Monday, June 29, 2015

The Coldest I've Ever Been

Once, on night shift, I got sent to an injury accident way in the south part of the city. It was the middle of winter, about 2AM, and blizzard conditions. Dispatch said the accident was between a car and a snow plow, but they had no other information. I arrived in the area, and couldn't see a damned thing. It was just a wall of white, horizontal snow.

As I was straining to find the accident scene through my side window, a face suddenly appeared through the snow, pressed up against the window glass. The face was cut to shreds and covered with blood. I jumped about a foot. I had found my accident.

It turned out the snow plow had run a stop sign at the end of a side street, and T-boned a car passing on a main drag. The plow blade had cut a huge hole in the side of the car, and shattered all the windows which carved up the occupants.

I got an ambulance en route and got out of my car. It struck me right away that it was pretty cold, but I had to get on with it. I quickly realized I couldn't keep my gloves off long enough to write more than a few lines on the accident report before I'd have to put them back on. Then, the ink in my pen froze. I had to return to my squad several times for fresh pens before I could get the bare essentials written down. My coat was nothing short of worthless. My hands and face were numb, and I was shivering hard.

A buddy arrived on scene with his new smart phone. He dialed in one of his apps, and gave me the weather report. The wind chill was -61 degrees F.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


I dealt with a guy today that has them all beat. We go to his house to take him in on a felony warrant. He barricades himself inside, screaming at the top of his lungs and raving about plots by his neighbors, his landlord, his girlfriend, his roommate, the police (Patrol), the police (Narcotics), the police (Investigations), the city prosecutor, the state prosecutor, his parole officer, and the jail staff. We finally knock his door off its hinges with a ram and take him into custody. Once at the jail, we take him to the booking desk. Guess what his main concern is? Whether he can get double portions of jail food if he behaves himself.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Strunk White, Idiot Weatherman: The Never-Ending Story

I can't help but beat this dead horse. I'm amazed at how so astounding wrong Strunk White, Idiot Weatherman, can be. As I write this, his online forecast states "100% Chance of Heavy Thunderstorms" with a big "!" in front of it. It is 82 degrees, and there is literally not a cloud in the sky that I can see from any window in my house. Two people on bikes just rode by, and my neighbor has his grill fired up.

Monday, June 22, 2015

More Fun

I used to work night shift on this really shitty beat. We referred to the various crappy apartment buildings by just their street numbers - no street names - and we all knew where we were talking about. It was that bad.

I drove by the very crummiest of them one night in a raging snowstorm. There was an unoccupied car idling at the curb, headlights on. On a hunch, I ran the plate and it came back as stolen. I called it in and confirmed the stolen status, then darked out and parked a block or so away, waiting for backup. I wasn't parked 30 seconds when 2 people came out, got in the car, and drove off.

My plan was to just keep them in sight until backup arrived, but they must have seen me. They whipped into another apartment parking lot, skidded to a stop, and the driver got out. I pulled in behind them, lights and siren going, and expecting the driver to run, but he didn't. I jumped out and got him and the passenger, who was still in the car, at gunpoint. I radioed in my status, and asked any backup to step it up. As it turned out, the closest cop who wasn't tied up on something else was miles away.

I remember standing there in the horizontal blowing snow, no coat on, holding the guy at gunpoint for what seemed like forever. He kept telling me how cold he was, and how bad he needed to get back in the car to get warm. I could just visualize this jackass backing up over me to get away, so I told him in no uncertain terms that if he moved I'd shoot him. That seemed to do the trick.

Finally, I could hear my backup's siren, and he arrived shortly thereafter. We took the driver and passenger into custody. It turned out, the car had been stolen in a home invasion robbery in a nearby city, and the passenger had a boatload of warrants.

Not a bad snag.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Damned If We Do

I work in a fairly low-crime city. We don't have tons of murders, rapes and bank robberies. Occasionally, but not every day. But we do have endless property crimes, like burglaries, car break-ins, and thefts. And we have more than our share of bad drivers, who tend to hit things like pedestrians, other cars, buildings, trains, etc. People don't like all the property crimes and problem drivers, and they make a point of calling the police or writing to the local newspaper or calling local talk shows to complain about it. So, as we should, our department occasionally sets out to concentrate on these problems. They're what the people complain about, and our department responds accordingly. But, I swear, no matter what we work on, the media and the vocal public bitch about it. The complaint is always the same: "Don't the police have anything better to do than arrest/ticket people for...?"

You know what? No, we don't. We are paid to enforce laws. The laws that the legislators, who you elected, put into place. If you don't like the laws the way they are, elect somebody that will change them. Moreover, it's because of people like you, complaining about the rise in all these crimes/traffic offenses, that we go after them hard in the first place.

