Signature Move

The Fraternities would hire University police officers to work at their parties to help them to reduce their liability and prevent things from getting out of control. Providing enforcement activities outside the Fraternity House usually set a tone that people could have fun, but that rules didn’t go out the window, Animal House only exists in the movies. Either way, I often found myself contacting people who were drinking alcoholic beverages in public, a violation of the local municipal code, and some of them turned out to be under the legal drinking age.

On one occasion, I contacted a young woman drinking from a can of beer in a brown paper bag. When she provided me with her identification, I saw that she was 18 years old and I explained to her that I was going to issue her a citation for being a minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage. She was friendly and cooperative, not like some of the drunks that I dealt with, but my job was to issue citations, so I issued the citation. As usually happens, she asked if I hadn’t ever drunk alcoholic beverages before I turned 21 years old. And, as I always answered, “Not in public, and especially not out on the street with a bunch of police officers walking around.”

I completed the citation and handed her my ticket book. I showed her where to sign and waited. She made a couple of jokes as she read the citation and then with a wave of the pen, she handed the ticket book back to me. I gave her a copy of the citation and sent her on her way. Later, back at the police station, I took out my citations to write my reports. As I looked her citation over, to see if I’d made any mistakes, because mistakes do happen, I laughed out loud. One of the other officers asked me what happened. I showed him the citation. She had only pretended to sign, the signature line was blank. She got me.

These were the days before everyone had a cell phone, so the next day, I obtained her home phone number and left a message asking her to call me back. Now, she was 18 years old, and technically an adult, so the message I left was my name, that I was with the University, and I needed to talk to her about her paperwork. No response. I figured that I would give her a couple of opportunities to fix the citation before I submitted a report for an arrest warrant. This wasn’t a violation that she needed to go to jail for, just court.

On my third and final all, a man answered the phone. I asked for the young woman and he said that he was her father. I told him that I was from the University and I needed to talk to her about some paperwork that I needed her to sign.

“Is this the police officer that wrote her a ticket the other day?”

“Yes, sir, it is. I need her to come in and sign the citation.”

“Well, isn’t that your problem?”

“Yes, it’s my problem right now, but my only other option is to submit a report for a warrant for her arrest and take her to jail when that gets issued.”

“Isn’t that a little chickenshit?”

“What else am I going to do during Summer Vacation?”

She came to the police station and signed the ticket about an hour later.

The Fault In His Stairs

We had a young police officer who just wasn’t making it in training. After three weeks (you have to have real problems if you can’t make it through Phase I), he was released from Field Training, but he was a nice kid, so they moved him into a civilian security officer position at our library. I happened to be assigned to supervise the Library Security program at that time.

On his first day with my program, I arranged for him to get his uniforms and gear, introduced him to his co-workers, and showed him around the office. I would have one of the other security officers show him the rest of the library. When we had completed this orientation, about an hour and a half into his shift, we received a call of a medical emergency at the entrance on the first floor.

As we were in the basement, several of us immediately ran to the stairs to get to the first floor and provide appropriate aid to the victim. I assigned someone to flag in fire and paramedics, while a security officer who had already been on scene provided first aid. Nothing serious, thank goodness.

I looked around for my new trainee. Nowhere to be seen. I turned to the security officer that had followed me up from the office.

“Where’s Kevin?”

“He’s still on the stairs.”

“What? Why?” Now I was concerned that as we ran up the stairs, he had tripped and injured himself.

“Apparently,” the security officer said, “he has issues with stairs.”

I walked back and looked down the stairwell and, sure enough, Kevin was still walking slowly up the stairs, white-knuckle gripping the railing, hand over hand.

Issues with stairs. And that was the end of his shift. I later learned that the officers who had been training him had never had the opportunity to take the stairs with him. They had always taken the elevator.

As a post-script, I received a phone call about two days later, from Kevin’s mother. She demanded to know why her son was fired.

“Well, I think that the fact that we are having this conversation might have something to do with it.”

Dancing To His Own Tune

The car was speeding, weaving between the lanes, and then ran a red light. My other officers were busy, so I didn’t have immediately backup, but I didn’t think I could allow this car to drive away. I radioed the car stop and turned on my lights and the car pulled off the road into the parking lot of a convenience store, usually identified by a couple of rhyming numbers. As I positioned my car behind this one, I saw that there was a municipal police officer parked in the lot, report writing. He signaled me with four fingers, asking if I needed help. I signaled back with four fingers. I did not. If anything went wrong, the officer was right there. No problem.

I contacted the driver and he smelled of alcohol and showed all the regular signs and symptoms of being a driver under the influence. He also immediately shared with me that he was famous and that he was on his way to the airport and that we needed to make this go quickly, so he didn’t miss his flight.

I looked at my watch, just to double-check, but it was nearly 3 AM and the local airport operated on a curfew, no flights after 11:30 PM. Okay. I asked the standard questions about drinking and he had only had two drinks. I asked him to step out of the car so that we could go through some field sobriety exercises. I glanced over at the municipal officer and saw that he was watching me. I again gave him four fingers and he nodded.

My driver again reminded me that he was very famous and that I was delaying him needlessly. I agreed and apologized. I also apologized that I didn’t know who he was, after looking at his driver license and he explained that he was a professional dancer working for a very popular singer at the time and that they were flying out on the next Delta flight, so I needed to hurry.

