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Stacks of old spiral notebooks tell the story of my career in law enforcement. Most of the pages contain brief notations—mileage, oil changes, weather, dates and times, arrests, names of witnesses and suspects, crime scene information, prisoners transported, and strangely enough, ideas for stories. You see, I’ve always wanted to write.

This story is true. It happened.

Sure, there were plenty of happy times during my twenty-plus years of wearing a gun and badge, but I often choose to write about the more solemn tales for a reason. I offer them to you, not to talk about the things we did that were right or wrong, but to show a side to police work that’s not normally seen by the general public.

Believe me, the job is not all cops and robbers. Sometimes it’s about the things that tug at your heart, pulling and grasping at whatever keeps a person’s sanity and emotions in check.

Today I’ve flipped through the pages to an event that’s forever etched in my mind. I’ve always referred to it as The Fire.

Saturday June 9, 1984

Working graveyard shift alone.

11:45 – Relieve 4-12 shift. No serious incidents reported. Slow night.

12:00 – Begin patrol. Mileage 43888.

12:14 – Loud music complaint. Subjects complied.

12:47 – Assist state police with vehicle search and arrest on interstate. Meth.

1:18 – Bar fight. Break it up. Arrest two males. Disorderly conduct and drunk in public. Process.

1:59 – Vehicle stop. Expired plates. Stolen car. Murder suspect from Florida. Arrest and process.

3:20 – Assist jail officers with disturbance.

4:14 – Meet troopers for breakfast.

4:27 – Accident on interstate. Assist troopers. Leave before meal arrives.

4:33 – Arrive at scene.

Vehicle on fire in median.

Fully engulfed.

People trapped.

Screaming.

Hair burning.

Faces contort.

Too hot to approach.

Helpless.

Man pushing.

Against door.

Intense heat.

Hopeless.

Fire extinguishers.

Glass, exploding.

Tires melt.

Flat.

Paint bubbling.

Bare metal.

Man climbs from window.

Burning.

Collapses.

Trooper pulls him to safety.

Dead.

Woman stops screaming.

Dead.

Little girl, in back.

“Mommy!”

Heat, unbearable.

Run to car.

Shield face.

Hair burns away,

On arms.

Eyebrows singe.

Pull child,

Through open window.

Arms burn.

Broken glass.

Tiny child.

Hair gone.

Badly burned.

“Mommy!”

So fragile.

Blistered.

Hold her.

In my arms.

Cling tightly.

Rag doll.

Mommy…

Weak.

Tears.

Mine?

“Mom…”

Silence.

 

 

 

  1. Being a writer is like being a politician. You get to make up @#$! and your fans love it.
  2. Being a writer is like being a plumber. Somewhere around the middle of the job you find yourself elbow deep in @#$!
  3. Writers are like prostitutes. They do it for money but the income arrives in small amounts at random times.
  4. Agents are like pimps without the purple suede leisure suits and feathers in their hats. Oh, wait …
  5. A good book is like a side effect of “the little blue pill.” It keeps you up all night.
  6. Sitting at a keyboard while clacking away at random characters is something an illiterate chimp can do. Much of today’s media is proof that chimps are better at it.

    Wandering Eyes

  7. Spellcheck is great, except when it isn’t.
  8. A great book is a like a fine statue. Their creators started with an idea and then carved away everything that didn’t help tell the story.
  9. Writers are like cops. They like coffee and whiskey and telling tall tales … and whiskey.
  10. A bad story is like a snow skier. They’re both start at out on a slow upward climb toward the summit. Then it’s all downhill from there until they reach the end, which is totally uneventful.
  11. The words of a good book remain forever. The words of a politician remain only until the next big donation comes along.
  12. If real-life bad guys would simply take the time to read a mystery book they’d know the good guys always win in the end.
  13. Good books are like the bed in a by-the-hour motel. Lots of action between the covers.
  14. Great ideas make great books, except when they don’t.
  15. Social media can be like a disease. No punch line. It truly can be like a disease.
  16. The bravest men and women in the world today are currently sitting at home, ranting and raving away on Facebook, telling people just how brave they are. Then they get up and go to their day jobs, greeting customers at Weirdmart, or selling fries at Booger Joe’s Burger Emporium.
  17. Lone literary agents at writers conferences are like the innocent fawns that tiptoe through the forest—they both know the attack could come at moment. This is why experienced agents travel in packs.
  18. A firefighter and a police officer enter a bar at a mystery writers conference. They’ll know better next time.

Finally …

Two drunks and a writer enter a bar during a writers conference. Three drunks come out.

*Have you got a zinger you’d like to share? If so, please do. (no foul language, racism, cop-bashing, politics, etc., please.).

Police Officers are the brave men and women who’s duty is to protect us and to round up the evil folks who commit dastardly crimes against society. They’re enforcers of the law. They run into danger, leaping mud puddles and discarded fast food wrappers along the way. They dodge kids on tricycles and those licking popsicles.

Officers often work during the nighttime among feeding feral animals and smelly winos. Their nerve are cords of steel and their hearts and minds are filled to the brim with compassion.

