Any cop will tell you that just when they think they’ve heard it all, well, along comes something else that tops all the rest. For example, here are ten excuses people offered as explanations for why they did the things they did.

All I can say is, “Hmm…”

1. “Why am I driving naked, Officer? Well, first of all, all of my clothes were dirty so I was going to my friend’s house to borrow something to wear to work. And I was speeding because it’s cold and the heat’s not working. Oh, yeah, no seat belt? You noticed that, huh? You see, the material causes my skin to break out. Why do I have a gun on the seat? Isn’t that obvious, sir? I don’t have any pockets available at the moment. Duh. I thought you guys were supposed to be trained observers.”

2. Please don’t give me a ticket. I didn’t slow down for the red light because I just got new brakes on my car—they were expensive, too—and I didn’t want to wear them out so soon. Geez, you being a cop and all, I thought you’d understand that sort of thing. Don’t they teach you about this stuff in the police academy? Common sense. That’s all I’m asking for here.”

3. “I had to steal that stuff, Officer. How else was I going to get enough money to pay my court fees and child support? I certainly didn’t want to go to jail.”

4. “Because I had to go to the bathroom. That’s why I was driving 95 in a 55. You don’t believe me, then look.” The wet spot on her jeans didn’t stop her from getting a ticket, but it did prevent the officer from asking her to have a seat in his car while he wrote it.

5. “I threw a football and it landed on the roof of that hardware store, Officer. Honest. And when I climbed up there to get it I fell through that hole you see. The bag of burglary tools and that saw? I guess they were already up there. Must’ve fallen through when I did.”

6. “It’s not my car. That’s why I was driving so fast. The pedals are different, or something.”

7. “What? No way! I didn’t think you could give me a speeding ticket because I don’t have a driver’s license. Don’t you need to check a law book, or something?”

8. “I must’ve fallen asleep inside the store just before they closed. The safe? No, I wasn’t trying to steal it. The door was locked and I couldn’t leave, so I used it to break out. See, I’m claustrophobic. No way I could stay in that place all night. The money. That’s mine. I had it when I went in the store. Yep, all $2,000. Every penny of it. No, I’m between jobs right now.  No, I don’t have an address. Well, not exactly. Yeah, the Union Mission over on Broad Street. But only until I get a place of my own.”

9. “Yes, I have a doctor’s note, just not with me. Right, it authorizes me to NOT wear a seat belt because it pinches the skin around my nipple rings.” No, he didn’t have the doctor’s note, and yes, he got the ticket.

10. “I was driving that fast, Officer, because I’d had WAY too much to drink and I wanted to get home before I got sick. You wouldn’t want to puke in your car, right?”

And that’s only ten. The list, actually, is practically endless.

Bad guys are often portrayed on TV, and in film, as super intelligent geniuses who’re one step away from ruling the world. They’re savvy and wealthy with a gang of bodyguards and accomplices who are always miles ahead of the law enforcement officers who can never quite seem figure out their next move.

TV crooks are unstoppable until the hero of the story overcomes all obstacles preventing them catching the super bad guys, including fending off advances from the most attractive spies the underworld bosses can send their way. TV heroes, those who’ve managed to make it to the final scenes, dodge bombs and machine-gun fire, and they face hitmen who’re the best martial artists in the world, with the exception of that lone good guy who just happens to know one more secret move than the top bad guy learned during his training.

It’s an action-packed adventure from day one throughout the case until the protagonist finally slaps a gold-plated set of handcuffs around the wrists of their adversaries.

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but in the real world things are a tad bit different. For example, a “professional” crook I once encountered truly who considered himself to be as sharp as one of the TV-type mastermind criminals. He thought he was invincible and couldn’t be caught.

I was still working patrol at the time when my path crossed with … let’s, for the sake of this article, call him Kat Bungler. I was on my monthlong graveyard shift rotation—midnight to 8 a.m.—and the moon and sun were in the process of changing their own shifts, when dispatch called to report an alarm at a local convenience store. This was not out of the ordinary since many employees of various businesses—stores, banks, etc.—often forget to disable alarms before entering their places of business for the first time of the day.

You, Again?

During the occurrence of these daily and annoying faux pas, what should be moments of urgency very quickly disappear. After dozens of “wolf-crying” incidents at the same places, time and time again, cops have a tendency to roll their eyes and sigh when they hear the calls come in. Still, they have to respond even if all they’ll do is speak with an embarrassed store clerk or bank manager to learn that another “oops” had occurred. After all, you never know when one of those alarm calls is the real thing.

One particular day, though, in the very early morning hours around 5:30 a.m., a dispatcher announced an alarm call. This time she added two very important words to her message—“In-Progress.” She went on to say the caller said the suspect was still inside the business, a convenience store.

No eye-rolling this time. On went the blue lights and a mad race to the store hoping to catch the crook in the act of crookery.

When I and another officers arrived we, of course, surrounded the place. The clerk who’d reported the crime came running toward my car and through an excited mix of jumbled words she managed to tell me the guy was still inside. Well, that’s all I could make of what she said. I asked to take a seat in my patrol car, then a couple of us approached the front doors. As always we had no idea what to expect? Would he start shooting? No one knew. It was a tense situation.

I called to the man, ordering him to come out, and to my surprise he immediately replied with a lot of yelling and shouts for help. So, with guns drawn and aimed forward, we pulled open the door and took a quick peek inside.

It was all I could do to contain a bout of laughter, because what I’d seen was a large squirming man hanging upside down with the upper portion of his body poking down through the ceiling. His lower half, from his waist down up was semi-concealed above, among a tangle of broken drywall, crumpled light fixtures, knots and loops of colored electrical wiring, and dented ductwork. And the guys was practically in tears.

This genius-level mastermind of the criminal world had used a dumpster and a stack of pallets to climb to the roof and used used an ax to chop hole in the surface. Then he tried to climb down into the store. But he lost his footing and slipped, which caused him to fall and tumble through the the buildings mechanics. Then, just as he was about to exit the ceiling headfirst, his feet caught on a series of electrical conduits. He was stuck in that position and remained there for a few hours while struggling to free himself. He couldn’t go up and he couldn’t come down.

When the clerk stepped inside to open up for the day and saw the guy dangling from the ceiling, she screamed. Simultaneously, she told us, the man began to yell and beg and whimper. She left him hanging and ran next door to call the police.

With the assistance of firefighters we pulled the dizzy Kat Bungler to safety, handcuffed him, and then transported him to the hospital for a checkup to make certain he was fit for jail.

Bungler, of course, was found guilty of B&E and destruction of property. His defense was that he climbed on top of the building as part of his daily exercise routine where he unexpectedly fell into a previously-chopped hole. The judge didn’t buy his story.

