A case of mistaken identity theft, Czech-style (Part II)

I dig cops. My dad was a member of the Ottawa Police Service (‚?úService‚?Ě? How PC!) and I‚??ve always been proud of that fact. I enjoyed the time I spent hanging out with the fuzz at their club; the only fly in the ointment was the occasional racist or homophobic remark. All in all, I respect and admire cops. At least that‚??s how I feel about Ottawa cops.

I haven‚??t quite made up my mind about Czech police. I‚??ve always regarded most of the police force here as being made up of shady, undereducated louts. Many seem like people who don‚??t really know what to do with themselves and reckon being a Czech cop is an easy career choice. I‚??d like to think I‚??m wrong and being too harsh and that the good apples outnumber the bad, but I can‚??t help but feel that Czech cops couldn‚??t catch a cold after standing buck naked in the freezing rain for a couple of hours. Apologies for the clumsy expansion of that clich√?, but you get my drift ‚?? Czech fuzz don‚??t strike me as being all that reliable, they‚??re more like ticket inspectors with guns. And for my sake and the sakes of all my fellow Praguers, I really hope I‚??ve got a false impression.

Monday‚??s experience at the Blackbridge cop shop (or, more precisely, the Kyje police station) neither disproved nor confirmed these theories. As I mentioned in yesterday‚??s post, owing to suspected identity theft I had to report the fact that my wallet had been stolen. The theft had occurred over a year ago, so I reckoned the cops would either laugh at me or refuse to help me.

Things did not start off well. The entrance to the building is locked and normally you have to push a buzzer so that they can check you out through a security camera, probably talk to you through an intercom and then buzz you in. Well, the button was there, but the camera and/or intercom was ripped out and the box containing it had been wrapped up in clear tape. A woman who was waiting in the little white reception area heard me trying to open the door, watched me looking in with a wtf? face for a while then eventually got off her duff and let me in.

The reception area is a small room with whitewashed walls and a couple of bulletin boards with outdated PSAs, announcements and an advert for an open house that took place well over a year ago. There is a counter with a two-way mirror that slides up when the cops inside take it upon themselves to talk to you. And that can take a long time, as it did yesterday. The woman ahead of me had been waiting for over an hour for whatever it was she was there for, and it looked like I would be there even longer.

I had put off reporting the stolen wallet because a couple of friends had told me of their experiences at Prague cop shops. The gist of each story was that you can to expect to sit around for an obscene amount of time in order for the popo to listen to your account of the incident, type up a report and have you sign a whole whack of papers, each in triplicate.

Now, I understand that cops are busy and I don‚??t envy them for having to listen to people‚??s problems and write about them all day when they get stuck doing so. I‚??d rather take my chances walking the meanest beat or taking part in a raid.

Anyway, after just over an hour, I finally got called up to the reception window. I got the eye-roll and sigh I figured I‚??d get when I asked the cop if he spoke English. Fortunately, his English was alright, and he was quite friendly. He seemed like a clerk, an armed clerk, but a clerk nevertheless.

He led me into the building. On leaving the waiting area, you enter a space with a holding cell. On Monday there was a young skinny, slightly retarded-looking guy in the cell. The stench in the space was downright nasty ‚?? like a toilet bowl filled with old sauerkraut, socks that have been worn for months without a single wash, moldy armpits and human waste.

That‚??s got to be in violation of at least a few human rights codes, I thought, half-gagging as I left the space and entered a hall and followed the cop to a small office furnished with a couple of beaten desks, a few decrepit chairs and, of course, a typewriter (I think that Czech police stations and doctor‚??s offices are the only places in the country where you can hear the cold and solid thwacks, whirs, clicks and dings of vintage typewriters). I also noticed an overflowing ashtray under a window at the back of the office ‚?? in spite of the rather large Smoking is Prohibited in this Building sign in the waiting area.

I told the policeman my story, including the bit about my experience at the FO (or, as Joey believes it‚??s more appropriate, the SFU). He was patient and kind enough, but also somewhat of a smart-ass, but not really in a bad way. In the end, I had to cajole the heavenly Jitka to come to the station to act as an interpreter while the cop typed up my statement.

After waiting around for something like another two hours ‚?? I reckon the cop dealing with my case went for lunch or played solitaire or called his mom or something ‚?? we finally got called into the office behind the reception window. Evidently this was where the sauerkraut undercurrent in the holding cell space was coming from. How can people work in such stinky, messy, lifeless surroundings? Offices like this make me think that even garbage men have it better.

After a little more forever spent dictating and correcting my report to the popo, it finally came time to sign a bunch of documents in triplicate. When we left, the cop who‚??d just clerked for me told the kid in the holding cell that he still had to wait another fifteen minutes before being released. The policeman‚??s colleague had already told him pretty much the same thing twenty or so minutes previously. I felt kind of sorry for the prisoner, and of course I wondered what he had done. I assumed it was a drunk and disorderly rap and then stopped thinking about it. The three hours I had just spent in the Blackbridge cop shop had been more than enough detention for me.

And there‚??s a little more to this story‚?? to be continued tomorrow.

Apr 12, 12:55 (Filed under: Personal )

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