They train and train and they train, and they’re given all the tools needed to fulfill their duties with the utmost expertise.

Unfortunately, though, cops are human and we all know that humans subject to making mistakes. Cops are no exception. Here, see for yourselves.

Oops!

Serving search warrants and entering homes and businesses to search for killers, robbers, and thieves is risky to say the least.

Before “going in,” though, there’s often a ton of necessary preparation—surveillance, paperwork, briefings, etc, not to mention the hours of training and practice that goes hand-in-hand with being a finely-honed, well-oiled member of police department’s special team. After all, the goal is to make a swift and safe entry, collect evidence, and to bring out the bad guys with no one getting hurt, including the crooks.

But, after all those grueling hours of aforementioned training, often in harsh conditions, repeating the same tactics over and over again until they come as naturally as taking a breath, well, things still happen while executing warrants. Such as …

Knock on Wood

We’ve all seen the TV cops, the officers knocking and announcing their presence and purpose. Bam! Bam! Bam! “Police! Search warrant!” Then the door-kicking starts (battering ram, actually) until the jambs and locks give way. Officers are then able to storm the house like ants on a dropped lollipop.

That’s how it’s supposed to go, right? But then there’s this …

Officers kick and kick and kick, and pound and pound and pound, trying to get inside a crack house. But the door won’t budge. They’re frantic that evidence is being destroyed with each passing second, so one cop decides to break a window when he suddenly hears a voice calling out from inside the home. “Use the door knob, dumbass. It’s unlocked.”


Lookin’ Through the Window

It’s mid July and a baby is trapped inside a locked car. The motor’s running and the mother is hysterical. She accidentally hit the lock on the driver’s door as she was getting out. “Please hurry! My baby’s so scared, and it’s really hot inside. Hurry!”

The responding officer peeks through the glass of the driver’s side window and sees that all four doors are securely locked, so he uses a Slim Jim to try and pop open the latches. But it just doesn’t seem to work this time and he curses those “newfangled” electric locks and all the wiring that becomes tangled around his cardoor-unlocking device. Precious minutes tick by as the temperature climbs past 90. The baby seems to be okay and the ambulance and fire crews are on the way. Another five minutes of jabbing the metal tool inside the door panel passes before a fire truck finally pulls up. Whew! They’ll have the right equipment to get the kid out safely.

The fire captain hops out of the truck and walks up to the car. He steps around to the passenger door and calmly reaches inside through the OPEN window. Then he gently scoops up the cooing baby and hands her to her sobbing mother.


The Old “Mattress as a Shield” Trick: Please Help Me I’m Falling

The prison Emergency Response Team has been called to extricate a suicidal inmate from his cell. The prisoner is extremely violent and he’s well known for hurting staff members. He’s also built like a bulldozer and is as strong as twenty men.

The team assembles at the cell door waiting for the command to go in. The lead officer, typically the largest of the group, is in charge of a cot-size prison mattress. His assignment is to hold the mattress in front of his body, vertically. The idea is to rush the guy and pin him to the rear cell wall with the padded shield. Doing so allows the team to easily restrain the guy. No problem. They’ve used the tactic several times before with great success. Never had an injury, either. When everyone is ready, someone begins the countdown. One. Two. Three. Go!

The door opens and the 6’4, 250 pound ox of a man, the officer who’s wielding the mattress makes his move. The only job for which he’s responsible, to be a human battering ram. However, he steps on the bottom corner of the mattress and tumbles inside the cell. The rest of the team fall on top of him while the inmate looks on. He slowly begins to laugh and then starts to chuckle uncontrollably as the team scrambles to get to their feet. The prisoner, of course, is laughing so hard he has tears streaming down his cheeks.


Slim Jim

Before the introduction of electronic locks, it was a simple matter of slipping a Slim Jim between the window glass and rubber weather strip, feel around until the tool hit the “lock rod,” and wiggle it around a tiny bit until the lock knob popped up.

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So presto, bingo, all was well and the happy citizen went about their daily routine.

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Slim Jim

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Notches used for “hooking” the lock rod and other mechanisms

After electronic locks replaced the simple, manual ones, things changed. No longer was unlocking a car door an easy task. In fact, it was quite the opposite and many officers, especially the old-timers, found themselves jabbing Slim Jims inside car doors while pushing and pulling and pumping the darn things in and up an down motion that brings to mind a frazzled grandma in the kitchen using a hand-mashing implement to frantically and wildly smash the heck out of a pot full of potatoes.

Parstamp1

Grandma pounded out a week’s worth of frustrations using one of these things while preparing Sunday lunch.

Sometimes during a particularly violent Slim-Jimming session, the device became entangled in the nests of wiring, rods, gadgets, and connections inside the door. When this occurred it sometimes was impossible to remove the “Jim” without damaging an entire network of electrical, well, car stuff.

Therefore, it was not all that unusual for an officer to leave the device protruding from the door of a high-end vehicle while the owner called a professional for help. Then off they’d drive (the car owner), heading to the dealership with long, flat piece of metal flapping in the breeze.

