What’s up with the Syracuse Police?


The last time I went to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in my electric wheelchair, I couldn’t find a place to sit so I was quietly wheeling along the parade route.  A Syracuse cop challenged me.  He ordered me to get behind the barricades, which stretched the length of the parade route.  How was I supposed to do that?  People were standing five to ten deep behind the barricades, even in the intersections.  What was I supposed to do?  Where was I supposed to go?  The cop wasn’t about to be part of the solution, just part of the problem.  He wouldn’t help me find a place, or open a path for me:  he just kept berating me that I had to get off the parade route.

So this year I go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in my electric wheelchair.   I find a place backed up to the against the curb, surrounded by little kids, and I am happily sitting in the sunshine watching the parade.  (Which, by the way, I’ve got a question.  The parade starts with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division band, with which I’ve got no problem.  Every parade needs a band to step it out right, and a military band will do that better than most high school bands, but after that we got lots of VFW and ex-military stuff.  Why?  In a Memorial or Veteran’s Day parade, sure, but today’s parade is about being Irish and Catholic, so why we are putting the military at the head of it?  St. Patrick was two blocks back in the line of march.  Could we please stop putting the military at the head of every parade?  Could we lead the world with something other than reminders of our military might?)  But I digress.

So I’m sitting there watching the parade—I love parades, especially small-town parades where the Cub Scout troop has one uniform and each boy is wearing one piece of it—when two big boys come and stand in front of me.  They’re maybe twelve, thirteen years old and their heads are above mine.  I can’t see the parade.  I wait to see if they’ll move on.  They don’t.  It is apparent that they are not under any adult supervision.  I ask them to move.  They laugh at me.  I ask them to step back to the curb or sit down, like the other kids.  They jeer at me.  I am looking up at unruly, unsupervised children who know they have the upper hand.  It is often frightening to be in a wheelchair.

So I wheel across the street to the policeman on the corner in front of the Dunkin Donuts.  I tell him the story and ask him to please move the boys.  The cop mumbles, murmurs, shrugs and does nothing.  This is where the failure to obey authority starts:  when a cop won’t face down a couple of boys harassing a disabled person.

So I’d like to know what we have cops at parades for.  If they’re not going to do anything to protect a person in a wheelchair, just fold their arms over their chests and watch the parade, then what’s the point?

Last year I was headed to a downtown festival when I came upon a car accident two blocks from the festival.  I wheeled ahead, found three cops at the festival standing with their arms folded over their chests, talking in a group.  I reported the accident.  The cops told me to call it in and Dispatch would send somebody.  ‘You’re somebody!’ I wanted to retort.  ‘Get to work,’ but I didn’t say it.

I have seen so many cops (and, babe, you are cop, not a policeman, if you stand with your arms folded and don’t work) at outdoor public affairs, and they are watching the parade or talking to each other, not paying attention to the people.  When the President is in the parade, the police do not face the parade route:  they turn their backs and face the people in the crowd.  The President is getting along just fine, thank you; it is the people who need your attention.

How about we try that, Chief Fowler?  How about we stop paying cops to stand out in the sun and do nothing?  How about they serve the people or we give them a day off without pay?

I spent six years living in the jurisdictions of East Syracuse, Dewitt and Fayetteville.  In the towns and villages, the police attitude always was, “How may I help you, ma’am?”  The Syracuse Police attitude is “Get outa my face, lady.”  What would it take to change that attitude?  And it is all about attitude.  This isn’t about Dispatch not giving my call the priority that I think it should have.  This is about cops with a bad attitude standing at parades and festivals and not working.

If the police want respect then they have to give it.  I’ll start treating them with respect right after they start treating me with respect.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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19 Responses to What’s up with the Syracuse Police?

  1. Cathi Carol says:

    I also think of the police as our protectors. At a parade keeping the crowd from becoming unruly is their job.

    The disabled deserve accomodation. At public events there should be a section set aside for wheelchairs.

    This problem would be of interest to your local newspapers. And to the mayor’s office, as well. Does the town need a new, reforming chief of police?

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Unfortunately, nothing related to people who are old, poor or disabled is of any interest to our local newspaper, the Post-Standard. I have sent it to the mayor’s office. Come Monday when they get to reading their email, we’ll see. Syracuse got a new mayor–and with her, a new chief of police–two years ago. Chief Fowler is local–came up through the ranks–and black, which is a start on reformation as all previous chiefs have been white guys in a predominently black city. I think he’s trying, and doing a pretty good job, but you have to step carefully in trying to redirect a bunch of cops. It’s like trying to turn an aircraft carrier under full power. Fowler is a chief among men, not a god.

