Overblown whistles

A Suffolk woman was paid an intimidating visit by six policemen after she googled pressure cookers. Some other instances where the arm of the law was a touch hamfisted.

Updated - November 10, 2021 12:36 pm IST

Published - August 10, 2013 06:20 pm IST

Michele Catalano belonged to a dangerous demographic - notorious for armed assault on bovines, avians and ichthyoids - the suburban wife! She was also daylighting as a journalist. It is only logical then, that a google search for ‘pressure cookers’ and ‘backpacks’ triggered alarm bells in the halls of law enforcement. Six policemen arrived at her doorstep and asked her pertinent questions like ‘Do you have a bomb in the house?’, ‘You searched for pressure cookers. Can you make a bomb with that?’ and ‘What’s the backpack for?’

After a while, when Catalano began to get all hot and bothered, the uniforms realised they might have overcooked this investigation a tad. But the cops took solace in the fact that they were hardly the first. Some champions of overreaction -

Don’t mess with Manoos

Instant arrest and a 14-day judicial remand, with the promise of further investigation. Just desserts for a Facebook status update. When Bal Thackeray, part-time cartoonist and full-time tiger of the Shiv Sena, died, all of Mumbai shut down to let his funeral procession pass. Now, even on an average day, Mumbai traffic moves at the speed of tar. So a ‘standstill’ means the city is grounded. Shaheen Dhadha and Renu Shrinivas weren’t too thrilled and decided to vent on Facebook. Without delay, the strong arm of the law, wielded in this case by the local Sena leader, face palmed itself.

Peppery Pike

It was the time when the Occupy protests had occupied public imagination. Peaceful for the most part, these protests usually involved people showing up and getting tweeted and retweeted virally. A group of students at the University of California, Davis, decided to take up the non-violence a notch and staged a sit-in. Enter Lt. John Pike. It could be the mushrooms, or maybe he thought things were too quiet, because Pike shook his can of pepper and sprayed it straight into the faces of protesters. Pike showed us all that day what ‘going viral’ really means.

Christmas larceny

This one takes the Christmas plum cake, with extra raisins. It was Christmas eve. A 12-year-old was arrested on charges of petty larceny by South Carolina police. The diligent policemen were tipped off by a woman who saw the boy open Christmas presents and helping himself to a $85 Nintendo. If you shrugged ‘so what’, here’s the punchline - the woman was the boy’s mother. The real crime here, apparently, was that the perp opened his presents early! Was it a lesson in patience? Advanced parenting, perhaps? All we know is that this arrest deserves a community-wide slow clap. With grave head-shaking.

Law and disorder

Alfie Medows was a protester. The U.K. had announced that it would treble tuition fees, so Alfie, who agreed with the 10,000 others who felt it was a bad idea, took to the streets. Things get hairy in a protest, but if the police’s charges of ‘violent disorder’ are to be believed, Alfie attacked a police truncheon with his head and did it so many times that he caused himself brain damage. This March, a jury unanimously gave him a ‘not guilty’ verdict and recognised that he was, in fact, knocked on the noggin by armed policemen.

Royal high-handedness

Ever watched the movie Minority Report? The police keep such a close watch on you that you get arrested even before committing the crime. Overcome by royal loyalty, the police in London arrested no less than 15 persons on the wedding day of Kate and William, without a single crime committed. Among them was a boy who brought a pen to the parade, and a group of friends dressed as zombies, and a man taking a walk. The arrestees have now come together and resolved legal payback. This, however, is premeditated!

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