow flakes melted against their faces and gathered on their clothes. They paused for a second in front of me, debating about whether to put the guy in the squadcar on the street or the sidewalk side. The guy looked up at me pathetically, wearily, appearing on the verge of tears.

I have no idea who he was and why he has being led out of the bank this way. As much as I’ve occasionally griped that I wished the law applied more equally toward those who work in towers compared to those who wear bluer collars, it wasn’t an easy sight to behold as the guy looked more worn down than my clients typically did as they dragged him out of his job and into the police car.

I’ve been reading Laurence Gonzales’ Everyday Survival off and on and, though it’s not as good as Deep Survival, it’s worth reading. In fact, the last time I wrote about waiting outside the bank watching window washers “play” above me, it brought to mind Gonzales’ descriptions of risk-takers learning to laugh in the middle of risk as a way to concentrate and, thus, survive. (thanks to Mark Bennett for telling me about this great book)

Watching three police officers escort this man into their car, his hands cuffed behind his back, made me think of the way Gonzales described one of the secondary purposes of handcuffing as shaming the arrestee by taking away the appendage that represents our humanity, separates us from animals, the thing we extend to show friendship in offering a handshake.

The description seemed a bit of a stretch when I read it, and I know a lot of police officers would disagree with it, but seeing this banker’s hands locked behind his back as one officer pushed his head down, ducking him into the car revealed that shame and helplessness were obvious and that officer safety wasn’t an issue with an aging banker with three younger cops. In short, the picture was worth a thousand words and brought home the shame that comes when you’re pulled out of your tower with your hands behind your back and driven away with the lights flashing.

I wondered if he’d just been laid off and had “lost it” when he heard the news or if he was charged with embezzlement, or something more along the lines of the crimes I usually defended against.

I wondered if this sight will become more common before we reach the end of this financial crisis, a white-collared executive having to duck into a black and white “police interceptor.”

1 comment:

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