It was many years ago when I worked in Virginia’s state prison system, back before I began my career as a certified law enforcement officer. I’ve done a lot of unpleasant things in my day, to make ends meet, but working in the prison was truly one of the worst.

When I say to make ends meet I’m speaking about being a single dad raising a daughter while earning little more than peanuts. At my first state job my salary was $6240. per year. When I moved up the ladder a bit the pay moved up to $6700. Then it grew to a whopping $8320. Then I transferred to a maximum security prison, one that housed the worst of the worst inmates., those that other prisons didn’t want. My  pay increased to a little above $12,000 annually.

So, for less than six bucks an hour I had to pay for housing costs, car payment, food, clothing, phone bill, heat, school costs, and the health insurance premium and retirement were deducted from the salary. Therefore, as everyone knows, paying the bills and supporting a child is tough. Those of you who’ve done so as a single parent, as I was, know how difficult and extremely challenging it is simply to hold your head above water.

When I spoke about unpleasant things I’d done I was speaking of the part-time jobs I held to supplement my income. I continued working part-time jobs for my entire law enforcement career. The pay as a police officer in the early days, unfortunately, was not great.

A Twist in this Tale

Oh, there’s a twist to this story. One of these part-time jobs is not true. The rest are fact.

You’ve all read my blog and social media posts over the years. Many of you have met me and had conversations with me. So let’s see how you fare at picking out a falsehood. Of course, all could be true or they could all be false. I’m just sayin’.

Here’s a list of those jobs … maybe.

I once held a part-time job as …

  1. An electrician for a county government. I rewired part of a jail where I worked as a deputy sheriff. I also rewired parts of a courthouse where I testified in many felony cases. The head cook at the jail made and served delicious liver and onions.
  2. A maintenance person for two hotels, performing jobs such as painting, plumbing, etc. I once saw rocker Joan Jett sunbathing by the pool.
  3. A woodworker for a casket company, where I repaired high-end wooden caskets. The job even once required me to travel to Miami to repair a $30,000 casket, one that had been damaged during transit. On the way down, I drove a pickup truck carrying six additional wooden caskets.
  4. A bricklayer’s helper working on a 300-foot-tall chimney. The bricklayers were relining it and my job was to haul the bricks up by rope and then feed them down inside the chimney using a second rope. I don’t like heights, by the way.
  5. A lead bouncer in a hip-hop/rap-type nightclub. At the time, I was bench pressing just under 400 lbs. and had earned two black belts. There was a stabbing on my first night there. The club is where I first heard TLC’s hit song Waterfalls, written by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. I still like the song. I don’t like rap or hip-hop music. I don’t like opera either.
  6. A housepainter working on a crew with six professional painters. I was assigned to most of the grunt work—painting shutters, closets, and ceilings. All by brush. No spraying or rollers allowed in those days.
  7. As a laborer for a concrete company. My job was to use a wheelbarrow to roll in load after load of wet, fresh concrete to the men working inside an open courtyard between buildings at a retirement home.
  8. I worked as a desk clerk at a hotel owned by a Chinese couple who spoke very little English. They offered me $5,000 if I’d marry one of their cousins so she could become a U.S. citizen. I did not.
  9. I worked as a part-time estimator for a major steel company, where I sat at a drafting table figuring the amounts of steel and correct pieces needed to construct large commercial buildings. I even calculated the numbers and sizes of individual nuts, bolts, and washers.
  10. While working night shift as a cop, I taught business math and drafting at a high school during the day for an entire school year. I was offered a full-time job teaching but I felt that police work was far safer, so I declined the offer. One year was all I could take.
  11. Each weekend, three of us, all deputy sheriffs, installed roofs—tearing off old shingles and replacing them with new ones after repairing damaged plywood, etc. Then we loaded the old worn-out shingles onto pickup trucks, by hand, and then hauled them to a county dump where we emptied the trucks. Again, all by hand. I did this every weekend, for a long time. It was backbreaking work but it kept a roof over my head.

Bonus – I taught beginning, intermediate, and advanced guitar at a college. Later in life I became the student and was taught intricate lessons by a guitarist who’d played in bands that opened for The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many more. He’d played with legendary guitarist Joe Satriani and even replaced Satriani as lead guitarist in the popular 80s group, The Greg Kihn Band.

So there you go. Is one of the above not true? Are all of them false? Just one lie? Or, are each of them absolutely factual?

Here are a couple of tunes to enjoy while you decide.

The Greg Kihn Band

Joe Satriani

Morning parade.

Smiling faces.

Squealing children.

Marching bands.

Turkey.

Pumpkin pie.

Eggnog.

Football.

Pistol. Badge. Vest.

Kiss the kids, please.

And save a drumstick for me.

I’m almost home.

 

Family.

Traveling.

Traffic.

Bumper-to-bumper.

Smiling faces.

Squealing children.

Grandma’s cooking.

Turkey.

Yams.

Pumpkin pie.

