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A policeman’s Christmas

In 1974 when I first joined the police department, I new there would be special occasions my family would spend without me. Knowing that fact didn’t make the task any easier. The celebrations I missed those first year’s depressed me and sometimes made me feel bitter. Working on Christmas Eve was always the worst.

On Christmas Eve in 1977, I learned that a blessing can come disguised as misfortune, and honor is more than just a word.

I was riding a one man patrol on the 4×12 shift. The night was cold. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the holiday: families packing their cars with presents,beautifully decorated trees in living room windows and roofs adorned with tiny sleighs. It all added to my holiday funk. The evening had been relatively quiet; there were calls for barking dogs and a residential false burglar alarm. There was nothing to make the night pass any quicker.I thought of my own family and sunk further into depression.

Shortly after 2200 hours I got a radio call to the home of an elderly, terminally ill man. I parked my patrol car in front of a simple cape cod style home. First aid kit in hand, I walked up the short path to the front door.As I approached, a woman who seemed to be about 80 years old opened the door. He’s in here she said, leading me to a back bedroom.

We passed through a living room that was furnished in a style I had come to associate with older people. The sofa has an afghan blanket draped over it’s back and a dark, solid queen Anne chair say next to a unused fireplace. The mantle was cluttered with an eccentric mix of several photos, some ceramic figurines and an antique clock. A floor lamp provided soft lighting.

We entered a small bedroom where a frail looking man lay in bed with a blanket pulled up to his chin. He wore a blank stare on his ashen, skeletal face. His breathing was shallow and labored. He was barely alive.
The trappings of illness all around his bed. The nightstand was littered with a large number of pill vials. An oxygen bottle stood nearby. Its plastic hose, with face mask attached rested on the blanket.

I asked the old woman why she called the police.

She simply shrugged and nodded sadly toward her husband,indicating it was his request. I looked at him and he stared intently into my eyes. He seemed relaxed now. I didn’t understand the suddenly calm expression on his face.

I looked around the room again. A dresser stood along the wall to the left of the bed. On it was the usual memorabilia: ornate perfume bottles,a white porcelain pin case, and a wooden jewelry case. There were also several photos in simple frames. One caught my eye and I walked closer to the dresser for a closer look. The picture showed a young man dressed in a police uniform. It was unmistakably a photo of the man in bed. I knew then why I was there.

I looked at the old man and he motioned with his hand toward the side of the bed. I walked over and stood beside him. He slid a thin arm from under the covers and took my hand. Soon,I felt his hand go limp, I looked at his face. There was no fear there. I saw only peace. He knew he was dying; he was aware his time was very near. I know now that he was afraid of what was about to happen and he wanted the protection of a fellow cop on his journey. A caring God had seen to it that his child would be delivered safely to him. The honor of being his escort fell to me.

When I left at the end of my tour that night, the temperature had seemed to have risen considerably, and all the holiday displays I saw on the way home made me smile.

I no longer feel sorry for myself for having to work on Christmas Eve. I have chosen an honorable profession. I pray that when it’s my turn to leave this world there will be a cop there to hold my hand and remind me that I have nothing to fear

Author unknown

Thank you, Oh Pharaoh, for the gifts you have bestowed upon us.

So, I’m car shopping for more than one vehicle.  With the kids mostly grown and driving themselves places, we no longer need the SUV that was the Princess’ Mom-Taxi.  That’s one car.

And for the same reason I need to buy another vehicle for one of the kids so he can drive himself to school and all his extracurricular stuff (plus off to college next year I hope).   That’s two cars.

While I was working I always had a city car, and so I never even owned a car until the last few years of work when I bought a pickup to take to the ranch.  But driving a F-150 everywhere around town is a pain just on parking issues alone.  I would love to have something small and fuel efficient that’s easy to park.  That’s three cars.

Even though I grew up in and around the car business, and I know the ins and outs of buying and selling cars, I still hate the process.  Mostly because I hate spending money to buy a big hunk of metal and plastic that is a liability rather than an asset.  So it brought a smile to my face when I read how poor August car sales were going.  Sucks to be a dealer or salesman, but I can get behind a buyer’s market when I am a buyer.  Especially when I am a triple buyer and only plan on selling one of the current vehicles.

Except there are some twists and turns to this that are making it a sucky process.

First, I am in the market for three cars, but two of them will be well used cars.

And a bad market for new car sales is not turning into a bad market for used car sales.  All thanks to cash-for-clunkers, or the Car Allowance Rebate System, as the government called it.

