Thursday, November 30, 2006


FLASH, gentle reader, is an acromym, as well as a piece of late-breaking news on the Greenwich home front. Turns out the feud between the cop shop and Town Hall is heating up. To bring you up to date, the powers that be are constructing a new "public safety" complex, which means more modern jail cells for the likes of Diana Ross and other local lawbreakers. It probably also means fancier offices for the top brass. If you want to see what the old building looked like in its waning days, just scroll down and you will start seeing some pictures.

But to build these new and fancier jail cells and offices, temporary adjustments must be made. The whole area is now one big construction site, and the parking lot where the cops used to park their personal vehicles before climbing into the souped-up Crown Vics with the pretty lights no longer exists. The First Selectman, one James A. Lash by name, has decreed that the cops are to park at Town Hall and walk a quarter-mile or so to their jobs.

By and large, this would not appear to be a big deal. At the average pace of three miles an hour, the average cop could manage this walk in about five minutes. Ah, but what if it snows (as it does, from time to time, and sometimes quite heavily)? Then the five-minute walk would become a ten- or fifteen-minute slog; and if the cops have to report before the snow removal crews do, as no doubt is often the case, they will have to walk the long way 'round rather than taking the direct route across the town green. So yes, Virginia, there is an issue here.

The police union, AKA the Silver Shield Association, has filed a grievance against the First Selectman for his arbitrary and non-contractual (in their view) adjustment to their lives. No one knows when or how this action may be resolved. In the meantime, some of the cops started to park at long-term metered spaces, just as everyone else in town is entitled to do.

But no! The much-despised chief cop, Jimmy Wawa, who has been the subject of two hugely lopsided votes of no confidence by the union (and who, of course, has his own specially reserved parking place), got wind of this and went into his typical overreactive mode. He issued a direct order that all cops (except himself, of course) were to park at Town Hall or face disciplinary action. That could entail, I presume, not only a temporary suspension, but even graver consequences up to and including dismissal for insubordination.

Well, this did not sit well with the union. And since the First Selectman in this burg is also the Commissioner of Police, the aforesaid James A. Lash came quickly into the picture. In past years, consequent to the votes of no confidence, Lash has snubbed the union's attempts to meet with him and present their grievances; this has led to occasional picketing at Town Hall by off-duty cops. Special tee shirts were created for these occasions reading "Lash Out!" - a form of protected free speech indicating disapproval of Lash's unresponsiveness and a desire to see him lose at the next town election.

And this, of course, did not sit well with Lash. And since, as faithful readers of this blog know, the local Democrats are all but comatose in their vote-getting ineffectuality, Lash has had no trouble staying in office, and thus the cops managed to earn themselves a powerful and unsympathetic enemy. (Actually, Lash has managed to make himself a lot of enemies all over town, but that's another story for another time.)

So Lash and Wawa have apparently decided to make a big issue of all this, and have opened an investigation focusing on one or more of the perceived ringleaders of the current unrest. But once again, the union perceives some potential illegalities in this procedure; ordinarily, an officer under investigation is informed of this fact and given some opportunity to present his side of the story. Not so in this case, it seems, as Lash and Wawa are apparently building a case behind the back or backs of those concerned.

Since, as we all know, this kind of wholesale disregard of individual rights has become epidemic under the current national administration, why should we be surprised, dear reader, if it happens here as well? Gone are the days of thinking that it *can't* happen here, because it already is and has been for quite some time now. Geneva Convention? Ignore it. Habeas corpus? Never heard of it. Star Chamber trials? Check out the ceiling in the First Selectman's office at Town Hall - does it have the sparkly orbs of the eponymous original these days? Dunno - I haven't been there in years. But I suspect those stars are there, whether visible or not to the naked eye.

Well, the latest shot across the First Selectman's bow comes in the form of a new bumper sticker that reads "FLASH". The small print informs us that this stands for "Friends of Law Enforcement Against Selectman Harassment". Okay, fair enough. But Lash sees a hidden meaning, as he confided to the Yellowwich Time yesterday: to him it reads F*** Lash.

Oh, my! Did you spot the hidden meaning, dear reader? Did the naughty policemen use a bad word, or does Lash have a hyperactive imagination? And does anyone even care?

Nevertheless, the pissing contest between the cop shop and Town Hall has ratcheted upwards, and it remains to be seen what may be the fallout of displaying the new bumper sticker. Naturally, your scribe always takes a first-hand interest in these things, and so he went into the station yesterday to report a missing bumper sticker. What he meant to imply, of course, was that his bumper was missing this particular sticker, and the cops on duty quickly got the drift. He was told that they were not available through on-duty personnel, but that arrangements might be made with an off-duty officer to provide him with some. Hey - whatever works, right? (Actually, one has to admire the professionalism of the men on duty for adhering to a high ethical standard regardless of their well-known and widely-reported view of the First Selectman.)

And so it is that I am now the proud possessor of a modest supply of FLASH bumper stickers. And, like Prufrock, I hesitate: do I dare to eat a peach? No problemo - I've always had a good crop of hair on top. But affix a bumper sticker? Aye, there's the rub, to switch spokespersons. I shall inspect the tea leaves, check the omens, and consult the stars (the real ones) before making the momentous decision. But one thing is reasonably certain: I believe if I were to cross the Rubicon, as it were, I would be better treated by the cops on the beat, and more likely to incur the rancor of the two Jimmies.

Well, maybe the latter wouldn't be such a terrible thing. They say, as you know, that you can tell a man by his enemies; and given the number of people in town who despise the Jimmies, it might be a good way of showing that I'm on the side of the angels.


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