Anyone who has read a police report knows that cops are taught to chronicle some of the most dramatic moments in the city with the most bland, coma-inducing prose. Yet San Francisco police work has now provided fodder for one officer's first book — downloadable for $6 on Amazon — named, of all things, Cop: A Novel.
Dan Silver, a tattooed gang task force cop who monitors motorcycle gangs in the city, insists his book is fiction, yet the protagonist's tale hews closely to the 31-year-old officer's own transition from a teen punk rocker who hated cops to being a cop himself. "The emotions are real; the events are sensationalized to make good reading," says Silver, who also posts his poems at www.danielbsilver.com. "If cop shows were actually documentaries of homicide investigations, nobody would watch [them]. It's no fun to watch people type."
The first-person narrative maps Officer Dougie Cohen's early days in the department — the polygraph test, field training at a tranny bar, and almost getting his thumb bitten off by an armed crazy man at a Tenderloin SRO (a true story, a scuffle that won Silver a Bronze Medal of Valor).
But the book's most interesting passages are ones that show Cohen shedding the naive anticop dogma of his youth in Ventura (a stand-in for Silver's hometown of Santa Barbara) as a vegetarian skateboarder. When Cohen becomes an EMT in Oakland, discovering the "shitty side of life" changes his attitude about law enforcement. "I quickly came to realize that my radical left views about law and order ... didn't fit in with the reality of life in urban America. ...Who [was I] going to call upon were I ever in serious trouble? It certainly wasn't the unwashed throng of bleeding hearts around me."
Silver — who worked in the Ingleside district before his gang gig — gives a candid glimpse of the unwinnable battles of cop life, including how residents of the ghetto hate the cops when they show up to make arrests, but then scream about how the police are doing nothing when someone gets killed.
Silver, who counts Fight Club's Chuck Palahniuk as a muse, imbues his prose with a cynical swagger, a smattering of profanity, and irreverence toward the status quo. One humorous passage includes academy officers grilling Cohen on his many tattoos, suspecting the half-Jewish recruit of being a skinhead. He shows up for his interview in a vintage suit, attends punk shows, and has sex with his girlfriend in the women's bathroom of the Fillmore — in short, a cop anti-establishment San Franciscans can dig.