|The Quest for Truth|
|By Jenn Salcido|
The Rant, the eerily prescient 2010 drama by Andrew Case ’94, author of the new novel The Big Fear, examined the fallout when a 911 call leads to a deadly confrontation between the police and a developmentally disabled black teen. As the play unfolds, a prosecutor suspects excessive force, the police offer justifications, and notions of narrative and perspective are as much on trial as the players. When Case wrote the play, the tragedies of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other questionable police shootings were yet to lead to widespread racial controversy.“It was a hard topic to approach,” Case says, “and to approach the right way.” Audience and critical reception, he recalls, was mixed. There was a sense that the issues that have since roared into the fore were still being kept on a back burner.
“It was so hard to get people interested,” Case says. “You had to push reporters to cover police shootings at all. Now, it’s really something that people jump to. . . . They want to see this, [to] think about these issues.”
Case, an attorney as well as a writer, has an unusual perspective on the subject. As a former investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) in New York City, he looked into allegations of police misconduct and is well acquainted with the cloudiness of the criminal justice system, the tensions between the flawed citizens of a community and the equally flawed people sworn to protect them, the unreliability of narrative, and the heartbreak of an imperfect world.
It’s no surprise, then, that The Big Fear, Case’s first novel, is a thriller that follows a civilian investigator who risks more than just his career when he uncovers a pattern of corruption in the NYPD. Case says that his fascination with this dogged search for the truth first flourished while he was at Brown. “I loved the sense of the spirit of questioning, the academic rigor combined with the idea that there is not always a right answer,” he says.
After he graduated, the career services office at Brown tipped him off about the opening at the CCRB. At the time, Case says, there was a movement in the city to fill civil service positions with candidates who were interested in the issues—in this case, police misconduct—but who were from outside the traditional civil service pool.
“I thought it would be great to make a difference,” he recalls.
Case worked under Florence Finkle, a former assistant district attorney who was notoriously dogged in her efforts to root out misconduct. Finkle trained Case and his coworkers on the ins and outs of investigation and taught them how to interrogate the officer involved. Case eventually became the chief spokesman and policy adviser for the agency.
The art of listening to and telling stories became instrumental in Case’s creative work and life. He left the CCRB first in 2000 to earn his MFA in playwriting at UC San Diego, and then earned his law degree at Columbia. He is now a full-time practicing attorney at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
“I’m really interested in this issue of a quest for truth,” he says, “and what the real answer is, at the end of the day, and how much of a problem that can be in a lot of different contexts.”