Friday, June 29, 2007

Two People of No Consequence

I was telling someone at a Poverty Action fundraiser last night that I've been losing it lately. One measure is that I've taken to offering anyone going to the upcoming NAEH conference $500 to pie Phil Mangano. The bounty's on the table, but no one's taken me up on it yet.

It's probably just as well. Splattering banana cream all over Mangano's impeccable tailoring and distinguished mane of silver hair would probably get one sent to Guantanamo these days, which is why I don't just do it myself. Even if someone else did it, they'd probably arrest me for conspiracy to assault a presidential appointee or something.

I don't know about you, but my last angry period was like twenty years ago, and coincided with my college years. I was reading Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States for one class and Todd Gitlin's The Whole World is Watching for another, and then Reagan invaded Grenada. I just sort of lost it for the next decade or so.

Eventually, I got used to the world being a corrupt shit hole and became sort of blasé about it all. I'd see some new outrage and think, "Well, that's how it is, isn't it?" This, I think, is basically the definition of middle age. But lately, it's like all the sores have been reopened.

And there's always some asshole standing around with a box of salt.

Last Friday, for example, I wrote about how one of our vendors literally got his head caved in, and the cops don't really seem all that interested in catching his homeless assailant. They went through the motions of doing a report at the scene, and, when our vendor was released from the hospital a month later and knew who his assailant was and where to find him, they couldn't be bothered to come take a report.

Today we tried again. Our vendor, who wears a helmet to protect his misshapen head and has brain damage from the assault, once again called the police. His assailant has told other street people that if he sees our guy again he's going to kill him. We're pretty sure that the assailant is in police custody right now for a different assault charge.

So we called 911, and this time, at least, they told us out right that they couldn't be bothered. They did say, however, that they would call back later to get a statement over the phone. An hour later, our guy had to go. Six hours later, we were still waiting for the call. Our staff called back to ask what happened.

The operator reported that they called back, but got the front desk recording and didn't know which extension to push, so they gave up.

The third sentence of the message, said our staff, is "press 0 for the front desk."

Well, they didn't stay on the line long enough to hear that, so they closed out the complaint. Normally, two attempts are required before this occurs, but they felt they'd exhausted their options.

They perked up a little at hearing that our guy was getting death threats, and said we should try again tomorrow. For the third time.

It's hard for me to believe that the police would be this disinterested if anyone with a credit card and a house key had gotten his head bashed in. In fact, if even the assailant had been middle class, there would be more interest. We haven't yet reached the point where it's open season on the homeless.

But when a homeless guy tries to kill another homeless guy, it's just two people of no consequence. They don't even give us a quarter to call someone who cares.


Dr. Wes Browning said...

Have you tried calling the police directly? I wouldn't be using 911 at this stage. I'd be on the phone to headquarters demanding to be transferred to whoever might be able to gently, discreetly, remove his butt from off his head and walk about.

BTW, the assailant (if we're talking about who I think we are) regularly requires medical attention. Some vendors told me they saw him being put in an ambulance Friday or Saturday. If he isn't in his usual haunts or in jail, he's probably at Harborview ER.

Stephany said...

What if someone took the injured person with the helmet[awful story]directly into the police station to file a report in person and press charges? Skip all phone calls and get in their face. Use the Real Change address and home number for 'place of residence' and get it in the books. Then file a restraining order and tell them if they don't you'll contact your personal attorney and the media.

Tim Harris said...

There's an update on this. When Danina asked 911 if there was another number we should be calling, they said no, that if we tried calling a precinct they'd just refer us back to them. I called West Precinct this afternoon anyway and told the guy who answered the phone my story. He seemed sort of incredulous that this could have happened. After a few minutes of him asking question to make sure he had it right, he said that if he'd been in Harborview a report had probably been taken, and if a report had been taken, then another would be redundant. The question at this point is whether the assault unit has a case and whether they consider it actionable. Our vendor staff followed up on this, and was told to call them back on Monday when someone would be in who knew how to work the computer. While this is pathetic, it still qualifies as progress

Stephany said...

"when someone would be in who knew how to work the computer. While this is pathetic, it still qualifies as progress "

oh my gosh i think that this is the twilight zone, like ive been in recently, from the mental health arena.

i want to cuss, but shall refrain.