But here's what happens. We arrest your delinquent son because he broke into someone's garage, stole some power tools, and hocked them at the pawn shop. Now law enforcement is at your house, and you don't like it. We're picking on poor Junior, and he's a good boy. He just got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Or, we nailed you for speeding at the same location where we've had several fatal crashes, and you don't like that. You were just on your way to work or the grocery or Aunt Hazel's wedding, and you got a ticket. Now it's total bullshit that we would pick on people like you, who are minding their own business and just "keeping up with traffic". I've heard it all a thousand times.

We can't win. If we leave it alone, we're lazy, doughnut-eating, coffee-swilling pigs. If we address it, we're a bunch of jack-booted Nazis, infringing on your rights. Well, you can't have it both ways. And until we start getting flooded with murders and rapes and bank robberies, we'll enforce the laws you choose to break. Get used to it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Something Different

Now this was a very unusual traffic stop: I pull the guy over for having a suspended driver's license. I approach the car, and he hands me his license and a business card for an American Sign Language interpreter, while hand-signalling to me that he's deaf. I actually had to telephone the ASL interpreter, who drove out to the scene. She and the driver sat in the back seat of my squad car, and we had a conversation about why I pulled him over and what was going to happen. When it was all done, the interpreter went on her way, and I gave the driver a citation and a ride home. In all honesty, it was pretty interesting. But the next time I see that guy driving, I'm going the other way.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Park And Drive

There are lines painted in parking lots for a reason. They delineate the proper parking spaces, and form driving lanes between the rows of said parking spaces. It's really, really obvious where you're supposed to park, and where you're supposed to drive.

So, if you're one of those numbskulls who drives diagonally across the parking lot, with no regard for where the driving lanes are, don't come crying to me when you get into an accident.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Retirement II

I wanted to thank everyone who contacted me via comments and elsewhere regarding my retirement announcement. It was probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make. Rest assured, I will continue with the blog - although maybe not 5 days a week, every week - until I run out of fun stuff to post.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Well, that's it. I've retired.

I am by far (more than 10 years) the oldest guy on my department - and it's time for me to go.

After many years in another profession, I became a police officer at an age when many other guys are thinking about retiring. A lot of people thought I was crazy. But it was something I really wanted to do.

I loved it, and it showed. I was as proactive as I possibly could be - looking for crooks every minute of every day - and finding quite a few in the process. I ran up numbers no one else on my department could touch. I took a lot of grief for that. Somebody once said, "You're always into something; you're a total shit magnet". He was correct. Some guys are happy to take as few calls as possible, and hide in their squads the rest of the shift. I would've gone crazy doing that. I stayed busy all the time. I never even considered applying for promotion. The street was where I belonged and where I wanted to stay.

I got to see and do things most people never get to. You know how, when you're looking at some taped-off crime scene or huge auto accident, and you think to yourself: wow, I wonder what's going on over there? Well, I got to be "over there". I was one of the ones in the middle of it. It was fun. It was exciting. It was the very best time of my life.

And the friendships. Oh, boy. I've been a lot of places and done a lot of things in my life. But I've never had friendships like those I've had with some of my fellow officers. Guys I would do absolutely anything for - and who I could count on for absolutely anything. Guys I backed up on calls and who backed me up, fought bad guys with, drank with, laughed and cried with. The most wonderful guys in the world. I don't know how I'll go on without them. Yeats said it exactly right.

But when you do the job the way I've done it, you eventually get hurt. And stuff doesn't heal the way it used to. I'm told I likely will never heal from nerve damage I sustained in a fall during a foot pursuit over a year ago (yes, I caught him). I have chronic tendonitis in one elbow from a fight with a drunk. My back is screwed up and "goes out" regularly. I'm looking at shoulder replacement surgery, once the cortisone injections stop working, from decades of pushing too much weight in the gym. To continue would put me at risk of really hurting myself, or, God forbid, getting someone else hurt. I can't and won't let that happen. It's time for me to go.

Plus, I'm just not political enough. So much of police work has become show. I think that's due to the backlash against a few bad cops who've made bad decisions that became national news, and against good decisions by good cops that have been spun to the dark side before all the facts were known. Whatever, I just don't fit in what's become such a politically charged environment. I'm genuinely willing to help those in need, but I don't get all touchy-feely about it. I'm not politically correct or semantically paranoid. I call a spade a spade. I'm sarcastic and cynical most the time, and pissed off a lot. It's time for me to go.