Later, Mr. Bungler found an attorney to represent him in a lawsuit against the store, claiming they were at fault for his injuries and that the clerk failed to call EMS when he was clearly in pain and was suffering from severe injuries at the time she entered the store. He called us a witnesses in his behalf. Yeah, that went over well. Sure it did.

 

Each year on the last day of December, I travel to a secret location where I meet with my friend Madam Zelda to learn her predictions for the coming year. The mysterious clairvoyant is so good at what she does that she’s rarely, if ever, wrong. The woman is uncanny.

So, in keeping with year-end tradition, Madam Zelda did a reading for us and she’s confident 2020 will be fantastic. Here’s a list of her top sixteen predictions. Believe me, she’s always right … sometimes.

  1. Escape From San Francisco, the Musical dominates box offices across the country. The blockbuster hit stars Ernest T. Bass as Homeless Harry. During a fabulous breakout song and dance routine at the halfway point of the film, the city’s official “Poop Patrol”  performs PBS Kids’ Daniel Tiger’s hit song “Stop and Go Potty.”
  2. Jeff Bezos purchases the Amazon River.
  3. The Arctic becomes a tropical resort after HUGE “Abolish ICE” misunderstanding.
  4. Nasa reveals latest trip to the dark side of the moon was simply a group of scientists sitting in a basement smoking weed and listening to “that” Pink Floyd album.
  5. The final presidential debate requires that the venue include electrical power for heart monitors, have Depends available in the candidates’ green rooms, a pitcher of chilled Geritol on each podium, and a Life Alert pendant or wristband for each participant.
  6. Police are replaced by an honor system that requires all criminals to self-arrest at the conclusion of each crime committed.
  7. Jails and prisons are abolished.
  8. By mid 2020 authors, weary of writing, will create books simply by thinking them into existence.
  9. Alexa learns to intercept authors’ “thought books” and sells them online for $.01 each.
  10. As of January 1st, aisle 4 in all San Francisco grocery stores were designated as “safe pooping” locations. Click this link to see for yourselves.
  11. Congress passes a bill and then immediately votes to reject it.
  12. The Senate argues both for and against the above bill.
  13. U.S. troops raid the offices of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discover his war planning operation—a game of Battleship along with an old Stratego game in progress. On a side table, in an unopened box, they’ll find the action toy Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.
  14. A writer will have a character smell cordite at a crime scene.
  15. I will absolutely lose my mind when I see number 12 in a book.
  16. A BIG announcement is forthcoming. Madam Zelda believes it has something to do with “Reacher.”

It was on a cold Christmas night, several years ago, when my wife Denene decided that she’d like to ride along with me during my shift so we could at least spend a part of the evening together. It would be her first and last first-hand experience of what I did for a living.

I was the officer in charge of operations, the OIC, that night so it wasn’t as if I’d be responding to calls, meaning I thought the danger level for her would be extremely low. And I was right, the evening shift was fairly quiet with a few of the typical pushing and shoving drunks, a couple of thefts, a drunk driver or two, a peeping Tom, a disorderly customer at a convenience store, etc. Nothing major.

I took Denene on a tour of parts of the city she’d never seen, and to a few she had but only during the daytime. Believe me, some typically normal neighborhoods totally transform once the sun is down and all the “creepies” come out to play. It’s the time when neon lights replace sunshine, and when alleyways come alive with feral animals and people who pay for quickie sex behind dented dumpsters overflowing with restaurant waste and wet, slimy butcher shop cardboard and paper.

These are the streets and neighborhoods where wispy tendrils of sewer steam rise from storm drains to twist and writhe their way toward the night sky, floating and undulating until they melt into nothingness. Potholes are deep and overturned garbage cans pour out their innards for all to see. Front yards are bare dirt and sofas and used kitchen chairs sit on front porches featuring leaning posts and broken railings. At the curb laying at either side of the streets are empty beer cans and bottles and used needles and condoms mixed with dry, crispy fall leaves.

In the area sometimes called “The Bottom, prostitutes display their wares in barely-there outfits while local businessmen, average Joes and sometimes Janes, and a few city officials cruise along the dark streets comparing the “merchandise.”

Winos and drug addicts are on their aimless and zombie-like marches, stumbling along cold concrete walks and streets until they finally decide upon a random landing spot in a storefront entrance where they smoke, drink rotgut liquor, or shoot poison into their arms or legs. Then they’ll sleep awhile before setting off on another mindless quest for the next high.

Drug runners, the low-level, bottom of the drug-selling chain, sellers of crack, meth, heroin, and weed, are at nearly every corner in the “hot” neighborhoods. Many times they damage the corner street lamps by throwing rocks at the bulbs, or by shooting them out, so they can operate under the cover of darkness.

Runners stand alone or in small groups of three or so with each holding only a small amount of dope so not much will be lost should a cop bust them. Users cruise the areas in their cars, driving slowly. When the runner spots a customer he approaches the vehicle. The driver hands over cash ($20 for a single crack rock) and the runner offers the drug. Sometimes he keeps the foil or plastic-wrapped rock in his mouth so he could easily swallow it in case the “customer” is a cop. He’ll spit the wrapped rock into his hand to exchange for the cash.

When the runners sell out they head back to the dealers to “re-up.” The process repeats hour after hour, night after night after night. The runners are always at ready to take off should an officer approach. It’s a cat and mouse game that’s played again and again—we get out of our cars and they run. We chase. They drop the dope and an occasional gun. We pick up the stuff and maybe catch the guy or maybe not.

So after seeing enough of the rot of the city, I drove to areas where officers were on the scenes of various calls/complaints, making sure all was well. Then the radio crackled with an “officer needs assistance” call. She’d stopped a car for drunk driving and the driver refused to get out of his vehicle. She’d struggled with him a bit, through the car window, but had no luck. In fact, he’d spit at her and attempted to bite her. He’d struck her arms with his fist and tried to punch her face.

So off I went to see the trouble for myself. Other officers were on the way to assist. When Denene and I arrived two officers were at the driver’s window grabbing at the man and striking at his arms with batons. A third officer was standing at the passenger window preparing to break the glass. I told Denene I’d be right back (the equivalent to “Hold my beer”) and stepped out of my car.

Since I’d trained each of the on-scene” officers in defensive tactics during their time at the academy, and the fact that I owned my own gym and martial arts school, and because I the ranking officer on the scene, well, they’d assumed that I’d handle this situation. So they parted to allow me access to the driver.

I politely informed the wild and drunken and very large man that he had two options. One, remove his seat belt and get out of the car on his on. Two, I’d cause him intense pain while removing him from the car, through the window. When he spit at me it was my conclusion that he’d opted for choice number two.

A few seconds later, after inflicting quite a bit of pain (I knew this because he was squealing and squawking like a wounded animal), I pulled his fat rear end through the seatbelt and through the window (with his helpful assistance since he wanted the pain to stop sooner than asap), pulled him to the ground, spun him around and over using a wrist-turn-out. I then cuffed his hands behind his back.

