It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I learned. Just because someone gets a promotion, doesn’t mean they are any more skilled or qualified than they were before. And just because they are in charge, that doesn’t mean they know anything. There are a lot of knuckleheads out there in law enforcement – but somehow, I really believe that based on the size of our department, we had many more than our share. Here are a few stories that I think support my theory.
Bedtime for Bonzo
When I was a young and enthusiastic officer, I was always alert and on the lookout for any criminal activity that may be afoot. Traffic stops for speeding, arrests for DUI, serving warrants, I was always out there fighting crime. My sergeant wasn’t impressed. He was the kind of guy who had mentally retired from doing his job, but hadn’t bothered to tell anybody. He kept showing up for work each night – but didn’t actually do much related to the job.
When I would make an arrest, it was quite a problem for him. I would transport the person to the jail, and then spend another hour or so doing paperwork (or several hours in the case of a DUI arrest). Since often it was only the two of us working the late night/early morning shift, during the time I was busy, he had to respond to calls for service – and he didn’t like to do that. Sometimes, when we had a third officer working, he would ride with me – he said it was to “observe me performing my duties” but I knew it was to keep me from making arrests, and to subtly reinforce his belief I should reduce my activities.
In the late fall, it would start to get really cold at night. And with very little going on throughout the campus, patrol was boring and very dull. When working alone in the car, I would do foot patrol in the buildings, and often spend time reading case law in the law library in the judicial building. With the sergeant sitting next to me, I just drove “low and slow” through the campus.
I noticed that if I had the heat turned up, and really concentrated of smoothly braking and gently accelerating, the sergeant would very often nod off. That seemed to be problem with some officers more than others. Now let me say here that as a bored police officer working the early morning shift in cold weather with a nice warm car – I never fell asleep. Now, I woke-up many times, but I never remember actually falling asleep.
It soon became a personal challenge. To help keep me occupied and focused when the sergeant rode with me, my goal was to put him asleep, and then keep him asleep as long as possible. I really honed my ability to drive as smoothly as possible. I tuned the radio to a “smooth music” station, and turned the volume on the police radio down. I had the heat set to a comfortable level, not too hot, and not too cold. I didn’t put a pillow on the headrest – but I might as well have done so.
My personal best was something like five hours. It was a really slow night, and I chose a path through and around the campus that let me drive smoothly, and lull him to sleep and kept him there. After several months of this happening about once a week, I think he figured out what I was doing. I also think he was worried I might be building a package against him. He probably thought I had several boxes of photos of him asleep, and hours of tape of him snoring as we drove around campus. He decided to let me make an arrest every now and then, and took his naps by himself after that.
The Case of The Dead Squirrel
It was about 6:00am, our shift ended in an hour. The other officer on the shift and I were in the parking lot, our cars parked alongside each other, and we were talking. Another lap or two around the campus, and we would head to the motor pool. We’d top off the gas tanks, and then head in. We’d time it so we would pull into the parking lot with only about ten minutes until our shift ended. We would then transfer information and turn everything over to the day shift officers who started at 7:00am.
The sergeant called us both over the radio. He wanted us to come to the station and meet him in the briefing room, he wanted to talk to us about something. We looked at each other with confused expressions. We had each worked with him for at least six months, and to make our lives easier, we had learned his habits, knew his patterns, and understood his priorities. He had never done anything like this.
“What the hell is this about?” We asked each other. “What did you do this time?” “Me, It must have been you…” “Well, let’s go find out…” As we sat down, he was pacing back and forth in the front of the room. He had a very concerned look on his face. He explained he had some very important concerns. He had discovered a very serious problem, and was really worried that neither of us had been able to notice this as we did our patrol duties. He then went into a ten minute rant about what our responsibilities were, and that based on our performance this morning, he knew that we did not care about the safety of the campus, or our obligation to keep it safe and secure.
We looked at each other, again, wondering what the hell he was talking about. By the look on his face, we expected he was about to tell us about a building that had burned down, or exploded, or at the very least – a main entry door that had been left propped open all night, as a series of homeless people moved in, and while a team of thieves moved all the desks and chairs from the building into a moving van, as a brass band marched around the truck.
Then he dropped the bomb. At about 1:00am that very morning, in the middle of the driveway that served as the main entrance to the campus, he had discovered a dead squirrel. He then parked about twenty feet away from his discovery, and waited – waited to see if either of us were alert enough to find this hazard, and take the appropriate action. At about 6:00am, he couldn’t wait anymore, and needed to meet with us in person to discuss his concerns.
The other officer and I looked at each other again. Both of us were expecting this to be some sort of joke, but as we made eye contact, and no one yelled “April Fools” or started laughing, we started to realize, that he was actually serious. I started to go through my head, trying to make some sense of this. I had seen him parked in the driveway several time that morning, and since I wasn’t in the mood to talk to him, I had just driven on by instead of turning in and driving into the entrance.
