Tom Ryan’s police abuse story is not as sudden and physically painful as Hobbs’ story, but it deserves just as much attention to prevent it from happening, since both Hobbs and Ryan fear that they are in danger for no particular reason. Ryan describes the town of Newburyport, his hometown, as a city, whose natives are always trying to struggle over the power of politics (Ryan 22). In his memoir Following Atticus, Ryan states, “I would often sit shocked as city councilors or other community leaders lied in some televised meeting and thought nothing of it. When I’d report it, they’d act as though I were the one who had crossed the line – and in some ways they were right, I had. I refused to let business happen as it always had happened” (Ryan 25). When Ryan’s newspaper began to involve the misconducts of police officers, he began to receive death threats on his car’s windshield and in his mailbox. However, Ryan never decided to report these threats because he suspected that the police might have been the ones who wrote them. Ryan continues to explain the long controversial history of Newburyport’s police department and how most politicians feared it. During one night, in front of Newburyport’s city hall, Ryan had a short conversation with a police officer that left him so frightened that he did not to mention the police in his newspaper for the next year and a half. Ryan’s readers wanted to know why, but all he could do was say he did not want trouble from the police (Ryan 37-8). Ryan asserts about one officer in particular, “He said to me, ‘How about we form an uneasy alliance - you and me? I won’t go after you if you don’t go after me.’
‘But there’s nothing to go after me for,’ I told him, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
‘Who says we need something to go after? Besides, everyone’s got something to hide.’ And then he winked and stalked off into the shadows of the night” (Ryan 38). Ryan’s fans admired his work because precisely because it was about the irony the police played in Newburyport. Four of Ryan’s most liked stories center on the police stealing a bicycle, a cold-water skin-diving suit that went “missing” during the winter, an appointed police chief that was supposed to help fix the troubled department, who was actually paying himself for playing golf, and an officer, who was cheating on his wife during patrol. Ryan also comments, “Writing about local politics was one thing, but taking on the police upped the stress level in my life immeasurably. I was warned not to talk on a cordless phone, because members of the department could park near my apartment and try to listen in on my conversations on their radios. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t fear I might be arrested on some mysterious charge while walking down the street” (Ryan 40).
“But the more they came after me,” Ryan declares, “the more intent I was on not giving in” (Ryan 40).
Elsewhere in the United States, many police officers have been abusive verbally, which is similar to...