Monday, January 11, 2010

are police logs literature?

Every Thursday the local daily publishes the police report for Montpelier, and I'm getting in the habit of keeping them around as a sort of accidental local poetry. I can't figure out whether the log reflects the mind of a small-city beat cop or whether it reflects the broader psyche of the whole city (which is not really a city, with only 8,000 people). Either way, the reports are well worth the time it takes to read them.

Suspicious activity: Caller received an automated phone call about his credit card.

Car hit a deer on Sherwood Drive; deer still alive.

Someone was choking on Barre Street, but recovered.

Caller heard someone walking up the back stairs on River Street.

Horses in the roadway on Main Street.

Man possibly pounding windows on State Street.

Found: red-colored miniature Pinscher on River Street.

Water running from light fixtures on Cityside Drive.

Woman concerned about a child in front of City Hall.

Dog on Loomis Street barking off and on for about three hours.

Candle burning in an apartment on Cummings Street.

Horses in the roadway on State Street. Same horses.

Female sitting on a curb on State Street rocking back and forth.

Neighbor on Jay street calling someone names; an ongoing problem.

I read these and wonder what kind of literature they are. Maybe literature of a very low order, but so what? I confess that I'm worried about the deer and amused about the horses--these were the draft horses used to pull the Christmas wagon we all got to ride around town in during December. They were definitely in the roadway, but they were supposed to be there. Who called this in? The barking dog is deeply familiar to me, since it was barking barking barking next door, but I never once thought it was something I should refer to the police. Who did?

Animal incidents aside, there really is something rhetorically interesting about someone "possibly" pounding on storefront windows downtown, and something downright creepy about water pouring from streetlights on Cityside Drive. I want to know who got choked on Barre Street and is now feeling better, and I'd also like to know who, exactly, is in front of City Hall--woman or child? Is this deliberate ambiguity? I'm a little worried about that woman sitting on the curb.

I sometimes think a decent novel could be constructed entirely out of police reports--it might be a little spare and sketchy, but it would have a kind of puzzling charm.


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  2. "Horses in the roadway on State Street. Same horses."

    This made me laugh. I'll never forget being apprised* of the 5! horses running (quite happily) down Upper Road.

    Exciting for a suburb girl like myself.

  3. Great post :) Also, court proceedings are publishable as thrillers. Recipe collections are memoirs. Are ad slogans wisdom literature?

  4. Rochester Times Editor, John Nolan, made something of an art of this years ago and continues to add the odd bit here and there to this day. Here's a sampling:

    12:54 a.m. — A man on Little Falls Bridge Road, perambulating suspiciously, is checked out by an officer from the Ministry of Funny Walks.

    1:18 p.m. — On Salmon Falls Road police deem hollering and screaming to be verbal in nature.

    12:00 a.m. — A Strafford Road boxer named Bauer's been missing for hours and hours. When the owner calls May Day, it's caught by the lady who controls all the city's bow-wowwers.