The Identity Parade

Back in the day when I was a fresh-faced teenager, I had the dubious experience of being in an identity parade.
I was hanging out with three friends in Southgate, North London, when we were approached by uniformed policemen who asked us if we could take part in an identity parade.

Now, given my past dealings with the police, the thought of voluntarily walking into a police station didn’t exactly fill me with joy.
One of the policemen said it wouldn’t take long, and we’d be paid £25 for our time.
I’ll get my coat.

Once in the police station, they took our details.

I say “details.”

We gave them names, addresses, and dates of birth.

Just not our own.
Old habit, but more of that in another blog.
They led us into a room with about seven other black males, roughly similar in height.
At this point, there was quite a jokey light-hearted atmosphere.
We knew we were just there for the pay-day.

Some other dude would clearly get picked out as the culprit.
And we also knew who the accused was, as he was the only one allowed to change places with anyone, or take someone else’s hat as his own.
The police made us all stand in a row, and placed numbered cards from one to ten in front of each person’s feet.
Now I must mention at this point that what I knew then about identity parades, I learnt from television.

I expected bright lights and two-way glass.
How wrong I was.

An elderly woman entered the room. She walked the line, peering intently at every face in turn.
She got to me, peered at me, walked past.
And then came back.

At this point, I started to sweat. I knew I hadn’t had any dealings with this woman before today, yet, ridiculously, I was sweating. And she was looking at me do it.

She stood in front of me, slowly looking me up and down.

I tried not to look guilty. Multiple thoughts were tumbling through my brain.
What if she picked me? The cops would ask where I was on the day of…

I had trouble remembering what I did last week, let alone yesterday.
Another part of my brain was telling me that the police had invited my friends and I here today – they’d know we were innocent.
Only problem was, I’d given them a fake name, address and date of birth. What happens if they check and discover the details I’d given them belonged to a sixty year old white school teacher?

The elderly woman finished her scrutiny of me and moved on.
Five minutes later, she exited, and the police told all of us (apart from the original suspect) we were free to go.

I collected my £25 and beat a hasty retreat.
Never taken part in another identity parade since…..

Copyright © Mark A. McPherson 2013.
All Rights Reserved.

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