A Proud Member Of The Key Stone Cops

I was 22 years old in 1972, married with one child and attending a local college majoring in Biology.  Even though I had a bulk of my school paid for under the GI bill, I still had to find employment to feed and cloth my new family.  I applied for several jobs and on a Monday AM, I received a phone call from a small town city police Department asking if I would come in for an interview for the position of Police Officer?  I went and for God knows what reason, I was hired on the spot.  I had no previous experience in police work other then viewing every episode of Dragnet on television.  I went home and advised my wife Janice of my new position, it paid a grand total of $4.29 per hour with a mandatory 6 day work week all paid at streight time.  She was undecided as to jump for joy or try and talk me out of it, but eventually she gave me her blessing and I was off to work the following Monday morning.  I had expected to start with some sort of training classes or maybe attending a police training seminar for a few weeks but that was not the case.  I was told to ride with a fellow who had been working there for about eight months and to pay attention to what he did.  We patrolled the city streets, answered a few boring calls and stopped a few cars for speeding and such, all in all it was a fairly easy job.

I was later told that there would be official classroom training after my first year was up, this sounded a little late in coming, I was a police officer, able to make arrests, write tickets and the whole nine yards but had no type of training to go by other then common sense.  The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months.  I had been involved in robberies, thefts, stolen autos and every other crime a city experiences.  I paid attention to other cops on the beat and learned from them.  The part I enjoyed most was helping citizens that needed help or a friend to lean on. I would be willing to bet I drove more DUIs home then I arrested, I was a guy that understood peoples problems and if there was any way to solve them I did, I found this much better then adding more weight to their already heavy burden.  One night I received a call to a local pub called "The Back Street Lounge", a fight was in progress.  I arrived and everyone pointed to the back door, yelling, "He went that way".  I stepped into a very dark, dirty alley and listened for some type of sound which would give me an idea of where the culprit was.  I stood there for about two minutes when I heard a snapping type sound.  It was not coming from my left or right, but from above? As I started to look up, the full body weight of a 230 pound drunk along with a sizable oak limb crashed down upon my head.  We both went to the ground and rolled around for what seemed like an hour but in actual time was about one minute.  I got him to his feet and he was so inebriated I had to let him sit back down.  Another ten minutes had passed and we walked through the alley and onto the side street directly across from the city jail.  After booking him on public intoxication charges I placed him in the drunk tank to sleep it off.  The next day I was reprimanded for not calling for back up, not charging him with fleeing a police officer, and assault upon a police officer.  When he appeared in front of the city judge, he was fined $25.00 and told to behave himself.

A week or two after that incident, I came upon an elderly gentleman who was sitting in the city park on a bench.  It was about 8PM and I stepped up to him just to say Hello, as he looked up, it was apparent that he had been consuming a good bit of the drink and he stuttered "good evening officer".  He was a thin gaunt man in his fifties I would guess and seemed extremely sad. I asked if he was OK and did he have a place to go for the night?  He said he was homeless and would move on, he was just tired and hungry.  I asked where he was going to spend the night and he replied in the woods I guess.  I thought to myself, "I cant let him go to the woods, it was going to rain".  I only had about $4.00 for mu supper and that would not help him, so I asked if he would prefer to spend the night in a warm cell where he would be dry and get some food, I also told him he would be released tomorrow with no fines.  His eyes lit up and he said "Oh my yes, yes in deed". I put him in the back seat of my squad car and drove him to the jail.  There were two Sergeants watching me get him out of the car and take him into booking.  I left and went to a burger joint and got him some food and returned it to him.  The next morning I was reprimanded for not handcuffing a prisoner and buying him food.  I received two days off with out pay for this infraction.

