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The Day That Changed My Life

Walking into the 7-11, I headed for the beer cooler. Glancing towards the cash register, I could see the clerk waiting on two customers. “Perfect.” I opened the cooler door and grabbed two six packs of Stroh’s beer. Before the clerk could even move, I was out the door and headed around back to the alley. Just my luck, there was a Detroit police car headed my way. It didn’t take a brain surgeon, let alone two cops, to figure out I had stolen beer.

I had no choice but to drop the beer and run. I had just been to Juvenile Court the week before on a shoplifting charge. With my juvenile record, I would spend time in juvenile hall. I hurdled a backyard fence and raced through the yard. My house was only two blocks away. There was no way those cops could get down the alley. Let alone see me cross the next street.

I jumped my neighbor’s fence into my backyard. Safe, I was home. I actually laughed.

Thinking to myself. “Those stupid cops are probably still driving around looking for me.”

Just as I grabbed the side screen door, I heard, “Well, well, if it isn’t Ricky Frahm.”

Standing by our corner shrub was my neighbor, Officer Dan Fields.

“Well now, Ricky, what took you so long to get home?”

He walked up to me along with his partner. “Is your mom home?”

“No, she is working at Murphy’s bar.”

“Ricky, I have one question for you? Why did you steal the beer from the 7-11?”

“What beer? I was over at my friend’s house all afternoon.”

“Really? Then I suppose it wasn’t you we saw running from the back of the 7-11. Nor you dropping them in the alley?”

“You two are mistaken. Like I said, I was at my friends all afternoon.”

With that, he slammed me up against the house and kicked my feet apart.

“Ricky, just once in your life, can’t you tell the truth?”

He frisked me and then put the handcuffs on. They walked me back to their car and put me in the backseat. I had run-ins with the cops since I was eleven. Most of them were dicks. They didn’t give a shit about why you did something. Maybe you had a reason. When I was fourteen, I got caught breaking into a house. My dad had just died from a heart attack. He didn’t have life insurance. My poor mom had to get a job. Between the costs for the funeral and other bills, she fell behind in the mortgage payments. The bank started sending warning letters. If she didn’t start sending them money, she was going to lose our house. So, I broke into a few houses to get some money. I lied to her. I told I was helping a friend’s dad at his auto repair shop. Telling the cops the real reason was a waste of time.

When we got to Detroit PD’s 5th Precinct. Fields and his partner took me straight to the Juvenile detective’s. Just my luck, I got Detective Pierce. Here was a guy with zero personality and a questionable IQ level. He processed me and put me in a holding room. He had to call my mother to come down to get me.

After almost two hours, I started banging on the door. What the hell was going on.

I saw Dan Fields walk up and unlock the door. “Rick, your mother will be here in an hour. Mind if I came in and talk?”

“No, if you are going to preach to me about good and bad. Forget it.”

“Don’t worry, I just want to talk with my neighbor.”

He came into the room, closed the door, and sat across from me.

“Rick, I have been your neighbor for two years. I have seen the way you play with the younger kids. Heck, my ten-year-old thinks the world of you. He says anytime the kids ask you to play street hockey or toss a football around with them, you do. With your dad passing away a few years ago. I understand you have taken over as the head of the house. Watching your brother and sister for your mom so she could work. Your mother told me you are straight “A” student. How you manage that with what you are into, is amazing.” When he first started speaking, I sort of listened. By the end, I heard every word. He had tried to speak to me several times before. This time I had to listen.

“Ricky, if I didn’t think you were worth helping. I would have gone home an hour ago. But I could not. This was my chance to talk to you. Every day I run into kids like you. They could have made a better life for themselves, but didn’t try. I am in charge of a program called “Police Explorers.” They are kids like yourself, age fourteen to eighteen, who want to learn about police work. See what it is like to be a police officer. Plus, they help at events directing parking and they also can ride with officers. I really want you to join.”

“I don’t know. Most cops are dicks.”