I told the female officer who’d initially stopped the car to place my handcuffs in the box outside my office door when she’d cleared from processing the man. I then turned and walked back to my car where I nonchalantly asked Denene if she’d like to grab a cup of coffee. Only a minute or two had passed since I first stepped out of my unmarked Caprice.

She said, “How can you be so calm after such a violent event? And how in the world did you get that big man to fit through that window and all so quickly?”

I, like every officer out there, didn’t think twice about it. It’s what we/they do, those sorts of things—pulling grown men through car windows and the like. It’s part of the job, like editing is to a writer.

Yes, it was Christmas and we were together. But she never again rode with me.

She eventually stopped listening the police scanner we had at the house. She switched it off one night, for the final time, after hearing me tell other officers that “I’d go in first.”

Yeah, she’s much happier since writing about this stuff is a WHOLE lot safer …


Aikido

Aikido uses the attacker’s own force against him.

A wrist turnout applies intense pressure to the joint in the wrist, forcing the suspect off balance.

Proper grasp to begin the wrist turnout (Kotegaeshi Nage) technique. To complete the technique the officer maintains his grasp, rotates the suspect’s hand up and to the rear in a counter-clockwise motion while simultaneously stepping back with his (the officer) left leg. The suspect ends up on the floor on his back (see picture below). Any resistance inflcts excrutiating pain in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

Combative suspects are normally forced the ground for handcuffing. From this position, a quick turn of the suspect’s wrist and arm will force him to roll over on his stomach. Any resistance causes extreme pain and could severely injure the controlled wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

To effectively control the wrist, the elbow must be stationary. From this position, the suspect is easily handcuffed.

This wrist lock can cause intense pain in the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder. Forward and downward pressure forces the suspect to the ground.

 

There’s a current PC craze that’s attacking practically everything on the planet, from condemning anti-animal language, the lyrics of Christmas songs, and even the coloring of cartoon vegetables. So let’s poke around to see if we can find a few more horrible examples of politically incorrect Christmas tunes that could be offensive. Starting with …

I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas

This lively tune opens with a discriminatory tone that’s sure to send other animals scurrying to their safe spaces. Here, see for yourself.

“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do.”

That’s blatant and out and out discrimination toward all other animals. And it only gets worse.

“Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles, no rhinosaurus
I only likes hippopotamuses [sic]
And hippopotamuses [sic] like me, too.”

I see this one ending up in civil court where a softy judge will immediately order that crocs and rhinos must “do” as well.


Silver Bells

This song discriminates against the folks who live in rural areas. It’s also bullying to those who don’t have access to “holiday style” attire.

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style”

Next, OMG, what about the feelings of grumpy people who don’t like smiling. Their right to frown as they wish have most certainly been trampled upon in this blatantly derogatory song.

“In the air
There’s a feeling
of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear.”


The Christmas Song
Lyrics by Mel Torme

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.”

Not fair. Not fair. Not fair. Jill Frost loves to nip at noses just as much as Jack. Why no mention of her playful nose-nibbling.

And, Mr. Mel Torme, what about the good folks over the age of 92 who’re now actively enjoying the one or two holiday songs left that we’re able to hear on our radios? Obvious age discrimination. Shame, shame and double shame.

“And so, I’m offering this
Simple phrase to kids from
One to ninety-two
Altho’ it’s been said many times
Many ways; “Merry Christmas to you”

Speaking of Mel Torme, dod you know he played drums? Well …


We Wish You A Merry Christmas

This one is appalling. What about bread and rice puddings? Why is figgy pudding given the nod in this popular tune? The dessert menu should be inclusive. Whomever is hiding behind the name “We” must be publicly shamed on social media. Dox them one and all!

“We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer.”


Up on the Housetop
B.R. Hanby

Two words. Concealed Carry.

Climb down Onion Jenkins’ chimney if you want, but you can count on ole Onion to pop a cap in your red-suited rear end. Besides, it’s age discrimination to brings gifts to kids but not to the grown folks. And hey, why’re you bringing gifts to Onion’s kids, anyway? You don’t know them, you perv.

“Up on the housetop reindeer pause
Out jumps good old Santa Claus
Down thru the chimney with lots of toys
All for the little ones
Christmas joys” 


Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
Irish Rovers

Here’s the one that sends me over the edge. This song is flat out evil, from promoting violence and death to outing poor grandma’s drinking problem. They even went so far as to call her out for her addiction to prescription medication. Yes, instead of helping the poor and pitiful old woman seek help for her medical issues, they sent her out into the snowy night where she was run down and killed by a careless reindeer.

“Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

She’d been drinkin’ too much egg nog,
And we’d begged her not to go.
But she’d left her medication,
So she stumbled out the door into the snow.”

To add insult to injury, knowing her state of mind and level of intoxication, they didn’t bother to check on grandma until the next morning when they found her frozen corpse in a snowbank.

“When they found her Christmas mornin’,
At the scene of the attack.
There were hoof prints on her forehead,
And incriminatin’ Claus marks on her back.”

Next we see Grandpa enter the picture. Doesn’t care a wit that his wife’s dead body is in a crumpled heap out on the front lawn, covered in snow with deer prints stamped into her skull. Instead, he’s partying with his cousin, Belle, the family “ho, ho, ho.” Now, I’m not one to spread gossip, but I’m thinking the perfect stocking stuffer for both Grandpa and Belle would be a couple of cans of Acme Incest Repellent. I’m just sayin’.

“Now were all so proud of Grandpa,
He’s been takin’ this so well.
See him in there watchin’ football,
Drinkin’ beer and playin’ cards with cousin Belle.”


*This article is entirely non-PC and is intended as a tongue-in-cheek bit of weird humor. No hippos or grandmas were harmed during today’s writing. Cousin Belle, however, was immediately transported to the nearest Acme Rehab Center.

Ho, ho, ho …

A cry for help

“I’m going to kill both of you, and then I’m going to blow my brains out, right here!”

Philadelphia had the ball and were one score away from winning the game against Washington. It wasn’t that I was a big fan of either team but I’d watched the game from the opening kickoff, therefore I had a good deal of time invested in watching and I wanted to see it through.

“Sit. Down!”

There it was again. That voice. One of our kids must’ve had their tv volume turned to high. If it continued I’d have to speak to whichever teen culprit was hard at work damaging their young eardrums.

It was somewhere just shy of halftime when I’d kicked off my shoes, popped a bowl of popcorn, and poured myself into the couch. Denene occupied the end of the sofa on the opposite side of the container, and occasionally our hands met at mid-bowl.

