Street Crime Short Stories #10
After a month on day shift patrol, I missed the action. In some ways, days was a never ending vacation. Very little street crime occurred during the daylight hours. Nights are when thugs slither into the darkness and prey upon society. I asked for graveyard shift once again. I learned it was easy to switch with an officer wanting day shift.
I soon was patrolling west Shreveport in the Western Hills neighborhood. Still a junior officer, I bounced to different beats nightly. I liked learning new areas and people. Night shift was exciting regardless where I was assigned. Calls for service were much higher at night. Family fight calls were routine. Many men after work headed to a bar to get drunk and then go stumbling home to their waiting spouses. The fast pace of calls and action made the shift speed by. I hated getting off duty at the end of my shift. I often wondered about a few of my fellow officers. They were not like me. They wanted to be police officers yet their vision of a real cop differed drastically from mine. They were content to ride the clock and considered calls a burden. They never initiated cases. They rode awith blinders on and were anti-social beings. Often they were bitter, mean and lazy. For the life of me, I can not understand them. I still harbor resentment and a total lack of respect for them. I realized they were taking up a position in the department others eagerly wanted. A position dedicated to serve and protect others. Do not misunderstand. The sorry cops were small in number compared to the rest of the rank and file. Most of Shreveport’s finest were worthy of the title. Many of the good ones, if not most, were better officers than me.
When I attended L.S.U., I was blessed to be taught by a retired F.B.I. agent from Baton Rouge. He wanted to give back to the next generation of police officers. What I learned from him was burned into my tiny brain. He was a nationally recognized expert in the art of interviewing and interrogating people. He was at the forefront of body language, facial expressions and eye movement. He was a human lie detector. I did my best to retain every word of instruction he shared.
Dale Carnegie once said, “If you are going to speak to anyone on any subject, you first need to qualify yourself to your audience. You have to prove you are worthy and knowledgeable to talk about your subject. That you have the right to speak on this subject.”
My instructor spoke eloquently and humbly about his service. The first moment he took the podium he had my attention. I was like a sponge absorbing as much from him as possible.
The next thing he did impressed me deeply. He instructed every student to lift their pen to a blank sheet of paper. He said, “I want you to write for one minute. I want you to tell me why you are becoming a police officer. When the time is up, I want you to sign your name and pass your paper to the front. Now write!”
Once all the papers were in his hand, he began to read them outloud. They all were along these lines…
“I want to help people.”
“I want to arrest bad people.”
“I want to serve our citizens.”
All of them were fundamentally right. The instructor read the authors’ names of the ones he read.
Jim, you said you want to help people, right?
Give me an example of helping someone.
Well, when someone shoots or hurts someone, I want to arrest them.
OK. Imagine you are assigned to the traffic unit or motorcycle. You have a little radar gun and all you do each day is stop speeders. Are you telling me writing tickets to men and women rushing to work, running late, trying not to get fired, trying to get their kids dropped off at school on time is your way of helping them? All they are doing is a few miles an hour above the posted speed limit.
In fact you cause them to be late for work or taking the kids to school. You may cause them to lose their job or have their kids punished for being late. They have to pay a big fine so a city can spend the money on stupid things like basketball courts or libraries in neighborhoods where kids and parents can not read. Is this your way of helping people?
No response from the student. He sat there embarrassed with a red face.
Bob, you want to arrest bad people who shoot or hurt others. What if the person you arrest is a single parent trying to raise three small kids. If he or she goes to prison, the kids go to foster homes where they are sometimes unloved and/or abused. Is that your way of helping people?
Again, red face.
I wanted to chime in on behalf of these embarrassed students. I learned in the Marines never speak unless spoken to. I bit my tongue.
The instructor told us to write down his every word. We did. He described a backyard barbecue. You and some civilian friends are drinking beer at a cookout. A fireman is also there. One of your buddies asks why you are a cop. You give him one of the answers I read. You are challenged by the crowd. The fireman says, “I rush into burning houses and save people. I render first aid to injured victims of attacks and car accidents. I do it to help people and save lives.
The crowd looks at you and sneers.
As you prepare to protect and serve, here is the real reason I hope you are in this class.
Write! “Someone did something to someone else and it is not right. Someone needs to do something about it right now.”
Do not ever forget this!