Then there's the bullshit calls. I'm both blessed and cursed to work in a fairly low crime city. The likelihood of me getting killed at work is substantially lower than in a place like Chicago or St. Louis or Baltimore. But the flip side of that is we take calls that cops in other agencies would never get dispatched to. Animal calls. Civil matters. Parking lot fender benders. Snow complaints. Lawn complaints. Parents wanting us to discipline their kids. Calls from people that simply cannot run their own lives and want cops to do it for them. This stuff eventually just bleeds the life out of you. It's time for me to go

So, that's it. I'm going to continue this blog until I run out of things to write. I don't know how long that will be. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Balancing Chemicals

Officer Sarcastic and I were at the ER, waiting for Dr. St. Francis of Assisi to see our latest psychopath. We were schmoozing with the nurses, and I remarked that I was going to be off for the next couple of days.

Nurse Able: "Nice. Have you made any plans for tonight?"

Officer Cynical: "I was thinking maybe, like, 10 Ambien and a Miller Lite."

Nurse Able: "10 Ambien? Isn't that a little extreme?"

Officer Sarcastic:  "Are you kidding? 10 Ambien won't even touch the 60 cups of coffee he's had so far today. And the shift's only half over."


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hang That Stupid Thing Up

I don't own a smart phone or anything like that. I have a flip phone that's limited to making phone calls and taking tiny, grainy photos. I can text, but I have to push buttons about 8000 times to say "Hi". It's the only phone I'll ever own, and if I wasn't in the job I'm in, I wouldn't own one at all.

So, it drives me nuts to deal with someone on a traffic stop or a criminal complaint who is continually screwing with their phone. I can't tell you how many times I've approached a car I've stopped, only to find the driver on the phone. I immediately say, "You wanna get off the phone, please?" If it takes them longer than about 5 seconds to end their conversation, I put a blunter spin on the request. I'm not standing in a monsoon or a 25-below-zero blizzard while you report to somebody that a mean policeman has pulled you over.

The worst are the people who think they're the victim of the crime of the century, but are constantly answering calls, checking for missed calls, sending texts, reading texts, or updating their Facebook status the whole time I'm trying to get their story. You want my help? OK, but get off the phone or I'm leaving. Someday I want to see how far I can throw one of those things.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Alcohol Will Do That

Cops: Teen set up fake DUI roadblock ... while drunk
Matthew Diebel, USATODAY3:44 p.m. EDT June 2, 2015

Police are not happy with a man they say set up a drunk-driving checkpoint complete with road flares while pretending to be a Pennsylvania state trooper. They are even unhappier because he allegedly was drunk at the time.

635688469584296078-556c986ae9701.imageTroopers say 19-year-old Logan Shaulis, of Somerset, a town southeast of Pittsburgh, parked his vehicle diagonally across state Route 601 and set up road flares at about 4 a.m. Saturday. A motorist who stopped said Shaulis claimed he was a trooper and demanded to see a driver's license, registration and insurance papers.

The motorist said Shaulis identified himself as Steve Rogers, a member of the state police drug and alcohol division, the local Johnstown Tribune Democrat newspaper reported.
When real troopers arrived, police said, Shaulis tried to hand a BB pistol to the car's passenger and said, "I can't get caught with this."

A local resident, Sue Weimer, said she knew something was wrong because of how late it was. "We saw cop cars, we saw flares, we couldn't figure out what was going on," she told local TV station WTAJ. "It was about 3 o'clock in the morning." Another giveaway, police said, was that police never man checkpoints on their own."You can see as many as 18 officers being required to be involved in a checkpoint," Somerset Borough Police Chief Randy Cox told WTAJ.

According to police, Shaulis had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech; he also had a pair of handcuffs and a portable scanner with him. He was charged with carrying a firearm without a license, driving under the influence of alcohol, unlawful restraint, possessing an instrument of crime, official oppression, criminal coercion, reckless endangerment, impersonating a public servant, harassment, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.

Shaulis was arraigned by District Judge Sandra Stevanus and sent to the Somerset County Jail after failing to post $50,000 bond. He remained jailed Tuesday. Online court records don't list an attorney for him. A preliminary hearing is set for June 9.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Don't Hit The Nice Lady's Car

My call load simply doesn't allow me to spend a ton of time investigating hit-and-run accidents, unless I have some solid information to go on. Besides, they're usually pretty minor, and I try to educate the victim that a full-blown report is probably a waste of time. The only thing I have to put on it is their own registration and insurance info, and insurance companies will usually pay out on such petty stuff without a report anyway.

But one day I got dispatched to a hit-and-run on a residential street. The car had been legally parked in front of the owner's house. When she went outside to drive to work, she found it damaged. "Damaged" is actually an understatement. It was demolished. Someone had hit the driver's side rear corner, and proceeded to plow through the entire driver's side. They made one mistake, however: they left the right front quarter panel at the scene.

I took the quarter panel to a body shop where I knew the manager. He did some research, and was able to tell me year, make, and model. Obviously, I knew the color. So, I put that out in a BOLO to all the neighboring agencies, never dreaming anything would come of it.