I’d been working on a  particularly pesky case and my day had been long and it felt as if I’d walked a million steps and had questioned as many suspects and witnesses. Therefore, a night in front of the TV with my wonderful wife, with no thoughts of murder, guns, and wacked-out suspects, had been a most welcome thought. Until, that is, I once again heard the voice, the one I hadn’t been positively sure I heard the first two times.

“Sit your ass down so I can get this over with.”

Now I was certain  that “the voice” was coming from someone on the outside of our home and not from a blaring television speaker. And, before I could get to the window to see who it was that felt to yell and scream and disrupt the entire neighborhood during Monday night football, and why they were doing so, the living room curtains came alive with winking and flashing blue lights.

This, in MY neighborhood. My quiet and peaceful southern quintessential neighborhood with large, gnarly and stately oak trees , a lazy river that ambled and snaked its way behind the homes on our side of the street, a small country-style church with an A-frame tin roof and tall steeple, and residents who took the time to stop whatever they were doing to smile and wave at passersby. It, by golly, was a neighborhood where baker Jason “Honey, the cow done gone and laid an egg in your molasses patch” Smith would feel right at home.

“Put down the gun! Put it down now!”

I parted the curtains and peered outside. Our normally quiet street was littered with several marked patrol cars parked at various angles. Their strobes flickered and fluttered, with side-mounted spotlight beams stretching from each car until they all came together at the front porch of our across-the-street neighbors, an elderly couple who spent a great deal of their days there rocking and sipping iced tea from Mason jars that most likely once held vegetables from the meticulously maintained garden in their backyard.

I stepped out onto our front porch to have a better view of the goings-on. Yes, I, too, had become a member of the the looky-loo club, the folks who worm and squirm their bodies into position for a peek at whatever action that attracted the men and women who maintain absolute control of the “blue lights.” But I had to see. The force pulled my attention to the action. Besides, it was kind of nice watching the events unfold without being a part of it. Had I been involved I would have been the ranking officer and charge of the scene would have fallen to me. So I watched, standing in the cool fall air, wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and no shoes.

Uniformed officers  positioned themselves, as they should, behind their vehicles. Youngsters, the entire lot of them. One, a young rookie who’s haircut had the still-fresh buzz-cut look of an academy recruit, held a position at the rear of his car. A female officer who stood no taller than five-feet when wearing a pair of Bates tactical boots, had one foot inside an open car door with the other planted on the pavement behind an angled front tire. She used the space where the door met the car as a prop for her weapon. The expression on her face was a serious one.

Other officers were scattered about, willy-nilly, with one using an in-car microphone to bark out orders to the armed man who, at that point, paced the porch like a caged circus lion. His white-haired mother sobbed while his frail father rambled on about not having any money to give, especially to supply a drug habit.

“Put down the gun!”

The standoff went on for a while,—too long, actually—before I decided to stick my nose in it. I’d arrested the across-my-street gunman a couple of times in the past, mostly for minor crimes to support his drug habit. I knew him and he knew me. It was a start and that’s a place where we often begin … a start.

I walked across our front lawn (shoeless) and then out onto the street where a couple of the officers recognized me. I’d taught them officer survival and defensive tactics during their time at the training academy. I asked one of them to use their radio to let the others know I was there and planned to contact the subject. In other words, DO NOT SHOOT THE OLD GUY FROM ACROSS THE STREET.

I began my move by first calling out to the gunman from a position that was away from his parents. He turned to face me, with the gun, a .357 revolver, down at his side. I took a step out into the light so he could see me, and what a sight that must’ve been—t-shirt, running shorts, no shoes, and…that’s when I realized I had not grabbed a weapon when I left the house. I was unarmed. What a D.U.M.B.A.S.S. thing to do. And here I was, the veteran who taught officer survival tactics to other officers. This stupid move was more like officer suicide. Absolutely in sharp contrast to all rules, regulations, training, and above all … common sense.

I started talking to the young man. “Donnie (not his real name), how can I help you tonight?”

“Nobody can help me this time, Detective.” Good, he recognized me.

“I don’t know about that, Donnie. Tell me what’s bugging you and we’ll go from there.”

I moved a bit closer to the porch. Twenty feet to go. His face was peppered with beads of perspiration, in spite of the chilly night air, and his eyes were wide, wet, glossy, and rimmed in red. He constantly licked at his lips, and used his non gun hand to pick and scratch and rub the opposite arm.

“It’s going to stop tonight. I’m tired of it! Everything. All of it.” he yelled.” Tears leaked from his eyes and eased down his cheeks until they fell one by one to the concrete floor.

A few more steps. Five feet to the porch deck. Another six or so to where he stood. I tried not to look directly at the gun.

“If you’re tired of it (I was sort of certain he meant the drug addiction) let’s sit down and talk about it. I may have the answers you need. I think I can help.”

His finger slid into the trigger guard. His shoulders trembled. The slow trickle of tears had morphed into rivers. He glanced toward the street and then back toward his parents. I had to move, so I walked toward him. “Donnie, let’s talk. But first I’ll need the gun.”

The silence was deafening. The only sounds I remember were the faint clicking of the light mechanisms on the patrol cars as they controlled the flashes spins, and whirls, and that of my heart as it thumped against the inner wall of my chest.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Whir, spins, blink, wink.

Thump, thump, thump.

I held out my hand as I walked (faster now).

He took a step back, but stopped and slowly began to raise  the hand holding the handgun.

There was no turning back at this point, so I continued my forward march.

Donnie raised his hand and turned the gun backward, handing me the butt end. It was over and I felt myself exhale. Officers ran to the porch to escort Donnie’s parents inside. EMS personnel followed them into the house where they tended to the distraught couple.

I remained outside where Donnie and I sat on a porch swing. We talked for quite a while before patrol officers handcuffed him and then led him to one of their cars.

A magistrate committed Donnie to a temporary stay in a psych unit where he was evaluated and released after a few days. He was charged for the incident at his parents’ house but the same magistrate saw no reason to hold him in jail, so Donnie was released on a PR bond.

Two weeks later I was working a controlled drug buy and heard a call come across my radio about an unconscious man lying among the leaves in the wooded area next to a trailer park. I was nearby so drove over to see if I could help out. It was Donnie, and he was not breathing and he had no pulse. I started CPR and, to my surprise, he came to after only a few minutes (seemed like hours to me). EMS arrived and whisked Donnie off to the hospital. Doctors told me he’d overdosed but would be fine in a few days.

I stopped in to see Donnie one afternoon and sat beside his bed for an hour or so. We chatted between bouts of his crying and forgiveness-begging. I wished him well and told him to call when he was released and I’d see to it that he received help for his addiction. As I headed to the door a couple of nurses playfully teased us about the “sexy” lip-lock Donnie and shared during the CPR. He laughed and I took his good spirits as a sign of better days to come.