Anybody with half a brain knew that cash-for-clunkers was economic idiocy in the making. It didn’t save any jobs, cost the taxpayers billions, was so poorly designed and administered that dealers were dodging participation left and right, and now has raised the cost of used cars thanks to all the good used cars that were destroyed. From the Boston Globe Clunkers a Classic Government Folly.

According to Edmunds.com, a website for car buyers, a three-year-old automobile today will set you back, on average, close to $20,000 — a spike of more than 10 percent since last summer. For some popular models, the increase has been much steeper. In July, a used Cadillac Escalade was going for around $35,000, or nearly 36 percent over last July’s price.

Part of the increased prices for used cars is that the economy sucks so much that people who would normally be buying a new car are now buying used cars because they are afraid they will be the next one to lose their job.

But an even bigger part of the answer is that the supply of used cars is artificially low, because your Uncle Sam decided last year to destroy hundreds of thousands of perfectly good automobiles as part of its hare-brained Car Allowance Rebate System — or, as most of us called it, Cash for Clunkers. That was the program under which the government paid consumers up to $4,500 when they traded in an old car and bought a new one with better gas mileage. The traded-in cars — which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for the rebate — were then demolished: Dealers were required to chemically wreck each car’s engine, and send the car to be crushed or shredded.

This explains why there are almost no decent late model used cars for sale by private owners, and most of what I’m finding on car lots are old lease vehicles that have been dogged to death and have outrageous prices.   I can make a hell of a deal on a new car, if I want to hose off 20% of it in depreciation the second I drive the car off the lot.

It’s time to face reality – the government we have today is comprised of people who don’t have a clue how business works.  This successful program took money from hardworking taxpayers on a budget and pissed it away so the foolish could get a new car at a discount price and government workers could get paid to process the paperwork.

I’m ready for the Great Half White Father Who Camps By The Potomac to stop helping me out so much.  I don’t think I can afford it any more.

Bizarro Chicago

Maybe the times have changed, or maybe Chicago is really located in Bizarro World.   But there is definitely some serious weirdness going on when the Chief of Police has a summit with the leaders of the city’s gangs.

CHICAGO — The idea seemed simple though bold: Call reputed gang leaders to a meeting with top police and federal prosecutors and deliver an ultimatum to end killings in the nation’s third-largest city.

My college professors will be offended when I say that I really don’t think that members of a criminal gang are legitimate stakeholders when it comes to public safety.  If we have to stick labels on people, let’s call them, the enemy.  That might just be my insensitivity shining through, or perhaps I really am a dinosaur.

“What are we doing negotiating or having a sit-down with urban terrorists who are killing with guns and drugs on the streets?” Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti said. “Gangs are not to be coddled.”

Hey Bob, you and me are on the same wavelength.

The only thing you negotiate with an enemy are the conditions of surrender.

Nerves of steel

Here in the U.S. a SWAT guy or gal would have taken a shot from a distance.  In China, we does it differently.

I’m not going to comment on her technique, but I admire the guts it took to pull this one off.

Schooling from the boys down at the Bum Squad

(First appeared in August 2005)

122 degrees is what my truck’s thermostat registered this afternoon when I got done with training.  As you can guess, I’m a just a tad tired and not in much of a mood for writing.  However, I will give you a few gems from my day, one of them a funny quote from an instructor.

I’m Officer Ray Smith from the Bomb Unit and I will be your instructor for this block.  Our motto in the unit is “we may not be the best, but hey, who else are you going to call?”   I have just a little over twenty-two years on the department, minus a little penalty box time, if you know what I mean.

He was a little jaded from his past dealings with management, but still an informative instructor who knew his stuff.    And I would think that anyone who volunteers to screw around with unexploded explosive devices made by nut-jobs ought to be at least a half bubble off level to start with.

He brought lots of cool stuff to play with and a few interesting facts.  Like the amount of explosive used in the United States each year; 8 Billion (yes, with a “B”) pounds.  As you might imagine, a lot of explosives get “lost” and wind up in the wrong hands.

There are many explosives that are impractical in Some City because of our hot and humid climate.  One cool little toy is an explosive that has the consistency of caulk, it even comes in a tube like caulk and can be used in a caulk gun.  Unfortunately it melts almost instantly.   The idea was that it would be great to quickly apply around door locks for forced breaches, but in the amount of time it took to apply it to the door, stick a detonator on it and haul ass around the corner; it had already lost consistency and run in long streaks down the doors face.  It’s a shame; it was cool stuff and only cost a $100 a tube.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has recently endorsed a “shoot to kill” model policy for dealing with suicide/homicide bombers.  Of course Some City, being the liberally governed city it is, will only adopt such a policy after we have our first human bomb take out a dozen innocent victims.  The instructor had just had a meeting that morning with a counterpart from the London Metropolitan Police and we discussed their policy on shooting suspected bombers.