Time passed and I forgot about the man in the park as there were plenty of others to occupy my time.  I was on patrol one Sunday afternoon and I was the only city officer on duty with the exception of the dispatcher, who had four years seniority over myself.  I received a call to proceed to an address on the East end of town. A domestic disturbance was in progress and the man was said to have a gun.  I arrived to witness a man and woman involved in a tug of war over a 35 caliber rifle!  I called it in and was told to wait for the county back up that was about to be called.  I yelled at the people to drop the gun and stand still, they did not comply and by now the barrel of the gun was tucked firmly in the stomach of the woman.  I ran up to the house and used my left elbow to strike the male who fell backwards releasing the grip on the gun, I yanked it from the woman's hands and opened the action of the rifle to find it was empty.  It took about five minutes to calm the two down and get them into a talking frame of mind.  The County police drove up and told me to call in as the dispatcher was frantic at not being able to raise me.  You guessed it, one week off with out pay for disobeying a Superior's orders.  I was frustrated but I figured I was being paid to do a job and if that woman or man had been killed while I watched and did nothing, I don't think I could have lived with myself.

Time passed and all was quiet and peaceful, I was patrolling the main streets of the city as usual when I decided to get out and walk for a while.  I enjoyed checking door knobs in the business district and the owners of the stores liked seeing this done also.  When I would come upon something that I felt should be corrected, I would leave them a short note and it was usually taken care of by the next day.  That evening I came upon a fairly new store that had opened just a few weeks earlier.  I thought I saw a flicker of light in the rear of the store but was not positive.  I turned the door knob and it opened in my hand.  This is something you have to experience for yourself to get the real feeling of impending doom that awaits you on the other side of that door.  I stepped back and used my walkie talkie to advise dispatch of the situation.  Of course I got the same thing as I had expected, "Wait for back up"!  This store was in a strip mall about two football fields long and all stores had back doors.  I heard a shuffling of feet in the back of the store so I slipped in the front, turned off my radio and drew my weapon.  In the distance I heard a siren and I knew the burglars would hit the woods in the rear of the store if they suspected that the cops' were on the way.  Sure enough, as the siren got louder the two figures made their way to the rear door.  I remained under cover but yelled as loud as I could "Police" you are surrounded, drop any weapons and raise your hands NOW! One hit the back door and the other was coming up close behind him.  I dove forward and tackled the last guy and we both went down fighting and swinging.  When the back up car arrived and turned on the lights, I was on the floor on top of a nineteen year old punk who had a rap sheet dating back to his grade school days.  He squealed as to who his partner in crime was and the both were sent to the county jail and the stolen items were recovered.  I got three days off with out pay for not waiting for back up to arrive.

By now I was about to get a part time job to make up for the days off with out pay that I had racked up during this illustrious career.  You have to remember that I was 22 years old, 6 feet tall and 135 pounds soaking wet.  Myself and Barney Phife would have made a splendid crime busting duo.  I had always subscribed to the idea that if you were receiving a certain amount of money to do a certain job, it was your responsibility to do that job to the best of your capabilities or find another job that suited you better.  I had been tagged as a cop that did not like to follow rules and would end up getting himself shot because I was too impatient.  I found myself alone in my squad care while most of the other guys would ride two to a car, to put it more plainly, I was not liked very much by the other policemen but the citizens did like me and I was usually asked for by name when there was a problem requiring a cop.  This did not sit well with the others at all.  One evening around 10 PM I saw an overhead door 1/2 way open at a vending company.  I parked my car up the street and walked down slowly.  I radioed in and advised them to send back up with out lights or sirens as I would be in the middle of a possible shoot out with no cover.  I was hidden just outside the open door when I heard sirens headed my way! Surely this was an ambulance or a fire truck, they might not like me but this could get me shot.  Within two minutes I saw Blue lights and sirens heading down the side street, Head lights on bright and I was lit up like a Christmas tree and anyone inside that building with a gun could not have missed me.  No one was inside the building and the door had just not been secured.  The next morning we had a meeting in the chiefs office and the cop who was driving the car with lights and sirens quit on the spot and left making the remark "You all want him gone anyway, I was just doing what you didn't have the guts to do yourself".  Everyone there shrugged their shoulders as if to say "What is he talking about"?  I knew and if I ever needed help, no one was going to be there for me.