A Facebook friend opened a topic this week that elicited a number of responses relative to the foibles of men and women in uniform. Before I jump in, bare my soul and offer a glimpse into the lives of those folks who can stand at carside and deliver a directive seeking perfection from the hapless citizen he or she has stopped for a violation, I thought it best to come clean and admit………officers have their lapses too. We are chosen to be representative of the population we police, so naturally we have our fair share of “misfires” while in uniform. Let’s have a look……
In early 1978, I warmed my unmarked Mercury cruiser up on a frigid morning after a heavy overnight snow storm. I promptly entered I-70 and drove east to pick up the rookie that I was breaking in, noting the poor condition of the interstate in spite of the efforts of MoDot to clear it. Naturally, after picking up my cub, we were called to a fatal accident on the west side of the county and immediately started back west on the interstate. I was pushing the big Mercury as fast as I could do so safely while working the radio to insure the appropriate resources were on their way to the crash when the road changed from “wet and partly covered” to a sheet of ice, just past a highway department turn around in the median. The highways were cleared by each respective district, and the salt shakers would turn around just past their district line and go the other way. Nice. the Mercury bobbled just a little, then exited the highway abruptly and down a long embankment we went, coming to rest along side the outer road in waist deep snow. The rookie was a smoker but knew the rules and dutifully exited the car into the deep snow to smoke and calm his nerves. Luckily, a wrecker happened by almost immediately, stopped and pulled us out, resulting in a short delay in our getting to the crash. The rookie said nothing, God love him, and I broke the silence by declaring emphatically, “that is NOT how you do this….and remember that road conditions are never consistent”.
Another snow storm, still in progress, resulted in deplorable conditions, but thankfully little traffic when I decided to enter the truck weighing scales near Odessa on I-70, to refuel. I chose to enter the scales from the outer road, behind the scales, and noted the large drift across the entrance as I attempted to power through……resulting in the cruiser sliding sideways into a shallow ditch at a rather awkward angle. I was stuck, badly. I mustered up my best radio voice and called HQ requesting a wrecker for a motorist who had slid into the ditch behind the scales. The radio operator, after a long pause, said that a local tow operator was enroute, and in a voice reflecting his understanding of the situation, inquired calmly, “is your car going to be driveable when they get you out?” I loved this radio operator……and he had me. We laughed about this over the years on a number of occasions.
The lady was hysterical, however; I was not going to let her hysteria deter me from issuing a citation for speeding, a lot. My attempts to calm this lady were to no avail and I finally was able to hand her the citation between her sobbing and wailing about my destroying her perfect driving record, and retreat to my cruiser, parked behind her and offset so as to avoid traffic. It was our custom to remain parked behind the violator until they re-entered the roadway, thus providing some degree of safety with our flashing lights. She did not understand this and continued to flail about and sob as I patiently waited for her to leave. I exited my cruiser, walked up and verified that she had not induced a coronary with her emotion, and re-entered my cruiser, deciding to leave as my presence was obviously not comforting to this lady. Needing a little clearance, I put my cruiser into reverse, and backed up to gain this needed space………into a guardrail situated just behind my car. A hasty call to my retained “body man” set up a 6AM appointment at his establishment to repair and paint the quarter panel. As a footnote, this lady wrote the court with her mail-in fine and mentioned in her note how considerate I was when issuing the citation……
Scale houses, in my day, were pretty much the same squat little cinder block affairs throughout the state, situated along side major highways for obvious reasons. Our zone offices were often located within these little buildings, providing a desk and room to prepare reports and handle the administrative details inherent to police work. It was the last day of the month and myself and two other troopers were parked one behind the other on the scale platform ramp, busy working on end of the month reports when radio called and dispatched us to yet another fatal accident some 35 miles south of our location. I was the Sergeant and happened to be first in line behind the closed bar across the scale platform and the other two officers were behind me, in a neat, tight little row. We all exited the scale house and began entering our cars, with me being just a little quicker than the other two, and closer to the door. I hopped in my cruiser, put it in reverse and backed into the first patrol car behind me, pushing it into the third patrol car behind it, with the two astonished officers standing half in the doors of their cars. I exited my car, clearly embarrassed and asked if we were going to the wreck or just lollygag around the scales. I am sure they laughed all the way to the wreck……..and I was reminded of this lapse for years to come……..
Police officers rely on humor to get them through their careers. This humor can have unintended results. It was the Friday before the 4th of July holiday, and traffic was building quickly. I grabbed a quick sandwich late in the afternoon at a favorite eatery located at the junction of !-70 and M-13. When I exited the restaurant, I noticed a MoDot crew patching a rather large pothole in front of the restaurant on M-13, with hot mix being shoveled out of the back of their truck. I knew these guys well, particularly one of the shovelers who was known to be a little “goosey” or jumpy. With the traffic noise and activity at this location, he did not see me ease up behind him and touch my siren just as he began to toss a shovel full of mix into the hole. This gentleman was sufficiently startled to cause him to throw the hot mix, still in the shovel, into the side of a beautiful newer, white Buick 225, bearing Iowa license plates. The gentleman driving the Buick pulled into the parking lot and began walking toward the hapless MoDot employee, necessitating my immediate intervention. I stepped between this gentleman and the MoDot fellow, looked at him and told him that I could explain what had happened, but that he would not be particularly impressed with my explanation. To my amazement, he accepted my honest explanation and laughed at the predicament that I had place myself in. We struck an agreement after I gave him my business card and telephone number, whereby he would have his car repaired and send me the bill. He did just that, and my attempt at humor cost me a little under 400.00. In the 70’s folks, that was a lot of money!
In anticipation of writing this piece, I searched my memory to come up with situations that might be interesting to my readers. I came up with a rather long list of happenings involving me or witnessed by me, but chose these to illustrate the point that I am trying to make. I, and my fellow officers are adept at creating hilarious situations at the expense of each other, dead snakes in the mailbox located at every gas pump, mace on sunglasses and the removal of the red lenses on our light bars resulting in four, blinding spotlights revolving about on your first night traffic stop after you left the zone office. The next time you see an officer solemnly going about his or her business, suggesting a buttoned down approach to life, remember…..
There is, indeed, a human behind the badge……….