Two weeks later another radio call came in about a possible overdose. This one was at Donnie’s apartment. I flipped on my blue lights and siren headed over. When I arrived on-scene, the lack of urgency on the part of the officers and EMS workers told me all I needed to know.

After a chat with the EMS folks and M.E., I got back in my car and drove to the house across the street from ours. The walk from the street to the front door was an extremely long one, and when the door opened and the faces of Donnie’s parents appeared, well … you know.

Patrick Swayze

I was thumbing through a stack of offense reports, the crimes that had occurred during the previous overnight hours, when the owner of a nightclub showed up at my office door. His business had a widely-known reputation for rowdy bar fights, stabbings, drug dealings, and shootings. He was a loud-talking man with a coarse voice that sounded as if he’d swallowed a couple of sheets of 80 grit sandpaper. He was rude, crude, and irritatingly boisterous. However, the day he sat in the chair next to my desk with his hat in hand, however, he was as meek and mild as a newborn kitten. He had troubles and he wore them on his sleeve for the world to see.

He explained to me that the local police (his club was located in a nearby city outside of my jurisdiction) had threatened to begin proceedings to classify his business as a public nuisance. Their goal, they’d told him, was to then shut down the bar and padlock the doors for good. He went on to tell me that he’d invested his entire life savings into the nightclub as well as the cash he’d set aside for his daughters’ college years, days that were rapidly approaching. Things had simply gotten out of hand and he didn’t know how to turn them around.

I asked Mr. Jones (not his real name) why he’d come to see me and not an officer in the city where his business was located. After all, I told him, I didn’t have arrest powers in the city where his club was located. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I understand you know how to clean up problems like mine. You can, right?”

At the time, I must admit, I had a bit of a reputation for taking on some of the biggest and baddest thugs on the street, and winning. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. I had the backing of a group of officers I’d assembled specifically to tackle gangs and street violence. The collection of officers was appropriately named “Street Crimes Unit (SCU).”

The word on the street was that when I was recruited by a certain (unnamed) city police department, part of the reason was to clean up an area called “The Bottom” (not the real name) where honest, law-abiding folks absolutely did not dare venture outside at night. Instead, each evening, when the sun dipped below the horizon, residents double-locked their doors and windows and then hunkered down to wait for gunfire, home invasions, and drug dealers and prostitutes who shamelessly operated their businesses from the locals’ front yards and porches.

Dialing 911 was basically a hobby for the residents of The Bottom, and, when patrol officers responded they were often on the receiving end of anonymous gunfire, rocks, bricks, and more. They were outnumbered—15 or 20 to 1.

So, in order to accomplish the task I was hired to do, I assembled the SCU, a highly skilled and fearless team of officers, sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers, federal agents, friends of mine from the state police and other state agencies, reserve officers, and a herd of canines and their handlers—both narcotics dogs and those who love to bite. We dressed in black BDUs for uniformity and for a bit of intimidation factor, and we were heavily armed.

Each night I called a briefing where I instructed everyone to be safe but to arrest as many law breakers as they could possibly nab—I wanted the bad guys to know we meant business—we headed out on a mission we hoped would produce positive results, without violating anyone’s rights. Everything had to be by the book, no exceptions. But the goal was clear. Clean up the streets. Rid the neighborhoods of violent criminals.

After the briefing regarding the operation in The Bottom, I led the long parade of police vehicles to the edge of neighborhood, an area comprised of several square blocks. We parked out of sight and earshot where the K-9 handlers gave their dogs a quick potty break. When the dogs were properly relieved we “moved in” on foot, walking as a large unit down the middle of the main street where activity was most prevalent. I’d also assigned two officers to stay behind, standing guard over our vehicles.

We were about 30 deep and 2 wide, and I guarantee you that 60 officers suited in all black with some carrying rifles and shotguns, while a pack of barking and snarling Rottweilers and German Shepherds, well, I’ll put it this way … the streets were fairly clear within a matter of minutes. We took a few prisoners—those who thought they could take on the police by firing a couple of Saturday night specials into the air, hoping to scare us away. And there were those who enjoyed a good fist fight no matter the odds.

 

Sure, I got my clothes dirty, and I came away with a few bruises and scrapes, but we won the battle. And we did it again and again until the elderly residents were once again able to enjoy their front porch swings while drinking glasses of iced tea and chatting with their neighbors.

Anyway, back to Mr. Jones. Those “street sweeps” earned me a reputation of taking on the biggest of the biggest and the baddest of the baddest. It wasn’t a totally earned reputation since it was an effort by an entire team, but I led the way so it was my face that was associated with kicking butt and taking names.

Mr. Jones asked me to come to work for him as the head of his team of security officers. He wanted me to be a bouncer. A cooler. And in the worst joint within five counties. I immediately said thanks but no thanks. Then, and it was odd to hear from this guy, he said, “Please.” And there were tears in his eyes.

Well, Friday night rolled around—yes, I’m a sucker for tears—and I stood just inside the front door of the nightclub, wearing a black t-shirt with SECURITY stamped in bold white letters across the back.

I was Patrick Swayze from the film Roadhouse. Well, sort of …

I also wore BDU’s with the pockets packed with pepperspray, a kubaton, an ASP, and handcuffs.

I showed the other bouncers how to operate a hand-held metal detector—everyone was to be scanned…no exceptions, I told them. No purses, pocketbooks, or bags of any kind. No pepperspray and no knives … of any kind. If the detector sounded off, a security team member patted them down. If they refused the pat-down, they didn’t come inside. Simple as that. I did not want to go home that night with any extra perforations in my body.

Ten minutes into this dumb move (accepting the job), I was already wondering just how dumb I was for considering this dumb assignment.

Finally, at 10:00 p.m. (my usual bedtime), it was time to open the doors. The DJ was pumping out Hip-Hop and rap tunes that pounded inside my skull and rattled my bones until I thought my skeleton might make a break for it and dash for the exit. I’m a Led Zepplin/Pink Floyd kind of guy, so the music spewing from the club’s Volkswagen-size speakers definitely wasn’t doing anything to make me feel welcome.

I peeked outside and saw a line of people snaking down the front steps, out into the gravel parking lot (I’d already made a mental note to avoid any scuffles out there, because rolling around on jagged stones can be painful), and down the sidewalk at the street. Building capacity was 800 and there were at least 1,000 people waiting to get inside to hear “DJ Jamba-Juice” or whatever the hell his stage name was. I think his real name was Terrence Smith, though.

The crowd poured through the double front doors like water going down a drain. At twenty bucks each, Mr. Jones was making a killing, and that wasn’t counting the watered down scotch and bourbons the patrons would soon be gulping, at 10- to 12-bucks a pop.