The dispatcher that morning was one of our reserve police officers. He was standing off to the side, in the hallway outside the entry to the briefing room. He was blocked by the wall and behind where the sergeant could see him – but where we were sitting – in our direct view, just to the side of the podium where the sergeant was chastising us. He had obviously talked with the sergeant before we had come into the station.
He had taken the initiative to make a squirrel out of paper, cutting out the outline with scissors. He had also made some other squirrel cutouts. As we listened to the sergeant telling us how important it was for us to look for hazards like the dead squirrel – and not spend so much time making arrests. Just out of the sergeant’s view, the dispatcher was putting on a show with his paper squirrel. In his pantomime presentation, the squirrel had a happy life dancing and walking around – until he had a massive heart attack and died. And since no one had found his body, his squirrel family was sad not knowing what had happened to their furry squirrel father.
It took everything we had to not break out in laughter. The only thing that saved us was concentrating on the surreal nature of what the sergeant was telling us, and knowing that this g was actually serious, and had a gun and the authority to arrest people.
I later discovered the sergeant had done the paperwork to give each of us a written counseling notice about this, but when the lieutenant found out, he strongly intervened and possibly even threatened the sergeant with his own documentation if he tried to do so. I believe the question was asked why, if a dead squirrel was so important, didn’t the sergeant himself deal with it, or if he didn’t want to – then why didn’t he tell one of us to do so? As far as I know, there were no more dead squirrel reports filed on campus after that.
The Adventures of Chili-Bob
Working the early morning shift, we were limited where we could go to eat. We needed to stay near campus in case there was a need to respond to a call, but there were not a lot of places open nearby that were open. We had a sergeant we called “Chili-Bob.” We called him that because he would often pick up a copy of the morning paper as it was delivered in the early morning, and then head up to a nearby restaurant. Once there, he would order a bowl of chili and spend the next two or three hours reading the paper and eating chili. Because he would get free refills, he might eat three or four bowls of chili before he finished the paper and left.
One morning, Chili-Bob was returning from a call a property across town. Since he was across town, he decided to stop at a local casino to get breakfast. Ordinarily this location would be too far from the campus to be approved for a place to eat, but since he was on that side of town anyway…
He entered the casino, and made his way to the coffee shop where he sat down and ordered his meal. Now Chili-Bob was not the kind of guy that looked like the poster child for law enforcement. His appearance and demeanor rarely inspired confidence in other officers, let alone the public. Soon two casino security guards approached him and explained that he was not allowed to carry a firearm in the casino.
Now, he explained that he was a sworn police officer, and as such, allowed to be armed, and carry his duty firearm in the casino. The security guards didn’t really believe him – and said so. Even after he pointed out that the patches on his shirt sleeves, and the badge on his chest both said “Police,” they insisted he must leave. Or, if he left his gun in his police car, he could return. Yup. He put the gun in his cop car, returned unarmed, and finished his breakfast. The biggest problem for him – at the end of his shift that morning, he told several of his co-workers what had happened. It’s Ok for people to think you are stupid, but as soon as you tell others, you remove any doubt.
We had the Vice-President (of the United States) visiting campus in a few days. It was not unusual for people of that level to visit – especially during election season. I was the guy from our agency who was paired up with a Secret Service agent. The Secret Service agents know what they need to protect their principal, and the local law enforcement people they are paired with know who does what, who to call, and what needs to happen to get things done in that jurisdiction – working together, we things get done.
On the afternoon of the event, everything was in place, the venue was ready, and I was outside – near my assigned agent. I had no illusions that I was going to save the VP from a terrorist attack, so basically I saw my duty as staying out of their way. The VP’s motorcade arrived, the agents did their thing, and after the appearance, everything went as planned and the VP got back to the airport, on the plane, wheels-up, and safely out of the area headed toward the next campaign stop.
The next day, I had a sergeant who had worked the afternoon before approach me with a complaint. He knew I had been the liaison to the visit, and wanted me to pass on his concern. He said he was almost run over by the Secret Service lead car (the vehicle that was directly in front of the VP’s limousine). I was curious and asked what happened?
The sergeant was directing people who were in the parking lot toward the event location. As the motorcade made a turn from the main street into the parking lot, the vehicles in the motorcade slowed. The sergeant decided to take advantage of the slight delay to step into the driveway between the parked cars, and stop the motorcade to allow several people to cross the driveway. Of course, for the protection and safety of the Vice-President, the motorcade did not stop, but did swerve a bit to miss the sergeant who was standing in its path.
The vehicles in such a motorcade have flashing emergency lights and authorization similar to other emergency vehicles. I basically asked him what the hell he was thinking? Would he have stepped out in front of an ambulance responding with lights and siren to a medical emergency? Would he have signaled a fire truck responding with lights and siren to stop and let a pedestrian cross? What would he do if a was responding to an emergency call with lights and sirens – would he stop in the middle of his response to let someone walk across the street in front of him? It took him a while to get the hint.
By the way, these are all actual stories that really happened. I say that so no one thinks I am especially creative or somehow gifted in my imagination. This is all real, because you can’t make up stuff like this…