I was an FTO or Field Training Officer for most of the time I spent in Uniform Patrol. I’m more proud of that than a lot of my later accomplishments. I tried hard to train good Police Officers and to shit-can bad ones. I worked to instill in them Valor and Honor and Truth, to test them. To teach them to survive, to be Brave, and to always Win. I taught them to be Warriors and Keepers of the Peace. I was tough but fair, critical. In the same moment I was their Mentor, Big Brother or Father.
Sometimes I was their Ending…
We’re just out of the Barn and for a change the Midnight shift left us no complaints or radio runs waiting. I grabbed a coffee from the corner Seven Eleven store and jump back into the passenger seat of the cruiser. I tell the rookie to head North.
A heavy drizzle, more like a dense fog, had draped over the neighborhood of tightly packed two story cracker box houses. I peer between the houses, into the backyards on the next block, looking for trouble. Glowing halos surround street lights like silver moons. At the wheel of the black and white Chevrolet Caprice was my newest rookie. I still hadn’t managed to remember his first name. Cub would have to do for now.
I had told the rookie to turn down this side street because of some recent home break-ins. It was early enough that the good citizens had left for work and the bad ones were left behind, with me and the Cub, in the gray haze.
I look down the street and see a car trying to short block (avoid contact with) us. He made the turn suddenly and without signalling. It all seemed spooky and weird for the time and place.
“Cub, catch up to that deuce and a quarter before it gets to Ecorse Road if you don’t mind.”
And he did. I think, I really mean this, that many recruits had never driven a V8 engine in their lives. Squealing tires and screeching brakes lurch us towards the target vehicle. We come up behind it right before Ecorse Road, a perfect place for the traffic stop.
“Light him up Cub but I’m crossing over and making primary contact.”
I made first contact with the driver and smelled his fear and tension downwind, I shit you not. He already had his hands on the wheel, more weirdness.
“Let me see your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.”
“Deputy my license is suspended and I don’t have it on me.” Good enough for me to place him under arrest, for the moment. I could release him later with a misdemeanor citation if I wanted to. I needed time to figure out what’s going on and me and the Cub and the nervous dude will all be safer if nervous dude is cuffed and stuffed in the back of the cruiser, at least for the time being.
I order the driver from the vehicle, patted him down, cuffed him and placed him in the rear of the cruiser. Once that was done I told the Recruit this:
“Cub, something ain’t right here. I want you to search the car. Find me something and find some ID. This might be our break in guy. Get to work.”
I get back in the passenger seat, slide the Plexiglas partition window open, and read the driver his rights. He waives his rights and answers some preliminary questions. He said that he was lost and was trying to find his way home in the fog (buzz). I ask his name “James Smith, no middle name” (buzz). I asked his date of birth, twice about a minute apart. Neither answer was the same (buzz). When I asked how old he was the answer didn’t match either date of birth he had given (buzz).
While I’m having fun being the human polygraph machine and figuring out how many lies one little nervous dude could tell the rookie comes up to the door, twiddling his thumbs. I crack the window and asked him “You didn’t find nothing in the car and no ID?” He answered that he didn’t find “anything of evidentiary value.”
“Search it again.”
I went back to questioning the driver and he continued to lie. He had finally agreed on what his name and date of birth was but couldn’t remember his home address (buzz). I asked what his Zodiac sign was for the date of birth he finally picked, he guessed wrong (buzz).
The rookie comes back to the window. “Nothing Boss. Couldn’t find nothing.”
“Search it again.”
Because this guy had lied so much and raised so much suspicion within me I made a rare decision. I placed him under arrest for the driving while license suspended (misdemeanor violation) and would take him to the jail just to get a better ID. I’d have to deal with a possibly pissed off Sergeant in the County jail for bringing in a traffic offender but I needed some photos and prints and time to investigate this guy further.
The rookie comes back from his third search of the same vehicle empty handed. I had him fill out the impound sheet and make the wrecker request to tow the car to the impound lot.
The wrecker driver, who I’d known for years makes the scene. “Hey Deputy Mike, How have you been?”
“Just pissing in the wind Tom, just pissing in the wind.” We laugh and he offers up his Beechnut chew pouch. I declined.
The rookie, me and the nervous dude start towards the County Jail, some fifteen minutes drive away from our location. The nervous dude lied all the way.
“Frank 20 copy – J&J’s Towing is requesting that Deputy Fulcher call them Immediately” came over the main police radio.
BUZZZ – More strangeness.
My best informants were Hookers (they see everything – their lives depend on it), Cab Drivers, Wrecker drivers, Trash-Men, Pizza delivery guys (they work the same streets for different reasons but it’s the same streets), and strippers, (well I love strippers – I find them to be strong women – warrior like – and they know lots). A lot of my cases were made with the help of these people. I took real bad people off the streets because of them. Cases wouldn’t have been made without their help.
Tom, the wrecker driver, was one of these people. Maybe contact would be a better description of our relationship. I didn’t pay him anything or get him out of tickets. He just called me when he saw things, he was a good citizen and he trusted me with the information.
I had one of the first flip open Motorola Cellular phones and had J&J’s Towing dialed in already.
“Hey Tom, whats up?”
“Deputy Mike have you made it to the jail yet?”
“Not yet Tom, why?”
“Well you better just turn around and come back to the impound lot, trust me it’s important.” And I did trust Tom, I told the rookie to drive us to the impound lot.
When we got there the Buick was still hanging from the tow straps of the wrecker. Tom walked up and motioned me towards the rear and pointed behind the driver’s seat, at the foot well. Right there was the biggest and shiniest .44 Magnum six inch barreled handgun I had ever laid eyes on. How could or did the rookie miss this monster? It must have slipped out when the vehicle was towed but shit. My head was spinning – I was a hard task master when it came to Officer Safety. I patrolled the darkest parts of the worst neighborhoods I could find. I looked for trouble, it was my job. Officer Safety skills were a must.
Tom walked away as I whistled up my recruit. “Cub we got problems, real fucking problems.” I motioned him to look behind the driver’s seat. “You’re gonna write the report that explains all of this. Why Tom is now in our chain of evidence. Why you missed this weapon. I almost let this guy go back to his car and that gun.”
“But Cub we got more trouble than that. I want your promise to me right now, right here – your oath – that if any of your dumb ass shit gets me killed…,” – I took the time to poke him in the chest, hard, each time I said YOU – “That YOU tell my kids that it was YOU and not me that fucked up and got me killed. YOU gotta make this promise to me now or I can’t keep training YOU.”
A weak and feeble “I promise” escaped his clenched teeth.
The very next day the Recruit came in and pulled his own pin, he quit.
© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.