Crackling fire.

Football.

Kevlar. Radios. Sirens.

Kiss the kids, please.

And save a drumstick for me.

I’m almost home.

 

Drunk drivers.

Speeding drivers.

Texting drivers.

Careless drivers.

Aggressive drivers.

Sleepy drivers.

Depressed drivers.

Distracted drivers.

Reckless drivers.

Road rage.

Horrible crash.

An entire family,

Gone.

 

Tangled metal.

Little ones.

Mother and father.

Teddy bear.

A doll.

A plastic truck, too.

Those poor children.

They’ll never go home again.

Yes, save a drumstick.

Hug our kids.

Tell them I love them.

I’ll be home,

Later.

 

10-4.

Send the coroner.

Five victims.

No rush.

I’ll stand by.

Nothing I can do.

Those poor children.

No turkey.

No pumpkin pie.

No football.

Never again.

They were almost home.

Almost home …

 

Police officers face many difficult challenges during the course of their careers, challenges most people would avoid at all costs. For example, exchanging a few rounds of live ammunition with a doped-up bad guy. Or how about working really long, odd hours, or the fear of losing everything you own, including your freedom, family, and possibly your life, should you make a bad decision in that fraction of a split second you have to make it.

And there’s this—the joy of being slapped, hit, punched, scratched, spit on, stabbed, cut, cursed at, having urine or feces thrown on you, puked on, bled on, wearing goofy clothing and heavy gear, and seeing people hurt, sick, and even die right front of you knowing there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.

The danger level of the job is extremely high and getting worse every day. All it takes is a couple visits to this blog on any given Friday to know how dangerous the job really is.

And then there’s the ever popular low pay, little time off, missing holiday time with your family (if you still have one), high suicide rate, alcoholism, drug abuse, fear of serious injury or death, and divorce.

Still, through all the pain and agony and odd baggage that’s attached to every police officer, there’s always someone out there who’ll agree to enter into relationships with the poor saps. And that’s a good thing, right? Well, not always, and there’s a secret I’d like to share with you, the writer. First we must address the fact that you guys don’t always get cop romances right.

Here’s why.

The Three “Romance” Categories of Fictional Cops

  1. The ones in relationships, the Hallmark movie/Nicholas Sparks-happy-ending kind of cop. Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware and  Robin Castagna come to mind, even though the partners sometimes experience and on-again-off-again sort of relationship. And there’s Faye Kellerman’s crime-solving duo Peter Decker, a lieutenant in the LAPD, and his Orthodox Jewish wife Rina Lazarus.
  2. The sad sacks who couldn’t hang on to a steady love interest if he/she were a conjoined twin. Little black dress-wearing Kinsey Millhone, bless her heart, well, the closest thing she had to a longterm relationship is with her dear landlord, 80-something Henry Pitts, a baker who spends his free time creating crossword puzzles.
  3. Then there’s the cop who’s so screwed up emotionally even mental hospitals lock their doors when they see him coming. The latter never finds true love, obviously, and remains a loner, stumbling through book after book after book. I’ll leave this one to your imaginations and personal favorites.

But there’s another kind of relationship, one that’s not really talked about in the world of fiction, and it’s definitely kept under wraps in the real world. But I’m spilling the beans, right here and right now. But you must swear to secrecy because, well … it’s a taboo topic!

We Tried to Warn Them!

Part of the exit speech we presented to new recruits leaving the police academy consisted of a few basic warnings about the potential career-ending temptations cops are sometimes faced with, like access to tons and tons of cash, drugs, alcohol, the fast life, prostitutes, abuse of power … and Badge Bunnies.

Badge bunnies? What the heck are badge bunnies? That was my reaction, too, when I first heard about them during the police academy superintendent’s “Welcome to the police officer family” speech during my last day at the police academy.

* Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not being sexist, just relaying some very real information. Of course this does work both ways. There are indeed male badge bunnies.

The term badge bunny is often defined as (from Urban Dictionary):

Badge Bunny: A female that goes out with only cops and firemen.

Badge Bunny: A female who enjoys “boinking” and actively pursuing sexual relationships with cops.

Badge Bunny: A female, usually of barely legal age, who spends her time chasing police officers, offering her “services” in hopes of gaining status among her badge bunny friends. (Yes, there are many cop groupies out there).

Badge Bunny Synonyms – holster sniffers, holster honeys, seat warmers, fender lizards, pig pals, beat babes. Cop wives refer to them by other names, such as whores, sluts, cause for divorce, and alimony bait.

New cops, the ones fresh out of the academy, are the officers who are most vulnerable to an attack from the vicious badge bunnies. They can’t help it, though. Recruits are young, good looking, and freshly toned from weeks and weeks of exercise and other training. They have shiny new equipment, sharply creased uniforms, tight haircuts, but more importantly, they have guns and badges! And they’re extremely naive.

Graduation day at the academy is like sending a pack of Roadrunners out into a world of Wile E. Coyotes. Badge Bunnies know the rookie’s weaknesses because they’ve studied the uniformed species for a very long time and they know how to cull the weak from the herd.