The guys at the doors used those counter-clicker-things, trying to keep track of how many people had packed inside. But doing that, scanning for metal objects, searching pockets, arguing about the pocketbook rule, and dealing with those who were already intoxicated when they arrived, well, let’s just say they lost count and the building was bursting at the seams. I swear, each time the crowd exhaled I thought I could see moonlight coming in through the spaces where the rafters “used to” meet the walls.

And, lo and behold, it happened. Somebody looked at somebody’s girlfriend and the donkey dung hit the fan. It was on and out came the knives and broken beer bottles.

I waded through the crowd of looky-loos, pushing and pulling people out of my way until I found the fight. Four men going at each other like a pack of hyenas going after a zebra carcass. Two women were scratching and clawing and hair-pulling, and this was the snatching of real hair. Their wigs were on the floor, looking like two squashed and very dead muskrats.

I started worming my way into the fight, stopping the slugging, stabbing, and cutting. Then a shot rang out. And then another, and another.

People scrambled toward the exits, knocking down the weak and the meek. The fight, though, continued with more men joining in to take cheap shots at me. So I decided to even the odds and pulled out my pepper spray and began squirting the attackers like I was spraying a bad roach infestation. I held the ASP in my other hand, ready to take out the kneecaps, elbows, and collarbones of anyone not affected by the spray. Luckily, they abandoned their intentions and headed for the door, rubbing their burning eyes and skin.

My brand new SECURITY shirt was torn at the collar and my freshly laundered pants were filthy, with several drops and smears of blood on the legs and near the waistband. I looked around to see why the other bouncers hadn’t come to my aid and saw that they, too, had been involved in battles of their own. We looked a mess, like warriors who’d been away battling dragons and trolls and other evil creatures.

A few minutes later the local police arrived and they came inside ten deep, ready to clear the joint. The sergeant recognized me and immediately asked, “What the hell are you doing here?” But his question came a bit too late … I’d already asked myself that very question at least a dozen times. And to this day I still don’t know why I agreed to serve as a real-life Patrick Swayze for a night.

I did learn a valuable lesson, though, that it’s a lot safer to approach a situation such as the one at Mr. Jones’ bar, if you go in carrying machine guns while following a handful of well-trained dogs. A stick and a can of pepper juice just doesn’t cut it when the odds are a thousand to six, in the favor of the other team.

 

By the way, that was the last night Mr. Jones’ bar was open for business. Someone eventually bought it and turned the place into a family restaurant, specializing in Mexican food … where hot peppers are used as they should be … as part of the cuisine.

Working the graveyard shift was always a thorn in my side, and the reason for the ill will boiled down to the simple fact that I like to sleep when the rest of the humans I know are sleeping. Yes, I too, like to go to bed when the moon is in the sky, when birds are roosting, and when most burglars are out and about plying their trade.

If, by design, man should earn a living at the time when bats are flitting, fluttering, and circling streetlights, well, we’d most certainly have leathery wings and would sit down to plates of steaming hot mosquitos for our evening meals. We’d also have built-in night vision and we’d enjoy long walks in cemeteries. So yeah, in spite of once being a hardcore night person who for many years played guitar in bands that performed in dive bars and clubs across the south, as an officer I had a hard time keeping my eyes open once the clock struck 4 a.m. That particular time, of course, was the precise moment when the sandman began to tug downward on the invisible strings attached to my eyelids.

I prefer to sleep AT NIGHT. Thank you very much.

But, being a person who truly enjoyed receiving a regular paycheck, at 11 p.m. each night of the midnight shift rotation I’d shower and shave and then begin the process of transforming from gardener, cook, dad, husband, neighbor, repairman, mechanic, and carpenter, into the uniformed police officer known to the citizens on my watch. By the way, this metamorphosis must be completed in near silence because your family is fast asleep and already dreaming of unicorns and fairies and happy thoughts of not having to go to work or school in the middle of the night.

So, after a dab of Old Spice to cool sensitive post-shave cheeks came the installation of proper undergarments—boxers, briefs, or whatever bottom-huggers were the preference, if any. This step also included donning a pair of anaconda-strength, calf-crushing socks that’re designed to never slip downward. After all, there are not many things worse than having your socks inch toward your ankles while you’re sprinting through backyards and alleys trying to catch the guy who just robbed the clerk at Billy’s BBQ and Butt-Waxing Emporium.

Also included in the installation of the “unmentionables” was donning a cooling t-shirt. These handy articles of clothing are designed to wick moisture, ward off humidity, and reduce the beneath-the-Kevlar temperature to a manageable degree instead of the typical “bake-a-loaf-of-bread-in-under-two-seconds” heat every officer endures on a daily basis, especially the men and women who work in areas of extreme humidity.

The type of trousers officers wear depends upon their assignment and/or department policy. For now, let’s put our feet, legs, and rear end into a pair of those fancy polyether pants, the ones with the sporty racing stripes that stretch from waist to ankle on the outside of each leg. This odd-feeling material is as slick as eel snot when the eel is suffering from a bad summer cold.

Once the pants are on it’s best to leave them unfastened until tucking the front and rear tails of the vest carrier (the material that holds the Kevlar panels in place) into the trousers. I knew several officers who also tucked the tails of their undershirts into their underwear to prevent the loose material from riding up and going all wonky beneath the vest. A dress belt is slipped through each of the pant loops (more on this belt in a moment).

After the pants are in place it’s time for the shiny shoes, which, by the way, are fabricated from some sort of space-age stay-shiny-all-the-time material. The days of shoe-shining, thankfully, went out with the round red bubblegum lights perched on the tops of patrol cars. Although, I sort of missed shining my own shoes because the scent of shoe polish was comforting, much like the cooking smells at grandma’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

I say now is the time to put on the shoes because it’s far easier to do so BEFORE hitching-up the Kevlar vest, a contraption that hinders bending, squatting, taking deep breaths, and scratching those pesky itches that always occur the moment after the vest is strapped in place.

This thing, “the vest,” a life-saving piece of gear for sure, is like strapping two chunks of dense clay to your chest and back. You slip the bulky thing over your head, taking care to not whack yourself in the noggin, a blow that could induce instantaneous unconsciousness. Heaven forbid you should wake the rest of the family when your body hits the floor, right? Anyway, a quick pull on the velcro straps while mashing the hooks and loops together, and then you’re ready to reach for the shirt.

The uniform shirt is a billboard of sorts that, by way of various pins, medals, and badges, advertises an officer’s rank, length of  time in service, conduct status, how well they shoot, and even their name in case a rock-tossing “I know my rights” protester for the cause du jour wants to include it in the latest social media video. It helps to attach all of the doodads in advance because it’s a bit tedious and time-consuming.

There’s a place on the shirt that’s designed specifically for the badge. It’s easy to spot due to the two permanently sewn-in tabs that help prevent excessive wear and tear on the material caused by daily pinning and unpinning.

