November 11, 2009 | 2:00
John Law Gets Sort of Rough Now and Then
For a minute. Talk to him for just a minute and you know that he's not the man who looks for trouble.
He's a quiet man. Everything about him is quiet. His voice. His manner of dress. The way he walks into your office. He makes no noise.
Age: Mid-40's. Distinguishing characteristics: None.
He's just one of the 2 1/2 million people in this city.
What sets him apart from the rest -- for today, at least -- is his story.
"I manage a cafe," he starts. "It's a nice place. Family type.
"When my partner and I took it over seven years ago, it had a bad name. We worked hard to make it clean and respectable and that's what it is now.
"What we did," he continues, "we had a few policemen come by occasionally for a meal or a coffee and we gave them special rates. They came back. And they brought other officers.
"Now, a lot of our trade is police officers. They're a nice bunch, and their presence has helped keep the drunks, the bad element, away. Some of the other officers even come in on their days off. Bring their families."
But that is merely by way of introduction to his story.
"It was Friday afternoon. I was sitting at home. My place is on 43rd St.
"I was sitting in the living room when there was this -- like an explosion. Four men came flying through the front door. One with a shotgun, the others with pistols.
"It flashed through my mind that they were hold-up men, but they weren't. They were plainclothesmen.
"They handed me a search warrant with three names on it. None of them were mine. The second name I recognized, though. Mail for him had occasionally been delivered to my house by mistake.
"I told the officers my name and asked them what they wanted. 'You know what we want,' one of them said.
" 'The man you're looking for,' I said, 'I think he lives on 43rd Pl. The same number. This is 43rd St. I've had mail come here for him before. The same address- but 43rd Pl. not St.' "
The quiet man adjusted his glasses, sighed, and continued:
"Right away, one of the officers asked me, 'This mail? Where was it coming from?'
" 'I don't know,' I said. 'It wasn't my mail. I didn't pay attention.'
" 'You know,' the officer laughed.
" 'Then they started searching. The four of them. They spread everything all over the place. One of them started to pry off the back of my TV set, and I said, 'Wait a minute. I'll get you a Phillips screwdriver.' I got it for him and he unscrewed the back instead of tearing it off.
"What I didn't know at the time was that they went out and broke down my garage door. Splintered it. They could have asked me to open the lock.
"For three hours, while I stood there watching, they turned the place upside down. Then they left.
"As they went, I asked them, 'Who's going to pay for the damage?'
" 'Not us.' they told me. 'It's in the course of duty.'
"The next day, I mentioned to some of the officers in the cafe what had happened. They said it was too bad it had to happen to a nice guy like me.
"Then, ten days later I called the lieutenant who led the raiding party on my place. I asked him again if the police would repair the two doors they broke in. 'We're not liable,' he told me.
Apologies, but No Pay "A few days later, two officers came by to apologize. They were different officers. They said a police friend of mine from the cafe had called their station and suggested that someone drop by.
"They said it had been a mistake. They said the warrant should have read 43rd Pl., not St. Again, I asked about the damage and got the same answer.
"It seems to me," the quiet man said, "that they should pick up the bill for the damage they did."
It seems that way to me, too.