Also, we learned all about the three-man team tactic that the Israelis use on suspected bombers.  That was very impressive.  It takes a cool head (especially for the main guy who has two very critical tasks to perform if there is actually a bomb) and a lot of coordination between the team members.  We won’t go into details (no sense in giving out the info just in case some bad guys doesn’t already know about it), but I was convinced of its effectiveness.

We saw tons of gory footage of people blowing up, like the Pizza Box Bomber, and since everybody there was a cop we got to see it three or four times, in slow motion even.  A ton of photos showing blown up idiots and bombers (is that redundant) who screwed up with explosives.  Like the guy in West Virginia who stuck a blasting cap in his mouth.  In the photo we saw, he was still alive, but the effect was beyond phenomenally traumatic.  The only thing recognizable was one eyeball.

There’s a lesson for you kids – don’t play with stuff that blows up.

Whoops!

Skimming through the blog stats to see what search brings people here can be a trip to…strangeness.

From yesterday’s visitors this little gem popped up as a search term:

attorney for exposing yourself

The internets, helping people since whenever Al Gore invented it.

Cat – the other white meat?

The day I started the police academy was filled with speeches.  It was a media event  which lured the Mayor, half the City Council, the Chief, and a number of other self-aggrandizing community organizers leaders.   There were many, many speeches, the freaking mother-lode of speeches.

In my life I’ve suffered through a lot of speeches, most of which I forgot before they were over.  But from all the speechifying on that day I remember two quotes.   Both are ingrained in my memory because they turned out to be extremely accurate predictions about my police career.

The first, from our class Sergeant – in a speech that he gave after all the politicians had left.

If you don’t like the way we do things here, don’t let the door slap you in the ass on the way out.

I think he shocked a few people with those words, but they needed to be said on the very first day.  Just because you’ve been chosen to help feed the chow to the big criminal justice machine doesn’t make you immune from getting hurt if you get caught up in the moving parts.  Of the 75 cadets that started that class, only 36 made it off probation a year later.  Several more fell over the years, some in spectacular front-page news stories, others just fired and moved on.  The blue machine is a harsh mistress and she demands much.

But the other quote – that came from the Chief.   Well over six feet tall, he had grown up in the SCPD of old when it was a law unto itself and answerable to nobody.  A former-Marine with the vocabulary of a thesaurus, he could match verbal wits with just about anyone.   A political insider, he had stabbed more than a few adversaries in the back on the  way up the ladder.    The media hated interviewing him because he embarrassed them when they couldn’t understand the words he tossed out in his answers.    He was hated by many from within and without the department, but few people dared to get in his way.

Anyway, I remember him standing at the lectern and saying these words:

You’ve just bought yourself a ticket to the greatest show on earth.

Getting that badge is like getting a tour behind the scenery at Disney World – except this tour is backstage of the real world.   Everybody hides something behind a mask, or locked away in a trunk.   Everybody – you, me, your spouse, your kids, and even your mom – has some little secret that they don’t want the world to see.   When the shit goes bad and the cops are called, that’s when the masks are pulled away and the hidden trunks are drug out and opened wide.

To a baby police officer this is some heady stuff, but we soon learn that everybody is a little twisted.  We also learn that there is not a lot of new stuff under the sun – that freakiness you’ve been fervently hiding all of these years is duplicated millions of times over in the secret lives of others just like you.  We’ve probably already seen your special weirdness ten times this week.

Yet every now and then we do get surprised.  A real show-stopper comes along once in a while that makes even the most jaded cop want to reach for the blue ribbon to award the “Craziest Bastard of the Year”.

When Ferry-Fillmore District officers pulled over a car driven by Gary L. Korkuc on Sunday night during a traffic stop, they said they heard a cat crying from inside the trunk and investigated.

What they found has left animal lovers at the SPCA Serving Erie County in shock.

The cat, according to police, was in a cage “marinating” in a mixture of crushed red peppers, chili pepper, salt and oil.

If you look under Gary Korkuc’s furniture you will probably find those marbles he’s been looking far.  I mean, the man is most likely regular crazy as opposed to Anton Chigurh force-of-nature evil.  Whether he’s evil, crazy or both; Gary is not all that unusual.  And that’s why the nice police officer looks at you that way after stopping you for being a few miles over the limit.  You feel all nice and comfortable hiding whatever behind your mask, but we’ve seen too many masks pulled away to reveal the truth.

When a cop pulls you over, he might see the $50,000 car and the $1,000 suit, but in his mind’s eye he’s wondering what your freak flag looks like underneath all of those pinstripes…or if you have a calico marinating in the trunk.

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