Beliefnet
O Me of Little Faith

There was a story on Yahoo! News a few days ago with this wonderful headline:

Cops: Driver adjusts mirrors and roughs up McGruff

I may be in my thirties, but that’s young enough to have grown up with that lovable, no-nonsense crime dog, McGruff and his “take a bite out of crime” authority. I’m only human, so a phrase like “roughs up McGruff” is one that will always compel me to click through.

It led to a weird story. It’s brief, so I’ll repeat it here in full for your reading pleasure:

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WASHINGTON – A bus driver thought it would be funny to take the bite out of McGruff the crime dog by punching the mascot, but police said children who witnessed the stunt were horrified. Metro bus driver Shawn Brim, 38, climbed off a bus, adjusted his side view mirrors and then punched officer Tyrone Hardy, who was handing fliers to children on a Washington street while dressed as the crime dog, police said. After the punch, Brim got back on the bus and drove away, but was quickly pulled over Saturday.

Hardy had a swollen right cheek, but seemed more concerned the attack upset the kids, police said.

Brim later told a supervisor he was trying to be funny when he punched McGruff, who urges kids to “take a bite out of crime.”

“But nobody here finds it funny, believe me,” Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith said. “That kind of behavior is not tolerated.”

Brim was charged with simple assault. He will also undergo drug and alcohol testing and his future with the agency is under review, Smith said.

There was no telephone listing for Brim and Smith said she didn’t know whether he had an attorney.

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So I have questions about this story. At least, about the Yahoo! version of the story, which was originally reported in the DC Examiner.

1. Why did the part about “adjusts mirrors” make it into the headline? Isn’t the news story that a driver punched McGruff the Crime Dog? The adjusting-mirrors aspect of it is pretty much just the reason the driver got out of the bus. Not worth reporting. You might as well have a headline that says Driver Hitches Up Pants, Roughs Up McGruff. Or something like With His Liver Functioning Properly, Driver Roughs Up ‘Crime Dog.’ Weird.

2. “Horrified” seems like a strong word. Most kids I know would think something like this was not terrifying, but pretty funny. Because a punch to the face of a furry brown huge-headed dog in a trenchcoat is very difficult to take seriously. His face is soft and plush, so you know it won’t hurt that much. And McGruff is a cartoonish mascot. Kids are used to violence being perpetrated on cartoonish mascots. You might as well say that Tom dropping an anvil on Jerry’s head is also something that causes kids to be horrified.

3. “Nobody here finds it funny, believe me,” said the supervisor. Clearly she is wrong. I know some police officers, and I’ll bet a lot of them might have acted all serious about it at the station. But on the inside, they found it funny. They’re probably still laughing about it. Officer Tyrone Hardy will never live this down. He will always be known as “Crime Dog” by his peers.

4. Brim was charged with ‘simple assault. I don’t know about this, either. Simple? Let me spell the case out for you in detail: A bus driver, in front of a bunch of kids, throws a punch to the face of a fictional “crime dog,” played by a real cop, who advises children to “take a bite out of crime,” which a complex metaphor to begin with because what, in fact, does it mean to take “a bite” out of something so large and nebulous as “crime”? Is there anything about that previous sentence that seems simple? This thing has layers and layers. I’m no lawyer, but this is a case of complicated assault if I’ve ever seen one.

I rest my case. Have a nice Friday and a great weekend.

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