How does a badge bunny attack? They’re successful in various ways. For the sake of time and space I’ll list a few their deadly methods of operation.

  • The fake car breakdown, needing an officer’s assistance.
  • The fake prowler call, answering the door in a sexy outfit, or nothing at all.
  • The grocery store maneuver. You couldn’t reach the Special K even though you’re a good foot taller and eighty pounds heavier than the cop. Yeah, right.
  • Tapping the brake pedal repeatedly when they pass a target police car. The rookie officer sees the flashing brake lights each time the car passes his patrol car. Hmm, she must be signaling him. Is she in trouble? Or is she trouble …
  • Speeding, knowing she has all the ammo she needs to get out of the ticket.
  • Hanging out in cop bars.
  • Hanging out in restaurants, coffee shops, etc., frequented by graveyard shift cops.
  • Hanging out at sporting events, especially softball games played by cop teams.
  • Wearing tee shirts with logos that read, I Love Cops.
  • Establishing friendships with police dispatchers for the purpose of meeting their gun-toting coworkers.

Relationships with badge bunnies rarely last. In fact most of them rarely make it into the light of day. These are secret relationships—brief meetings, encounters, and … well, I’ll leave it at that. I know, your next question is, “Since part of the attraction is the uniform and the cool cop equipment, where do they meet for the clandestine ‘encounters?'” How about  …

  • patrol cars – inside and out (lots of things to hold onto – light bars, spotlights, handcuffs…)
  • surveillance vans
  • police station warehouses and property rooms
  • department offices
  • hotels
  • small airport runways (for the deputies working the rural areas)
  • wooded areas
  • industrial parks
  • SWAT vehicles

Well, you get the idea.

Some badge bunnies keep a scorecard and move on quickly to the next guy with a gun. Sometimes, but not often, the encounters turn into lasting relationships, with kids, nice homes, cute puppies, picket fences, and everything else that comes with a solid marriage.

I offered a brief statement to the recruits I trained when I was a field training officer. It went something like this, “Keep your gun in your holster and you won’t have to worry about shooting the wrong person.” Now, there were two messages there, right? However, rookies rarely listened to the hidden meaning.

I could practically read their thoughts the second I said those words, and I knew they wanted to say to me, “Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.”

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Okay, so you’re a bit concerned that you may be experiencing a bit of badge-bunnyitis? Well, if you have any two of these symptoms, you should  steer clear of all police stations until the feelings pass.

  1. Like moths to a flame, you are attracted to bright and shiny things, especially badges and guns.
  2. You prefer handcuffs and leg irons over diamond bracelets and anklets.
  3. You often speed past police cars, pull over, and “assume the position” before the officer catches up to you … even if it’s the day of your wedding … to someone else.

 

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4.  In anticipation of a pat-down, you attach your apartment key to a weapon you’ve hidden beneath your clothing.

5.   911 to you is free access to phone sex.

6.  You often initiate high speed pursuits. However, it is you who’s doing the chasing.

7  The scent of gun oil is your preferred aphrodisiac.

8.  The sounds of leather creaking and keys jingling sends your heart into pitter-patter overdrive.

9.  Blue lights and sirens = foreplay.

10.  The phrase that makes your knees turn to jelly. “Turn around and place your hands behind your back.”

* Obviously, this piece is intended as a tongue-in-cheek look at a situation that’s very real. In this article, though, I’m only referring to the bad bunnies—the scorekeepers. However, please know there are plenty of folks who are simply attracted to a certain kind of person, especially the men and women whose career choice includes wearing a uniform as part of their means to earn a living, and they are wonderful people who have wonderful, loving, meaningful and lasting relationships. The others, well …

 

Cop, crook

The world of cops and robbers is an entity all its own. It’s a culture that lives and breathes in every neighborhood of every city. And, within each individual subgroup comes a separate set of traditions, rules, regulations, and even their own language(s).

To survive in these various social orders, members and visitors must walk the walk and talk the talk that’s associated with each group. For example, to you the word cop might conjure up images of a burly police officer. However, to many criminals cop means to take plea agreement offered by the DA. “I’m not going to take a chance with a jury trial. I’m going to cop a plea.”

Let’s take a peek at a few more of the slang terms used by cops and robbers.

1. Sagging/Jailing (jailin”) – Wearing pants with the waistband so low that the underwear/boxer shorts are exposed. This style actually began in prisons and jails because inmates are often issued ill-fitting clothing. Their jail-issued pants are sometimes much too big which causes them to ride low on the hips.

Some say inmates who wear their pants “low” (saggers) are advertising that they’re available for sex.

2. Chicken head – Someone who gives oral sex in exchange for drugs.

3. Shorty – a nickname for girls/women. “Shorty sure looked fine last night.”

4. Bullet – A one year prison sentence.

5. Ink – Tattoo

6. Pruno – Alcohol made in jail or prison by inmates. Also known as hooch.

7. Five-O – The police. AKA: Po-Po, Barney, Bacon, Bear, Laws, Pig.

8. Lot Lizard – Prostitute who works the parking lots at truck stops.

9.. Catch a ride – Share someone’s drugs. “Hey, Dude. Can I catch a ride?”