      Our city police and county sheriff’s are housed in the same downtown building. It has a narrow street running beside it with diagonal parking on one side. Off-duty people, unmarked official cars, and city/county vehicles would park on the sidewalk, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t get ticketed. Problem was, with them on the sidewalk I couldn’t get my wheelchair down there. This had been going on for years. I finally filed a complaint with the Mayor’s Office, and now nobody parks illegally on the sidewalk. A little problem that Mayor Stephanie Meyer and Chief Fowler took care of.

      The county executive, the mayor and the CEO of one of the two biggest employers are all female. Women work together differently than men. We’ll see what happens.

  2. Kate says:

    Why don’t you set up an appointment to speak with the Police Chief about sensitivity training and understanding and enforcing ‘reasonable accommodations’ at public events for the rank and file police officer? Totally agree with poster CC. I think you (and others) might also want to speak with the organizers of the parade about setting aside a wheelchair accessible location to view the event.
    Don’t fume super-advocate! Challenge and change the system!

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Um-m-m-m, my super advocacy for the old man on the sidewalk has left me with a very bad cold and/or sinus infection and pneumonia. The reason most disabled people don’t do much to change the system is because we’re too damn sick . . . We need able-bodied others to pitch in and help. You want to contact the police chief for an appointment for us?

      • Kate says:

        Speak or email Beata at ARISE. Staying local may move mountains. Here’s the latest contact link to your St. Pat’s parade…info@syracusestpatricksparade.org, here’s a listing of their directors and members-http://syracusestpatricksparade.org/aboutus/index.shtml
        They may not be obliged to honor a reasonable accommodation, however, as a courtesy to the community, this may be an easier fix than you think. Think globally, act locally.

      • annecwoodlen says:

        Kate,

        I have not found Beata to be effective in any way. Thanks for the link to St. Pat’s parade. An organizer at the parade asked me to contact them on-line. Sometimes the organizers are a whole lot more considerate than the government regulators.

  3. Cathi Carol says:

    Glad to know your efforts are paying off. Of course you will achieve more as time goes on. Are you fighting on your own? Does your community have an alliance of disabled people to lobby?

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Yes, I fight alone. In some small part that is because psych meds left me so disabled that I cannot go out into the community very much. I would invite others to come and work the phones and computer with me in bed, but my bed is not so large and community standards are, um, well . . . The directors of advocacy at the two local independent living centers lack the intelligence and courage I have so I left them behind years ago.

  4. Cathi Carol says:

    You’re working hard and you can’t do everything, true. I know about the problems of self-advocation as I have ME. Perhaps trying the newspapers repeatedly will help. Maybe they’ll eventually hire someone who cares about community issues – a personal advocate/troubleshooter like many big newspapers have.

    Kate’s right; at the very least parade-organizers or the city must provide disabled seating for public events or break federal law, I believe.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      I have been trying “the newspapers” (we only have one, the Post-Standard) repeatedly for ten years. It does not report news about people who are elderly, poor and/or disabled. For fifty years the P-S has been published by the Stephen Rogers, first the father then the son. Additionally, the P-S is laying off people due to falling circulation. They will not hire now.

      About 250 people read my blog, “We Need Your Help.” If I ran the P-S, I’d hire me.

      Please read my blog about the Post-Standard https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/medicaid-racism-and-the-post-standard-part-iii/

      Regarding reserved seating for people with disabilities, I will check with my contact at the regional ADA office, but I doubt that the ADA applies. The parade route is not an enclosed space with access limited by some person or organization; it’s the world at large.

      • Kate says:

        You may want to try a more direct approach to the people who can really make changes re the Parade before you stick it to the media. If the event orgainzers or the police don’t respond or refuse to make some changes so the event is more spectator inclusive, I would welcome and applaud a stinging response from you. I would also try to get some community support, and have some supportive folks attend a Common Council meeting, -who’s your local council person?

      • annecwoodlen says:

        My local council person is a dorkhead. Getting community support exceeds my capacity as I am so often bed-ridden.

      • Kate says:

        You have a great forum right here…to start.

      • Cathi Carol says:

        Ah, clarity about your newspaper. Bummer. I’d hire you, too.

        Interesting to know about your wp following! Congratulations. I’ve sometimes tweeted a post of yours, too, to my own twitter following.

        And thanks again for reposting parts of one of my posts. (I appreciated your compliments very much.) It was a journey – I kept rewriting it as I read more books.

        Let us know what you find out about parade access. I sure hope that works out.

      • annecwoodlen says:

        Thank you. You can hire me; I work cheap. Thanks for passing my writing around. Parade access is the smallest thing on my mind right now–have you been following the Old Man’s story? The federal government “disappeared” him on Friday. Nobody knows where they sent him–including he, himself.

  5. Cathi Carol says:

    “Word” is the new “I grok you.”

    Yes, I’ve been reading about Dr. The Old Man. Woah, what has happened to him?

    As you can see, everyone loves you and wants you to have parade access! Hence, may hopeful suggestions which you seem already to have tried.

    Cathi

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