I’m trying to decide if I am a bad person or just overly conscientious.
A few weeks ago we had to report an incident to the police involving my twelve year old son and a voyeur. I have read many personal accounts of people’s experiences with the police and justice system in this country, not all of them glowing, but the three officers I dealt with were kind, human and a credit to their force.
Last week the police arrested a man who they believe to be the culprit and my son and I were asked to go and make our formal statements. Again, the female officer we dealt with was professional, courteous and very much aware of the effect their process could have on a minor. As it happened, my son had a great time. He questioned the poor officer relentlessly about policing, the panic buttons in the room and the custody suite where they locked up the detainees. He also had a ringside seat to some real life police interceptor action as her radio crackled out a call for backup from an officer chasing down a robbery suspect. The police station came alive with the sound of heavy boots thundering down the passage behind the interview room we were in, closely followed by the wail of police sirens in the carpark, fading away as they sped down the road. I think my son made a career choice that night in the interview room.
When we had both made our statements, we were told that should the case go to trial we may be asked to give evidence and that our statements would form part of the case. We were, of course, fine with this.
Or I was until I read the statement that the officer had typed up on my behalf. This is my confession.
I read through the account of what happened that night, as typed up by the officer, cringing inwardly at the plethora of grammar errors and the poor sentence structure on the page before me. The pen was poised in my hand but for a second I was apprehended by the fear that someone, somewhere could think these word came from me, that I would speak, or heaven forbid, write like this and I hesitated to sign. In the split second that I held the pen over the dotted line, I wondered if it was bad form to ask for it to be rewritten properly, after all, there could be solicitors and judges reading this and I didn’t want to look like a grammar philistine.
Am I a bad person? In the scheme of things, it doesn’t seem important. Someone did a bad thing and they will face the consequences for it and that is a fine thing indeed, yet this badly put together statement is still bothering me. I can’t do anything about it, it’s out there and I can’t make it go away, Any of the wonderful people I work with will tell you how they smile politely and indulge my need to correct their work, how I take a soothing red pen to their reports and ask them to rewrite them until I can happily to put my name to them.
I am one of life’s editor. I will erase and redraft everything until the internal knot relaxes and I can move onto the next job. The statement knot is never going to go away. Ever.
I am a bad person.