The shirts also feature permanent sewn-in military creases, stiff collar stays, and a slick, stain-resistant finish for repelling blood, grime, and other “goop” that could find it’s way onto the material during a scuffle or bad burrito spill.

Some uniform shirts are also fitted with zip-up fronts. If so, the zippers are covered by a thin strip of vertical material and row of buttons that serve no purpose other than to give the appearance that they’re used to button-up the shirt. Zippered shirts are great because bad guys cannot rip and pop the buttons during a friendly “encounter.”

Here’s an example of some do-dads worn by officers.

From top to bottom:

– Name tag.

– Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.

– Pistol expert (in our area, to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).

– FTO pin worn by field training officers.

– K9 pin worn by K9 officers

*Remember, ribbons and pins may vary in individual departments and agencies.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place.

Unfortunately, the clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officer’s skin.

For a quick fix in the field, lost clasps can be temporarily replaced with pencil erasers.

So, with all articles of the uniform in place, officers are finally in position to tuck the tails of the vest carrier into the pants, button up, zip up, close up, buckle the dress belt, and then add the final piece to the puzzle … the gun belt.

Gun belts wrap around the waist, hook in the front, and are attached to the dress belt to hold it in place. Belt keepers are are used to connect the gun belt to the dress belt. Their purpose is to prevent the gun belt from falling down around the ankles, an act that could cause a bit of embarrassment, and to make drawing the weapon an extremely difficult task to perform.

Two belt keepers, between the two handcuff cases, loop over both the gun belt and the dress belt. They’re held together by the two pairs of silver snaps pictured here. Some keepers have only one snap. Belt keepers are worn in various locations around the belt. Specific placement and the number of keepers used is up to the officer and depends upon where support is needed.

So, once the graveyard shift officer is properly attired and outfitted, it’s time to tiptoe out the front door, taking care to not wake anyone. However, leather creaks, keys jingle, shoes squeak, and the radio crackles.

Hopefully, somewhere between eight and twelve hours later the sweaty and exhausted officer, the one wearing the now wrinkled and rumpled uniform, will return home where he/she will begin the process in reverse … and then try to sleep when the sun is high in the sky, streetlights are off, and while the rest of the family is banging and clanging around the house, the TV is blaring, the neighbor is mowing his lawn, a mockingbird is singing its ass off in the tree next to the bedroom window, and the dog is licking their face.

Oh, and let’s not forget trying to drift off to sleep while thoughts of auto crashes, shooting and stabbing victims, pursuits, fights, and battered kids and women all are flashing through their minds.

Yeah, sweet dreams, officer. Sweet dreams …

Depending upon which source is believed to be correct—Social Security or the census—Johnson Vandyke “Van” Grigsby was born in either February of 1888 or February of 1886, respectively. Grigsby, the son of freed slaves, however, said March of 1885 was the month and year of his birth.

In 1900, Grigsby and his family moved from their home in Shelby County, Kentucky to Kokomo, Indiana, the county seat of Howard County. Seven years later, Grigsby, an African-American, killed a white man named James Brown. The pair had been playing a game of five card stud poker in a saloon in Anderson, IL. when the two men engaged in a fight.

During the altercation, the men, as men often do, cursed at one another. Then racial slurs were uttered. As the fracas became intensely heated, Brown pulled a knife on Van. So Van left the bar to retrieve a knife of his own. When Van returned Brown picked up a chair and threw it at him. In response, Van lunged at Brown, with his knife, and subsequently stabbed Brown to death.

Grigsby, as the story goes, plead guilty to second degree murder in order to escape the electric chair.

Convicted of second degree murder in 1908, Grigsby began a new and extremely long chapter in life when he was delivered in a horse-drawn cart to the Indiana State Penitentiary in Michigan City. The trip lasted several days.

When he arrived at the prison on August 8, 1908, the same year the four-cylinder, twenty-horsepower Model T was first offered and sold for $825, Grigsby left behind his life as a free man and became “prisoner #4045.”

Upon his release in December 1974, inmate Grigsby had served 66 long years in the penitentiary, with 50 or so of those years spent in a ward for the insane. A doctor, though, finally examined him and declared that he was “not crazy.”

In spite of being a model prisoner who passed the time by reading (and re-reading) the Bible, a dictionary, and a complete set of encyclopedias from A_Z, he’d applied for parole 33 times before finally being released.

As a free man once again, Grigsby had to adjust to life on “the outside” as someone who’d been secluded from the world for nearly seven decades. While Grigsby’s former daily life had consisted of staring at concrete and steel and barbed wire, life beyond the prison walls passed him by, and when he finally stepped outside the front gate an entirely new world was there to greet him. The stark differences were surely like the moment in the Wizard of Oz film when things instantly transformed from black and white to vivid color. There were no subtle changes.

*The Wizard of Oz premiered on the big screen in 1939, eventually making its way to television in 1956. Grigsby was behind bars for both. Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the film, was born in 1922 and died in 1969. Her entire life and career took place during Grigsby’s period of incarceration.

In fact, during Grigsby’s time inside, he’d missed such “firsts” as …

  • The first candy apple.
  • The introduction of Skee ball (my favorite beach boardwalk arcade game).
  • The invention of gin rummy.
  • Erector sets.
  • The painting of marker lines on roadways.
  • Electric blankets.
  • The first traffic lights.
  • Fortune cookies.
  • Hamburger buns.
  • Lincoln logs.
  • Supermarkets.
  • Tow trucks.
  • Light switches.
  • Grocery bags.
  • Toasters
  • Eskimo pies.
  • Band-Aids.
  • Water skiing.
  • Bulldozers.
  • Cotton swabs.
  • Cheeseburgers.
  • Gas chamber executions.
  • Masking tape.
  • Tilt-a-Whirl.
  • Corn dogs.
  • Recliners.
  • Bubble gum.
  • Ice cube trays.
  • Reuben sandwiches.
  • Sunglasses.
  • The first frozen food.
  • Car radios.
  • Chocolate chip cookies.
  • Electric guitars.
  • Golf carts.
  • Trampolines.
  • Parking meters.
  • Stock car racing.
  • Shopping carts.
  • Beach balls.
  • Soft-serve ice cream.
  • Yield signs.
  • Twist ties.
  • Deodorant.
  • Slinkies.
  • Tupperware
  • Credit cards.
  • Cat litter
  • Hairspray.
  • Cable television
  • Frisbees.
  • Coolers.
  • Wetsuits.
  • Barcodes.
  • WD-40
  • Ziplock bags.
  • Radar guns
  • The first man on the moon.
  • The FBI was established only one month prior to Grigsby’s incarceration.
  • 13 U.S. presidents had come and gone.
  • National Anthem was adopted.
  • U.S. engagement in Korean and Vietnam Wars began and ended.
  • Alaska and Hawaii became U.S. states.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • President Kennedy was assassinated.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.
  • Grigsby’s entire life passed by in dreary stagnation while the world continued to rapidly spin and twirl and advance in gigantic leaps and bounds. Is it any wonder that when his feet did finally hit the pavement outside he’d stepped into a world that was unrecognizable to him. By the way, the first ready-mix load of concrete was delivered in Baltimore, Md. in 1913. The Hoover Dam, made of concrete, was constructed in 1936.

