You may not be the most perceptive person in the world.
Sometimes, you don’t see a car next to you while changing lanes. Your friends’ birthdays might not stick in your mind. Maybe you have even neglected, from time to time, to notice your boyfriend’s growing biceps. Or your girlfriend’s new haircut.
That last one’s not good. Trust me.
But as unobservant as we can be, I think most of you would notice a dead body just a few feet away. Especially if you’re a police officer looking through a Mercedes window as you deposit an illegal parking ticket under the wiper blade.
Yet somehow, cops in Peoria, Illinois last month issued three tickets and a tow-away sticker on an SUV … and didn’t notice the dead body inside.
At least it hadn’t yet been a full week when a bystander noticed a motionless boot against the glass and alerted hospital authorities. The police finally “discovered” the body in the back seat of the very vehicle they had been ticketing for days.
At first I was upset by this story. I mean, aren’t all Americans—especially law enforcement personnel—supposed to be on heightened alert? Shouldn’t they be hyperaware of things out of the ordinary and extra vigilant against potential threats?
Then I realized this is PEORIA. Sure, the city is abuzz with excitement for Bradley University’s upset of Kansas last night … but it sure isn’t on the front lines of any recent conflict. In New York or Washington, that car would have been towed off—or vaporized in a controlled demolition—quicker than Russell Crowe can hurl a phone across the room.
So maybe our priorities are in the correct place after all. I’m guessing that the badguys won’t try to spank us anywhere near Iowa, Wisconsin, or Indiana: the “flyover states,” as folks on the coasts call them. If most people in America haven’t heard of Peoria—much less Dubuque, Stevens Point, or Greencastle—do you really think that audiences overseas would be energized by a car blowing up there?
Don’t get me wrong. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for the practicality and no-bullshit attitude of Midwestern culture. I’m not hoping for an attack in the heartland, merely pointing out that if police in Washington or New York left an unattended vehicle just steps away from a public venue for days on end, heads would roll.
It happens in Central Illinois, and most of the country doesn’t even know about it.
Except for that dead body thing.
So the real issue here is why the police in Illinois didn’t see that lifeless leg propped up against the car window. Were they focusing on the alleged thousands of Midwestern methamphetamine labs? Did officers just get lazy as they continued dwelling on Da Bears’ playoff loss?
The police captain would surely deny any such explanations—she blames tinted windows for the error, telling a local newspaper it was really, really hard to see inside the car. She said she understood why her officers made this mistake.
I think that’s just a cop out.