Example: An 85 year old grandmother drives to the store in her old car and parks in the handicap space outside the front door. She locks her car and heads to the pharmacy to fill her prescriptions. She carries her old, tan, fake leather purse on her arm. It contains $35 of her limited income. She walks across the lot in the 100 degree heat. Out of no where, a young man appears at a full run and snatches her purse. He pulls the purse so hard she falls to the ground. Her brittle bones in her hip shatter. She is lying on the hot asphalt. The surface of the parking lot is over 140 degrees and burns her skin. She cries out in pain for someone to help.
A person nearby witnesses this and rushes to her side. She is a caring soul and begins to minster to the victim. Others rush in and help the old lady. These people come from different backgrounds. Some may be school teachers while others are nurses, preachers, football coaches or whatever. In my book, they are all firemen. They rush to help victims.
Other witnesses see the incident, stand there watching and do nothing. They are scared or do not care. I call them worthless humans.
Still others see what happened. They see the lady injured and cared for by the crowd of “firemen”. They turn their eyes back to the suspect doing his best to get away with the stolen purse. These people come from different professions as well. Some are store clerks, bartenders, truck drivers or what ever. They chase the dirt bag and tackle him. They hold him until the cops arrive. I call these people “cops”. You are cops or at least say you want to be. We will see what you do when the time comes. I hope you chase the bastard down and tackle him.
So in my world, there are three types of people. Firemen, cops and worthless humans. The suspect falls into the worthless category.
Now when someone asks why you do this job, tell them about the someone did something to someone story. Tell them about the elderly lady. You can be proud of your career choice. Your friends and family will understand.
I love and respect firemen, or fire fighters as we call them today. They are people with big hearts and caring souls. I love cops just as much. They will go to the aid of victims as fast as fire fighters. However, cops are wired to apprehend and hold accountable the person who inflicted the pain and suffering.
It was after midnight, less than an hour before my sergeant would order me to turn in my unit and call it a day. A call came over the police radio. I responded to a possible drowning in a residential swimming pool on Pines Road. I was a short distance from the home and arrived in less than two minutes. I knew drowning victims could go about nine minutes without oxygen before severe brain damage or death occurred. I bailed from my car and rushed into the home without knocking. Thankfully the front door was unlocked. I looked through the spacious home and saw the pool in the backyard. It was an in ground pool well lit with white and blue underwater lamps. A man on his knees was doing chest compressions to a female in her 30’s. She was wearing jeans, shoes and a blouse. She was dripping wet and unresponsive to his life saving efforts. Next to him was a three year old girl also fully clothed. The father was frantically switching to save the life of his daughter and his wife. He was almost hysterical. It had only been a few days since I failed to save Robin, a six year old girl seriously injured in a car wreck.
I suddenly felt a trembling shockwave rush through me. I flashed back to little Robin and felt tremendous guilt for having failed to save her life. I instantly doubted myself. Was I going to lose another?
Without hesitation, I jumped in and took over the duties of trying to save the baby girl. She was cold when I touched her. I knew the father was not performing life saving procedures correctly. I rolled her head to the side and with the heel of my right hand felt her ribs and found her sternum. I pushed hard and fast as I tried to clear water from her lungs. I watched her nostrils and mouth as out came a small amount of water. She was so small my mouth covered her nose and mouth. I let my training kick in as I breathed air into her lungs. I saw her chest rise and I felt for a pulse. She did not have one. I began chest compressions and alternated breathing for her. I was exhausted by the time the E.M.T’s arrived and took over. As they were loaded into the same ambulance, I looked in the pool and saw a small pink tricycle. The father said he and his wife were in the kitchen while the little girl rode her trike on the patio deck. She was not close to the pool when he last saw her. He told his wife to watch her as he went to take a shower. When he came back to the den, he saw both his wife and daughter underwater in the pool. He called 911 and tried to save them.
Both the mother and baby girl were dead on arrival at the closest emergency room. After I finished my report, I sat in my unit replaying in my mind what I saw. I wanted to cry but for some reason could not. It hurt deeply. Crying would relieve me but it just would not come. I was numb and could not connect to my feelings.
I was off the next few days. I found myself in the detectives office talking to the investigators about the deaths. I learned the mother had filed several reports of spousal abuse. The detectives said both the wife and daughter were covered with large amounts of life insurance. The father was on the verge of bankruptcy.
At the end of the investigation, the father was not charged. The D.A. said he needed more evidence. In less than three months, the father remarried. Investigators proved he had an affair with this lady before the deaths of his wife and daughter.
This case caused me to ask for a transfer to the division of criminal investigations. It would be several months before my request was approved.