May 23, 2013

Do you like this?

Sarge was staring at me when I entered the team office. It wasn’t ominous; getting a notification “to see the captain, I have no idea why,” THAT is “ominous,” but this was definitely curious. (I made a mental note not to produce a mid-line-up speech fart for comic effect as I’d planned just moments ago.)

Nearly all shift sergeants are the same at the start of the shift: They’re buried in a computer screen getting line-up information or entering stats from the day before, tasks they relish as much as digging a large hole with their hands. So if they’re making eye contact with you for more than two seconds? You are officially a blip on their radar, and situational awareness (and not farting) is paramount.

“I got a complaint from last night,” Sgt. Ike said. On cue, myself and the other three officers in that room began to simultaneously detail the impossibility of aberrant behavior on our part, immediately proceeding into telegraphing this shock and hurt with hand gestures and gyrations, palms upraised and mustering every ounce of righteous indignation we had, and we were doing so all at once in a ballet of denial. It was like muscle memory, autopilot, and we hadn’t heard one specific fact.

He raised a hand to indicate a “stop” and continued. “Relax. There’s no name attached to this, but apparently someone decided to play the sound of baby’s crying on their PA speaker while they drove through the Courts at 3 or 4 a.m.” He paused ever so briefly, maintained eye contact with me, and said “Again.”

The others sensed the narrowing of the suspect list and grew quiet (or at least lowered their volume) and began finding something interesting on their phones, the floor, or just stood there smiling and staring at me with big toothy grins. As long as it’s not a lawsuit or a serious part-one offense (the cop equivalent of an in-house felony), it’s funny when your buddy gets in trouble. Just a little funny, of course.

Now instead of gyrations, I took the tack of silent pondering, as if empathizing with the boss. An “I’m on your side” tactic that also doesn’t immediately deny or admit to the accusation. My head bobbed and my eyes narrowed, and I started a frown of deep thought.

“What the hell am I going to do with this kind of crap?” the Sarge said. “It’s not like you’re stabbing someone, but this is just…it’s just weird. Who does this?” It was rhetorical, so I decided to tread lightly.

“Sarge, I really think we’re making progress out there. Demetrius Talley’s in prison and no one’s replaced him yet. Packer over there,” I tilted my head towards the officer across the office, the origin of whose nickname is one I will never describe in these family-oriented pages, “had them square up on him a few days ago.”

This vague reference meant that “they” (the dominant gang operating out of the Courts) took an opportunity during a regular call to surround or get perilously close to the Cop Personal Space Zone in an effort to establish dominance in the Courts and inside their affiliation (to call them an “organization” would be giving them too much credit), and to test the boundaries of an officer as well. There is something special about being surrounded by ex- and future cons who are also likely better armed than you (never mind grossly outnumbering you) and on their home turf. Backup is a radio call away, but there is a 10,000-mile disconnect when you’re getting that ass beat and fighting to keep your pistol.

“They’re looking for a new boss in there and we’ve just been trying to…you know. Throw them off a little.”

“Well, it’s working,” Sarge said. “They are thrown off as f%&^. Now cut that shit out, all of you. It’s just…it’s just weird.” He visibly clicked a mouse button to proceed on, indicating the possibility of discipline had passed.

Shoulders imperceptibly relaxed, and business went back to normal. I let another few memos pass, and when the time was right—well, that gas I had earlier never truly went away.

For the second time this day, the Sarge just stared at me, and pointed to the door, jaw muscles beginning to flex.

Off to work.



May 23, 2013

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