10. Lampin’ – Hanging out under a street light. Those who do consider that spot as their turf.

Now, what are some of your favorite slang terms?

 

Many writers have never, not once, set foot inside a police car, nor have they climbed out of bed at 11 p.m. to swap pajamas for a police uniform, Kevlar vest, gun belt, sidearm, and spit-shined shoes. And they’ve not headed out into the night to spend the next eight to twelve hours dealing with the city’s “worst of the worst,” and worse.

Most people have not left home with their family saying, “Be careful, see you when you get home,” and know they’re saying it because they worry the next time they see their loved one will be at their funeral service. “Killed in the line of duty” is what the bloggers and reporters will say.

Sure, you all know what goes on during a police officer’s shift—fights, domestic calls, shootings, stabbings, drug dealers, rapists, and killers of all shapes and sizes.

But what those of you who’ve never “been there, done that” cannot honestly and accurately detail the sounds heard when someone take a shot at you. No, not the actual gunshot. Its the other noises that help bring super-cool details to your stories.

To learn about those sounds, let’s pretend we’re the officer who’s just been the target of a bad guy’s gunfire. We’re chasing the suspect through alleys and paths that wind through dark wooded areas, all while knowing the guy has a gun and he’s definitely not afraid to use it.

Can’t see your hand in front of your face, so you stop and listen. And then it happens …

That eerie calm.

It causes the hairs on the back of your neck to stand tall and straight. Goose bumps come to attention on your arms. A lone pea-sized bead of sweat worms its way down your spine, easing through the space between your pants and the bare skin of your waistline. It feels oddly cool against your fear-warmed flesh.

If this occurred in a movie there would be, of course, background music. So let’s do this right. Hit the play button, take a sip of your coffee, or tea, and then read on to learn about A Cop’s Nighttime Melody.

 

10-4, I’ll take this one …

The call came in as “Shots Fired. Suspect is armed with a handgun and caller advises he is still at the residence and is threatening to kill responding officers.”

I was working the county alone so I asked the dispatcher to request backup from a nearby city and from the state police. The trooper in our county was also working alone. Our roles differed, though. He was out on the interstate writing traffic tickets while I responded to the usual plethora of calls. Either way, we were alone when we approached whatever situation was before us, be it stopping a stolen car with dark tinted windows or heading toward a house where I knew a man was waiting to kill me.

The sound of a police radio is far different when it’s heard late at night as opposed to the same radio traffic during daylight hours. Its an unexplained phenomena. It could be that dark skies and night air create different acoustics. Or that working the graveyard shift forces dispatchers to work really hard to battle “the thing” that comes out at night to squeeze their emotions into submission. They typically lose the fight which results in a manner of speech that’s without feeling, inflection, and dynamics.

Nighttime radio traffic echoes and travels far. It’s weird and out of place among the stars and creamy moonlight. Dispatchers drone on like robots … “Robbery at …” “Wife says husband hit her …” “Lost child …” “Possible drug overdose at …” “Loud music at …” “Peeping Tom at …” “Customer refuses to pay at …” Shoplifter at …” “Dead body in river …” Dead body in park …” “Shots fired …” “Shots fired …” “Man stabbed at …” Shots fired …”

Back to the man who wanted to kill me

I acknowledged the call with a “10-4, I’m en-route.” Then I hooked the radio mic back into the metal “U-shaped” clip connected to the dashboard. Next I pushed one of the many red toggle switches mounted into the center console.

With the push of the button, a faint click occurred simultaneously with the eruption of pulsating blue light. I stepped on the gas and heard the engine come to life. Since I was miles out in the country there was no need for the siren. Not yet.

I pushed the pedal toward the floor until I was cruising along at 70 mph. Believe me, that was pretty fast considering the curvy, hilly road that was before me.

There are no streetlights in the country. It’s super dark. Blue light reflects from trees, shrubbery, houses, mailboxes, passing cars, and telephone poles. It also reflects from the white lines painted on the pavement.

Meanwhile, the radio traffic continues with updates for me and with traffic from city officers and the trooper out on the interstate … “Use caution. Driver of the vehicle is wanted for a homicide in …”

My car radio played in the background. The Oak Ridge Boys went on and on about Bobbie Sue and Elvira while I attempted to straighten the curves by hitting my marks—drive low in the curves, on both sides of the road. Never at the apex. Unless a car is coming in the opposite direction or you cannot see far enough ahead to safely do so.

The blue strobes mounted on top of the car make a clicking sound with the start of each flash. The wig-wag headlamps do the same. The roadway is very uneven with a few cracks and potholes scattered about. They cause the patrol car to dip and roll. The extra pair of handcuffs I and many other cops keep handy by hanging them from the spotlight handle that protrudes from the post between the windshield and driver’s door, sway back and forth and bang together causing a constant click, click, click noise. The sounds are out of sync.

