Nupur Tustin and Haydn Learn About the Police

Nupur Tustin writes the historical mystery series featuring composer Joseph Hadyn. She recently attended a Citizen’s Police Academy, in which cops teach civilians what they do, to learn more about investigating crime. She went hoping to apply what she learned to her own mystery writing. It was so successful that when I asked her to write about her experiences, she used the voice of Haydn, himself.

Author Nupur Tustin
Nupur Tustin

What is it like, you ask, for an eighteenth-century composer—a man from Austria—to attend sessions on policing in the New World nearly five hundred years later? Let me gather my impressions.

[The sessions, I understand, are offered for the edification of the general public, the police officers and guards considering it their business to enlighten the citizens about their work. What a notion! Herr Lichtenegger would scoff at the very idea of having to inform the citizenry of how he, Police Commissioner of Eisenstadt, goes about his work!

But the Americans take the entire business quite seriously.]

It would be putting it mildly to say I was surprised—nay stunned—at the number of women on what the Americans refer to as the force. The police force. Our first session took place on a warm Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. Mine must have been the only carriage on the street—a wide avenue marked with thick white lines and divided in the center by a thick yellow line.

I dare say the good citizens of America were as surprised to see my carriage with the Esterházy griffin emblazoned on the sides as I was to see their enclosed, horseless carriages whizzing up and down the street on either side of the yellow center line.

The lobby was crowded with men and women in the most outlandish clothes I have ever seen. The women wore breeches cut off at mid-thigh and a type of shirt without collars or ruffles. The men were similarly dressed, however their breeches, loosely cut, fell down below the knees. It was as much as I could do not to stare.

 To their credit, however, they appeared to take no note of my own garments—a blue coat and breeches, a white linen shirt with ruffles, and the wig without which I rarely leave my house.

They nodded and smiled politely and continued on with their conversations. Their lack of curiosity was astounding to me, but I have noticed that the men and women of the New World allow people their eccentricities. I could have pranced in wearing a purple wig, bearing a lion on my leash and they would have taken no more notice of me than they did now.

There is a curious kind of freedom here, and I find I rather enjoy it. What Maria Anna would have said, I do not know. I imagine she would not have approved.

A Woman Guard!

We were ushered in by a woman—dressed in breeches that reached down to her ankles and followed the form of her shapely leg more closely than Maria Anna would have deemed seemly. Her shirt had a collar and small, white buttons down the front, and was tucked into her breeches. Strangely enough, she wore a leather strap—her belt, she called it—around her breeches, and carried a number of items on it.

I was astonished to see a gun! Had the woman truly any knowledge of its use? I can think of no woman who takes any kind of interest in hunting. And from what I have seen of the New World, there is precious little to hunt. Out of the city, on one occasion, I caught sight of a deer and on another, two scrawny rabbits.

A pair of shiny metal shackles dangled from her belt as well—to restrain criminals, she informed me, although how a mere woman, even one as tall as this one, could have managed that, I can scarce say.

Then, there were some small, black, rectangular objects—radios, I believe they were called. These are a mysterious device that allow members of the force to communicate with one another. But the woman was no more able to explain how the device worked than was anyone else in the room.

“Honestly, I don’t know how it works,” she confessed. “I couldn’t explain it you.”

“It’s technology, science,” a young lad in his twenties mumbled.

Night watchmen and guards patrol our cities and towns at night. But here in the New World, Patrol Officers—so these men and women are called—go about in their black-and-white horseless carriages at all hours of the day.

The work they are called upon to do astounded me. Maria Anna and I, if we had a dispute with a neighbor, would no more think of calling upon the Bürgermeister than we would consider running to our parents. But in the New World, a man who objects to the raucous music his neighbor infests upon the neighborhood thinks nothing of calling—using a device known as a phone—his local police station and demanding that an officer be sent.

An elderly lady whose cat has run up a tree and refuses to come down, two drivers whose carriages have collided into each other at an intersection, a man who enters a store or bank and threatens the people inside with a gun—these are all calls the Patrol Officers respond to.

“No call is too trivial,” the woman cheerfully informed us. One of her superiors later said that when asked to intervene in petty disputes, he treated the matter in the same way he would an argument between his young daughter and one of her friends. “It’s like being a parent,” he confessed with a matter-of-fact shrug.

A strange sentiment for a police officer, in my opinion. Where I come from, all we ask of our policemen and guards is that they enforce the law and arrest criminals. For all their freedoms, the people of the New World seem all too apt to relinquish their responsibilities as grown men and women and to retreat to the world of childhood.

Who but a child would need a guard to settle an argument with a fellow human?

Freedom and Innocence

Even so, the freedoms our cousins in the New World enjoy are enviable. The law is so hedged in and hemmed by constraints that one fears that crime would flourish here. Yet that has not been the case. On the contrary, it has given the innocent greater protection against injustice.

The freedoms so wisely enshrined in the Constitution authored by the Founding Fathers of this country have ensured that the police work harder to ascertain actual facts to bolster their case. Mere suspicion will not suffice.

You may recall the occasion when my Maria Anna was summarily arrested for murder on the mere word of Frau Bruck, the dead alderman’s wife. A sergeant I spoke with assured me “that would not happen here.” 

The testimony of a witness might lead to what is known as a follow-up—the officer or detective speaking with the individual the witness has accused to ascertain the veracity of the information provided. But the individual would have the right to remain silent, to refuse to answer questions.

In fact, before any kind of serious interrogation takes place, any suspect, even a known criminal, must be informed of his rights—the right to remain silent, the right not to incriminate himself, and the right to have a lawyer present to advise him on his answers.

No person may be detained without reasonable suspicion, and no one may be arrested without good cause.

You may recall that at the time Maria Anna was arrested, I discovered the barber-surgeon searching our herb garden. Here in the New World, my permission would have been sought before that could have happened.

“And what if I withheld it?” I asked.

“Then we would author a search warrant,” the sergeant explained. “But we would need to have probable cause. We’d need to have a good reason to go there, to explain which areas we wanted to search, and what we expected to find. And we’d have to convince a judge that it was a just cause.”

Yes, I was impressed. Who would not be?

“These are unusual freedoms,” the sergeant said proudly. “Unusual even in our times.”

You can find out more about Nupur and the Joseph Haydn mysteries at her website ntustin.com. And you can buy her latest Haydn novel, Prussian Counterpoint at Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Amazon.

Anne Louise Bannon

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