Halloween. What a magical time of year.
The only thing that’s better for criminals than wearing heavy coats to obscure firearms is a perfectly reasonable excuse to wear (or be caught carrying) masks as well.
Most people, fortunately, don’t tend to look for weapons on everyone they encounter as often as cops do (which you may add that to your “things I am thankful for” list, right before or after “yoga pants”. For the Po-Po, it’s a task that never ends, on or off duty.
Does this lead you to believe that cops hate this time of year more than any other? Strangely, no.
Any good cop knows that he or she hates the Fourth of July and New Year’s more than any other... the asinine fireworks, complaints coming in by the megaton for the Fourth of July from curmudgeon sons of bitches, people that drive me almost as crazy as the bastards firing the things off for the days before and after this holiday, therefore giving it a bitter association for me and thus erasing my patriotic childhood. Oh, and of course New Year’s Eve and the inevitable complaints on “shots fired” calls at midnight, another baffling phenomena for people who lack either souls or common sense.
We don’t hate Halloween the most, but it definitely makes the top five.
Besides the valid points about the bulky coats and masks, I never really consciously thought about it until my girlfriend wanted me to take her to a haunted house. We went and I ended up spending both $40 and the entire evening barely resisting the urge to throttle the shit out of every actor jumping out at me in the dark. (It’s called “muscle memory” for a reason.)
Fascinating thing, muscle memory. The first time I acknowledged it was after walking through a project development on the Westside one winter night. I rounded a corner looking for a bad guy, my pistol drawn, and sure enough the bad guy was right around the corner with his back pressed up against the wall and his arm already extended with a revolver in his hand pointed directly at my head. Rather than point-and-shoot, my left hand reached out, clasped the revolver, twisted it inward towards his chest and plucked it from his hand as he lost grip on it. I stepped away, taking careful aim at him now, and in turn finally making the decision to shoot or not shoot.
This all happened in a little over second, and it happened just the way it was supposed to. I was too close to shoot and I knew where his first bullet would go, so I attacked the weapon as I was trained.
I said all of that to tell you how serious I am about “muscle memory” and reactions to rapid, unexpected physical threats, so when a twenty-something is in a blacked-out barn lit only by occasional strobe flashes and is reaching jumping out at me, it sets off some deep alarm bells in my dark cop heart. I’m not describing a Vietnam flashback, I’m just saying that it isn’t a lot of damn fun for me.
If you really think about it, we work Halloween night every night of the year.
Masks? Already covered. Zombies? I actually know their names, the bridges they live under, or where they score their rock. (I’m talking about Crackheads and the rare heroin addict.) Monsters? I’ve met some very real ones. Every building we search, business or residential, occupied or abandoned is a haunted house. And in those houses, the rules of engagement are very different.
Halloween: A magical time of the year…but take your cop-friends psyche into consideration before planning any outings for a “good scare”. In fact, hop in their car on the job and look for the real thing. They’ll take you with a smile on their faces, and this time…the smiles will be real.
As will the monster.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.