    It must’ve been like finding oneself on a distant planet … a new world filled with magic and awe. He most likely saw a traffic light for the first time in his life. Music and art and speech, and cars, and trains, and stores and, well, everything—all brand new and shiny and spinning and flashing and whirling and whirring.

    He was a 90 year old man who was launched directly from 1908 nearly 70 years into the future, a world where he was instantly expected to adapt. But, as should have been expected, Grigsby found himself unable to cope with such drastic change and voluntarily returned to prison, where he remained for 17 additional months before he was again released. This time, though, at the age of 91, he was out for good. He ended up in the Marion County Health Care Center, though, where he found much comfort at being told when to get up, when to eat, when to bathe, and when to go to bed. This being the only way he knew to live and to survive.

    Grigsby’s situation is all too familiar to many men and women who serve long periods of time behind bars. Time, people, and life pass swiftly by, leaving long-serving ex-prisoners confused and lonely and, upon their release, they find it difficult to obtain employment in a world that’s unlike the one they knew prior to incarceration.

    The stigma of being a convicted felon is already a huge hurdle to overcome when job searching, but add to it the lack of modern day skills and sudden forced adjustment to the unknowns makes the effort almost insurmountable without a hand up from friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s commonplace that friends and family have long since turned their backs on the folks serving extensive prison terms. That, and decent housing and educational opportunities are often unattainable for felons.

    Therefore, the exasperated former inmates often see no way to survive without returning to what they know … criminal activity.

    For these people to survive as productive citizens, somewhere, somehow, sometime, someone has to offer a true second chance. They need the opportunity to hold their heads high and not hang them down in shame for the balance of their time on earth. A means to earn back their rights and to remove the “scarlet letters” from their chests.

    Of course, we all realize that some of these folks will never change and prison is, without a doubt, the best place for them. But others do regret the bad choices they’ve made, and they do indeed want and welcome change.

    But to forever brand former prisoners, and to not provide a support system that keeps them current with the times and technology is, well, it’s not good for them nor is it good for society.


    Johnny Cash told Grigsby’s story in a song called Michigan City Howdy Do..
     

Police work is certainly filled with unknown and unseen perils. Without a doubt, it’s a job that comes with a long list of hazards. Aside from the obvious dangers—fights, stabbings, car crashes, shootings, etc.—one of the most gut-wrenching threats to officers is known universally as the dreaded “Open Mic.”

Open Mic – When an officer unknowingly presses the transmit button on his portable radio and is broadcasting everything he/she says and does to anyone and everyone.

And this, one cold, winter night, is when an open mic caused a bit of embarrassing grief for Captain “Jim” and a young female dispatcher I’ll call Geraldine for the purpose of this post. You see where this is going, right?

I was working late that night, wrapping up after a successful raid on a crack dealer’s house, when I heard the “dead air.” A sound, or lack thereof, that’s unmistakable and easily recognizable to officers everywhere. It usually starts out with a bout of silence, followed by faint traffic noises, a car radio playing somebody’s favorite tune, or maybe a conversation. This faux pas often occurs when an officer leans over to one side and accidentally depresses the talk button on his belt-mounted walkie-talkie. Seat belt connections are notorious for pushing the button inward. However, when the officer moves the button is released and all is well. No problem.

Sometimes, though, what comes spewing from the speaker is downright porn. You know, the officer is at home for lunch with the spouse and things get a bit heated and the next thing you know off goes the gun belt. The officer drops the belt to the floor where the radio talk button becomes jammed against the point of a high heel or a chair leg. And, well, “lunch time” is instantly broadcasted to everyone with a police radio and/or scanner. Not good. No, not good at all. No, sir.

Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 1.26.04 PM

Anyway, back to Captain Jim’s troubles.

I heard the dead air followed by the sound of voices, a man and woman. It quickly became apparent that the male was our boss, Captain Jim. The female’s voice was difficult to pinpoint. Familiar, somewhat, but I had a hard time figuring out who she was because of all the screaming … “Oh, Jim! Oh, Jim! Yes, Jim! Oh, Jim! Yeeeesssssss, Jiiimmmm!!!!

Next, I heard a bit of light smooches and then a few odd, indiscernible clicks and rattles.

Then … silence.

Suddenly, an exasperated voice spewed from the speaker in my car, and from, I’m sure, every police car radio in the entire network—city police, county deputies, state police, and every household where a police scanner sat perched on somebody’s grandpa’s nightstand. Even worldwide should someone happen to be listening in on their computer or cell phone from Padooky, Kansas, or Fryonion, Nevada, or Crookedfoot, Alaska. Or even as far away as China, Russia, or Australia. It’s possible.

“S**t! The door’s locked,” said Captain Jim.

“What?” said the female voice who I immediately recognized as that of Geraldine, one of the night shift dispatchers. “Stop joking,” she said.

“I’m not kidding,” said Captain Jim. “I forgot about not being able to open the back doors on patrol cars.” A pause, then, “I knew I should’ve driven my own car, dammit.”

“What are we going to do?” said Geraldine.

“I’ll have to call someone … oh, s**t, the mic’s open.”

That’s the precise moment when the hot microphone died and regular radio traffic resumed.

The next voice I heard on the radio was Captain Jim calling me, asking if I was available to come to his location. He told me he was at an old abandoned runway out at the county’s private airport. Meeting an informant is the reason he gave for being there. Yeah, right.

I ten-foured him and headed out to the airport, grinning all the way as I imagined the captain and Geraldine trapped in the backseat area behind the partition, waiting patiently for me to come rescue them. I also had thoughts of all the folks who’d urinated or puked or bled in the backseat currently being used as a cozy little love nest.

I drove to the end of one runway and then turned left onto the cracked and pot-hole littered asphalt of the abandoned runway, and there, parked among a stand of tall weeds and overgrown shrubs and sycamore trees, and rusty, old appliances someone had discarded, is where I saw the police car. No one was visible in the vehicle. Not that I could see, that is, because the windows were heavily steamed.

I parked my unmarked car, got out, and walked over to the rear door on the driver’s side where I grabbed the handle and pulled it open. Then I turned around and went back to my car and drove away.

Neither Captain Jim nor I ever spoke about that night. I figured what happened out there was none of my business. I do know, however, that I was never denied a single vacation request from that night forward.