I switched off my lights a ways before reaching the scene—didn’t want to shooter to know  I was there—and stopped my car on the shoulder, a bit down the road from the driveway. I called the dispatcher on the phone to let her know I’d arrived. The use of the phone was in case the bad guy was listening to a scanner. I turned down the volume on my police radio. Way down. Remember, the sound travels far. I wished backup didn’t have to do the same (travel far).

I opened my car door slowly to avoid making any noise. The interior light was not operational—disconnected in police cars to prevent illuminating the officer and/or blinding them to goings-on outside the vehicle.

As I slid from the seat my leather gun belt creaked and squeaked and groaned, as leather does when rubbed against other leather or similar material. To me, the sound was as loud as fourth of July fireworks. My car keys (in my pants pocket) jingled slightly with each step. So I used a hand to hold them against my leg. The other hand was on my pistol.

I walked up to the house to peek into a window before knocking on the door. I wanted to see if I could, well, see anything. But, as I closed in on the side the house a large mixed breed dog stepped into view, showing its teeth and upper gums. The animal with matted-hair and a crooked tail growled one of those slow, easy rumbles that comes from somewhere deep inside. I held out a hand for it to sniff. It backed into the shadows.

A quick peek inside revealed a family of five. A woman with two black eyes and three crying children. Two girls, not quite teenagers, but close, probably, and a wiggling and squirming baby. A man stood near a tattered recliner and tall floor lamp. He held a pump shotgun in his right hand. At the moment, the barrel was aimed toward the floor. He yelled a few obscenities and started to pace. Then he looked straight at me, or at least it seemed like he looked at me.

My heart pounded against the inside of my chest. It bumped so hard I could hear the sound it made with each beat.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

From somewhere deep in the shadows.

Grrrr …….. Growl …..

From inside the home.

A baby crying.

A woman pleads and sobs.

A young girl. “Please, Daddy. No more!”

Sirens wail in the distance, beyond the black tree line that connects sky with earth. Sounds travel further at night, right?

The air-conditioning unit beneath the window snaps on. Its compressor humming and fan whirring. The metal casing rattles slightly. Probably missing a screw or two.

A Cop’s Nighttime Melody Approaches the Finale

I knew what I had to do and started toward the door with my leather shoes and gun belt squeaking and keys jingling and heart thumping. As I reached for the knob I took a deep breath.

The expansion of my chest pulled at the Velcro that held my vest tightly against my torso.

Crackle. Crackle. Crackle.

Right behind me now.

Grrr …. Growl …

Crying.

Screaming. 

Whir.

Thump. Thump. Thump!

Jingle

Squeak.

The door.

Turn and push.

“Drop the gun!”

BANG!

BANG!

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Crying.

And crying.

“10-4. Send the coroner.”

So, my friends, those are the sounds of working the graveyard shift … A Cop’s Nighttime Melody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This is a repeat post per request. Thanks!


By the way, we are preparing a big announcement regarding the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. Believe it or not, the event just became even more exciting. Extremely exciting, actually. Never before offered at a writers conference, or to non-law enforcement. This is big and it’s a fantastic opportunity!

Front door,

Hanging askew.

One rusted hinge.

Wedge of sunlight,

Smeared across plank flooring.

Beretta in hand.

Push door with flashlight.

Won’t budge.

“I heard a shot but I was too scared to look. Is he in there?”

“Stay back, please.”

Standing to side of doorway.

Breathing heavy.

“Frank?”

Silence.

Sweat trickles from lower back into waistband.

Heart pounding.

“Frank. I’m here to help. You okay?”

Nothing.

Flies buzzing,

Darting in and out.

Deep breath.

Quick peek.

Maglight low.

Minimum target.

Blood spatter.

Lots of it.

Tissue on ceiling.

Sitting on floor.

Shotgun in lap, upright.

“Frank, you okay?”

Useless words.

“Is Daddy all right?”

“Go back in the house. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Hand over mouth, sobbing. “Okay.”

Squeeze through door.

Flashlight aimed toward ceiling,

Casts dim light throughout.

Holster weapon.

Not needed.

Friends since high school.

Twenty years, or more.

No face.

“Why, Frank? Great kids. Great wife. Nice house. Good job. Wonderful life.”

Deafening silence.

Radio crackles.

“Send M.E. and paramedics. No particular order.”

Doesn’t matter.

Chest moves.

A wet breath, from somewhere.

Finger twitches slightly.

“Frank?”

Another jerky, unbelievable breath.

“Hold on Frank. Help’s on the way!”

Frantically grab radio.

“Tell paramedics to hurry. Victim is alive. Repeat. Victim is alive.”

Sit in floor,

Holding Frank’s hand.

Sirens getting closer.

“Hey Frank. Remember when we …”


 

Today I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes of this blog. Yes, this site has tons of moving parts that require many creative minds and many hands to turn the dials, push the buttons, and flip the switches. So without further ado …

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins is in charge of our patrol division. It is he who offers details of traffic stops, responses to various types of calls, training information, etc. His teams also provide security in and around our property.

