Police Logs in Retrospect, I’m Sorry
By Maxine Wally
The first time I was allowed to type in the police log section of the New University was during my predecessor, Stephanie Vatz’s, news editorship. During the 2009-2010 school year, Tiffany Liu and I functioned as her associate news editors — we’d come up with story ideas to send to the listserv, write News in Briefs (NIBs) to fill up space in the layout and edit a few articles if Stephanie didn’t have time. Sometimes, we would come up with witty captions for feature photos or pun-drenched titles for the front page.
Then one Sunday in the newsroom, Stephanie gave me the seemingly innocuous task of putting in the police logs — a dry, illustrative picture of Irvine’s dangerous and all-too-prevalent crimes. I found the time, date and location of occurrence online, and punched it in as I was told. The police logs were, frankly, quite boring, and I found they accurately mirrored the town they covered.
Nestled in the squishy leather chair that all news editors enjoy, I went down the list of misdemeanors in awe: petty theft, petty theft, petty theft, door found open, trash fire, possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana. Petty theft.
I had never considered just how pointless of a job the police force really had in the city of Irvine, but here it was, right in front of me. It was ridiculous. It was a joke.
I began to type: “5:12 PM. 01-07-10. Petty theft. 5:13 PM 01-07-10. Petty theft.” I thought of all the crime in my hometown of Oakland and chortled with bitter regret that so many of my friends back in the Bay experienced skyrocketing murder rates and the harsh reality of ghettos, drug use, prostitution and single parents, while cushy Orange County enjoyed a couple petty thefts. Suddenly, I heard the mischief maker that sits so proudly in my cerebral cortex whisper, like a tiny devil on my left shoulder: “Fuck around a little bit! Fuck arouuuuuund. It’ll be funny.” And why not, my second conscience thought, folding its arms over its chest, little angel wings batting wildly behind it. “You’re a funny gal! People will be cool with it. Just do it.”
I added one little word to the end of the second Petty Theft: “Shocking.” Then I started to really go for it, my fingers flying across the keyboard. “Much to the great surprise of the general public,” I wrote with a sly smile, “A petty theft was committed in Arroyo Vista.” “Trash fire. Chief of Irvine police claims they will ‘get this perpetrator’ no matter what it takes. Extensive investigation to follow.” I couldn’t stop. I was the only one who found it funny at the time, I think, but that was enough for me.
That Wednesday at the weekly “tear-up” meeting at which readers talk about the week’s issue, I was the one who got torn up. Then-editor-in-chief David Lumb turned to the page with the police logs and, with what he tried to make a good-natured chuckle, sighed, saying, “Um, Maxine. These are a little out of hand. People won’t be too happy about it.” He laughed some more when other members of the editorial board chimed in. “Let’s just stop, OK?”
It wasn’t the first time my filter-less mouth had gotten in the way of so-called businesslike decorum, so I swallowed my tongue and nodded.
Then, Lumb received an email and forwarded it to me. It read:
“Dear New U Writers/Editors/Staff,
Most graduate students here flip through the paper briefly looking for relevant/amusing news and then perhaps do the crossword. However, one of the gems we routinely found was the police blotter and its collection of utterly ridiculous incidents such as “door found open, situation resolved” or the infinite counts of “suspicious persons spotted, situation advised.” My fellow graduate readers and I were a bit shocked to find one day that instead of a dry statement of the facts of bored local law enforcement, some attitude had been injected into many of the entries. It seemed a travesty at first but it grew on us and now we are very disappointed to find Maxine Wally is no longer in charge of making the Irvine Po’s absurd weekly list of accomplishments even more laughable. I have no idea how this student newspaper is run and have no intention of telling anyone how to do their job but on behalf of haggard graduate students everywhere I implore you to bring back Maxine’s reign over the police blotter and add a little levity to our weeks.”
I was back on. My reckless, unbridled opinions could be manifested in this little five-column square, where I could unleash all my hatred and annoyance with the bizarre and droll city of Irvine.
I could wave a crimson flag of malevolence and rancor and nobody could tell me otherwise, because the police logs were my space to be myself. I could say whateverthefuck I wanted and if people didn’t think it was funny, oh well!
Bratty thing, really, now that I look back on it. I was rude and I undermined the Irvine police officers that do — seriously — have a job they must stick to. Sometimes it was humorous, but often I went overboard. I can only blame it on boredom; that all-consuming virus that plagues Irvine in a special and very particular way. It was just so desperately dull, so I wanted to shake things up a little. It sounds juvenile, but the controversy was kind of exciting. Once, when I was far more bored than usual, I wrote some ridiculous shit about a sandwich from Trader Joe’s — the turkey, basil and mayonnaise one — that I was eating while I was typing in the police logs. Hey, am I the first journalist (I use that term loosely during this point of my life) who used something farfetched during a period when I was starving for material? Perhaps not, but it really was inappropriate; luckily, the students kept it real and emailed my editor-in-chief, asking what the hell all of this bull in the police logs meant. (Unfortunately, I don’t have that email to include here. For some reason, I didn’t save it). I apologized in the space below my name in the next issue of the paper but I never got a chance to fully say sorry for kind of being an asshole.
I’m learning to try and hold my tongue, while my valiant efforts to eschew irony for positivity remain fruitless. Still, before I leave this place, I want to just say my bad for being crazy on those police logs. City of Irvine: my bad. UC Irvine Police, (and more specifically, UC Irvine chief of police): Er. My bad. UCI faculty/staff who may have had feelings hurt in the process: For real. My bad. And to Adam Tuttle, the graduate student I never met, but had my back with that first email, thanks for helping give me a spot that hopefully made a few folks smile, at least.