About 30 minutes later, I get a phone call from a cop in the next town over. He tells me about a car he had stopped the night before - same color, year, make, model as the one I'm looking for - and it had huge recent damage to the front and passenger side. He gave me the driver's name and address.

I pull into the guy's driveway, and there's the car. It's missing the right front quarter panel. Some of the other parts I had collected fit perfectly - like pieces of a puzzle - into the damaged car.

About that time, the driver comes out. He tells me he's not sure how the damage happened. He thinks he might have "bumped" a parked car, but he's not sure. The location he gives me is almost exactly where the lady's house is. Conveniently, he doesn't remember a whole lot about the incident. (Let me guess: BAC at least .20?).

I write the guy every ticket I can think of. He doesn't protest any of it. I go back to the lady's house and tell her I got the guy. She gives me a hug. I liked it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hello, I Must Be Going

I just stumbled across something called the Cook-Medley hostility scale (Ho). It's a subset of the standard MMPI personality test. The Ho scale measures things like Cynicism, Hostile Attributions, Hostile Aspect, Aggressive Responding, Social Avoidance, and other personality traits, and uses them to predict "health outcomes". In other words, the higher you fall on the Ho scale, the sooner you can expect to die.

I did some serious soul-searching, and estimated my score on the Ho scale. If my calculations are correct - and bear in mind I'm very good with numbers, writing all those speeding tickets and everything - my Ho says I'll be dead in about 20 minutes.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Time To Get A Grip

This job deals in death a lot. I've had to handle a murdered infant, a 100-year-old who died in his sleep next to his 98-year-old spouse, and everything in between. You simply have to be prepared to deal with it.

So, if you have to take time off from work to seek counseling and recover every time you see a dead body, you're in the wrong profession. You're leaving us short on the street, and the short shift has to cover your calls. Let's face it: this job isn't for everybody. There's a place for you out there somewhere. Please go find it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Strunk White, Idiot Weatherman: Stop Whatever You're Not Doing

At noon the other day, Strunk White, Idiot Weatherman, said the chance of rain was 100%. At 10PM, he said "rain showers will be ending tonight". It hadn't rained a single drop the entire day.

Yesterday, Strunk White, Idiot Weatherman, said there was a "100% chance of violent thunderstorms overnight tonight". He called these incoming storms "potentially dangerous". We medicated the dogs so they wouldn't be freaking out with all the lightening and thunder. I awoke this morning to find it absolutely dry outside. The dogs slept well, though.

Monday, June 1, 2015


We retrain and recertify on CPR every year. It's a huge deal conducted by one of the local ambulance companies. The sessions are replete with creepy rubber dummies of various ages and genders, with movable mouths (oh, grow up!), compressible chests, and chests that expand as you inflate the "lungs".

When you work this job, you can be guaranteed you'll be called on to use this skill set. I've CPRed everything from a 16 year-old high school athlete who suddenly dropped dead, to a 90+ year-old WWII combat vet who keeled over while visiting his son.

And it almost never works. I've heard CPR has a success rate of about 10%, but my experience isn't nearly that high. When we arrive on scene and you're dead, you almost always stay that way. Fire and ambulance may do a little better - they have a lot more gear and meds - but I bet it isn't by much.

Which brings me to this:

I do a welfare check on a guy, called in by his roommate. History of depression, drug abuse, previous suicide attempts, etc. I walk around the house, banging on doors and windows, and get no answer. Given what little I know at this point, I don't have PC to knock the door down. I don't even know if the guy is home. Just as I'm leaving, the roommate shows up and lets me in. He directs me to the guy's bedroom.

I push the bedroom door open and shine my flashlight onto the bed. There he is, on his back, head on a pillow, blanket pulled up to his chin. And I know as sure as I'm standing there, just from the color of his skin, that this guy's dead. The bedside table is littered with pill bottles, and there's actually a handwritten list of the types and amounts of meds he's taken.

I call his name several times - nothing. I put my face next to his to listen/feel for breathing - nothing. I check for a carotid and brachial pulse - nothing. I pull his shirt up and put my ear directly onto his chest to listen for a heartbeat - nothing. But I do note that he's still warm to the touch.

So, I drag him off the bed and onto the floor, call out the code on the radio, and start CPR. I must've been at it a good five minutes when the ambulance crew comes barging in. They start hooking up all their electronic crap and strap a bag on him, while I continue chest compressions. They finally have me stop while they check their gizmos, and guess what? Heartbeat!

He's still not breathing on his own, so they turn over the bagging to me (I felt like Dr. Kildare, squeezing that thing), while they continue whatever it is they do. Finally, they get him breathing, load him up, and haul him off. And I go off to the next call - probably a rabbit stuck in a window well or something equally exciting.

Later that day, I get word the guy has survived. Days later I learn he went home from the hospital. A few weeks after that, he tried it again. I heard he survived that too, but I wasn't working that day.