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins

Our two sharp-dressed cops provide backup during all dangerous situations that may occur during the writing of blog articles.

Sharp-dressed cops

Our in-the-field reporter, Frank “Fake News” Robertson.

Frank “Fake News” Robertson

Animal Control Officer Chuck “The Chicken” Davis handles all calls involving runaway animals, cases of animal abuse, chicken theft, and more.

Animal Control Officer Chuck “The Chicken Choker” Davis

Third Shift Watch Commander, Lt. L. Arge Rat.

Lt. L. Arge Rat

Larry “The Knife” Johnson, a master of disguise, plays the parts of a few bad guys on the site.

Larry “The Knife” Johnson

Paulie “The Painter” appeared as himself.

Paul the Painter

Bad Breath Bill played himself during an article about edged weapons. Larry “The Knife” Johnson joined him in the post.

Bad Breath Bill

Major Mechanical serves as Chief Deputy.

Major Mechanical

O-R3 and Running Bad Guy, a regular on the site, teamed up to teach us about crime-fighting robots.

O-R3 and Running Bad Guy

We were also thrilled when Rosie stopped by to offer her thoughts and ideas.

Rosie the Maid

The Man in the Moon supervises the entire Graveyard Shift.

Man in the Moon

For some reason, and we don’t know why, this weasel pops in from time to time.

Weasel popping

Today, nothing and no one are safe from scandal. These two, for example, have been at it for quite a while now. We’ve threatened to fire them but they cannot seem to control their emotions.

The “pucker factor” sometimes causes strange reactions.

Harry “Hot Sauce” McGee is our resident expert on non-lethal weapons.

Delivering the “Hot Sauce.”

“The Hand” appears throughout the site. Here we see him demonstrating the proper procedure for “drawing” a gun.

“Drawing” a service weapon

As a precaution, we routinely sweep the site for things that go boom, and other hazards. Here we see Beauregard the Bomb Dog doing what he does best.

Beauregard the Bomb Dog

To teach us about Rigor and Livor, the Mortis Twins, we brought in world-renowned death expert Frank N. Stein.

Frank N. Stein

Our aquatics experts, Dewey D. Duck and Ronnie Raft.

Dewey D. Duck (upper right) and Ronnie Raft (lower left, bottom, sides, and rear).

Dewey’s 1st cousin, “Three-Eye” is our resident surveillance expert.

Three-Eye

Guarding us around the clock is Police K-9 Sha-Key. Never felt safer in my life.

K-9 Sha-Key

Tommy Turtle and Tiny Tom are on-hand to detail the effects of bioterrorism.

Tommy Turtle and Tiny Tom

Skeeter teaches us about bloodstain patterns.

World-renowned bloodstain pattern expert, Skeeter Simpson.

Of course, to maintain the buildings and grounds of the Graveyard Shift compound, we employ top professionals that include horticulture expert Gilly Goat and master carpenter Harry “The Frown” Hammer.

Gilly Goat

Harry “The Frown” Hammer

Crime Scene Expert, Grant Greenfly, knows the finest details. He’s like a, well, fly on the wall.

Crime Scene Expert Grant Greenfly

Sergeant Sam Stinkfeet is a real pro at evidence collection and preservation.

Sergent Sam Stinkfeet

Hematology expert O. Positive, along with a rare visit by renowned scientist B. Negative, provided much-needed information about blood evidence.

Hematology experts

Officer survival expert Fred Fish taught us of the dangers associated with tunnel vision.

Fred Fish

The “Yelling Woman,” played by Laura Largelungs, is featured throughout the site as the person/witness who’s screaming nonstop … at crime scenes, he-said/she-saids, domestic calls, at, well, everywhere. She/he is the person who “loses it” no matter the situation. And they never fail to get in the way at every step.

Laura Largelungs screams, “Help, poleeeece!”

Larry Lipzipper – Miranda expert.

You have the right to remain silent. Use it!

The part of the villain is played by actor Carl Cockroach.

The Villain, played by Carl Cockroach

Prison information provided by Calvin Convict.

Calvin Convict

Weak Walter often describes the thought processes and actions of criminal suspects who enjoy fighting the police, but aren’t very good at it.

Weak Walter says, “They sometimes decide to fight wearing nothing but …”

Our staff of law experts led by by Judge I. Have Notorso, are always on standby to weed through legal issues.

Judge I. Have Notorso

Howard Hacker, our cyber crimes expert, is on standby to answer all questions.

Cyber crimes expert Howard Hacker

As you can see, The Graveyard Shift is well-staffed by a slew of top experts. Without them we’d be just another blog.

Of course there are many other experts who walk our hallways and occupy the offices of our elaborate compound. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time or space to showcase each of them today. And, there are many more characters experts on the way, and you’ll soon them and some of our regulars in places other than this blog. As they say … STAY TUNED!


By the way, space is available to attend the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of this thrilling hands-on event. You don’t want to miss this one!!

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

#2018WPA