Yes, sir.

But as I demonstrated the first field sobriety exercise, I got a petulant sigh from my driver that rivalled anything I heard from my own teenage children whenever I explained something they thought was stupid.

“This is ridiculous. If I was drunk, could I do this?” He then performed a complex dance move, stopped and waited for me to answer. None of my children took dance class, so I have no idea what the names of the various moves were. Had he been a cheerleader, I would have been able to identify the move for you.

“Sir,” I said, trying to keep his attention. “Please remember that following the instructions in part of the evaluation.” I then tried to demonstrate the field sobriety exercise again.

“Right, but could I do this?” And then came another complex dance move.

“Sir, are you going to perform the exercises that I’m going to demonstrate for you?”

“I’m not drunk. Look at this.” And then came another complex series of moves that began to make me nervous because he started to get too far away from me and I worried he might decide to run off into the night. But he stopped and again, waiting for me to agree that he couldn’t do that if he was drunk.

He appeared visibly intoxicated and just couldn’t bring himself to follow my instructions and perform the exercises. When he simply wouldn’t let me demonstrate the exercises for him, I told him that I was arresting him for driving under the influence and placed him in handcuffs. While I was taking custody of the driver, the municipal police officer drove up alongside and watched me as I placed the driver in the back seat of my patrol car.

He rolled down the window and looked at me shocked.

“Boy, you University guys’ tests are hard.”

Differently Abled

One of my pet peeves was people parking in the disabled spaces to use the ATMs on campus. The ATM building was at the edge of a parking lot and Parking Services even put in five spaces that were clearly marked as ATM Parking Only. But the disabled spaces were closer. On many occasions, I found vehicles parked sideways in two disabled spaces to access the ATMs, so convenient that the disabled spaces were available like that. Those people usually got parking tickets. Especially if there were available ATM spaces.

On two occasions, something unusual happened:

One. I saw the car parked sideways across two (possibly three) disabled parking spaces. I pulled to the side and got out and started writing the ticket ($351). The driver saw me, collected his money from the ATM and ran to his vehicle to drive away. Do people really think that makes a difference? Usually, we just mail the parking ticket to them, but I decided that it was a slow day, so I followed him. He drove into the neighborhoods nearby and tried to make a whole bunch of turns in the hopes that I would keep going and stop following him. I saw him park in an apartment complex and walk away (it was clear that he didn’t live there, he was just hoping that I would go away, now that he was a pedestrian). I parked, walked down to his car and placed the parking ticket on his windshield. I returned to my patrol car and started to drive away. The driver returned to his car and immediately ran up to me waving his parking ticket.

“Please, can you take this back? I don’t have this kind of money.”

“You were parked in two, possibly three disabled spaces, illegally.”

“Can you just write me a ticket for parking in two spaces, instead?”

“How about if I write you a disabled space ticket for each disabled space you occupied?”

“Oh. I’ll just take this one.”

Two. Again, a car was parked sideways across two disabled spaces, and again, the driver saw me, ran to his car and drove away. Deciding to mail the parking ticket to him, I asked dispatch for the registered owner’s address. The address was just a few blocks from campus, so I drove to the address, found the vehicle parked out front on the street, and I placed the ticket under the windshield wiper. I saw the driver peeking out at me through the window, but he never came out. I waved and drove away.

These were the only two instances where something out of the ordinary happened. More often, when the drivers would see me writing the tickets they would run back to the car and plead with me not to get a ticket. I would explain why I believed they deserved the ticket and then they would yell and shout, or tear up the ticket, or cry, or threaten to have my badge.

You know, the usual.

A Novel Approach to Training

There was a local “drunkard” that we dealt with on a regular basis. He had lost a foot at some time in the past, so he was in a wheelchair. We will call him Jacob. Nearly every time we saw Jacob, he was completely intoxicated, usually unable to even push his wheelchair forward. Unfortunately, we often had to take him to jail for drunk in public because he was just too far gone. There, he would sober up and be released without charges (time served, we called it) and he would return home near the campus by light rail.

At one point in my career, I was a training officer, and I had been assigned a police officer trainee who was at serious risk of failing out of training. One of his trademarks was that when the training officers would get fed up with his inability to make a decision and intervene, he would get frustrated and say, “But I was just about to do that.” So I began carrying a paperback book with me.

We responded to a call of an intoxicated person in the quad and when we arrived, it was Jacob. Jacob was unable to speak coherently and was in no condition to be on his own. The trainee began trying to interview Jacob, but Jacob wasn’t listening, he started to wheel away. The trainee began following Jacob around the quad, because Jacob was only going in circles. The trainee finally applied to brakes to Jacob’s wheelchair so that he couldn’t go anywhere. But now, the trainee didn’t know what to do with him. He didn’t know how to take a wheelchair bound man to jail or even place him in custody, although he was already technically detained. I started reading my book and forty-five minutes later, the trainee finally lost his cool and began screaming at Jacob, saying some very unkind things about drunks and transients.

I intervened. I explained to the trainee how to arrest a person in a wheelchair, to ask for another officer so that we could carefully and safely place him in the back of the car, load the wheelchair into the trunk, because the jail would take care of that, and not to shout at the suspect because the trainee was angry that he didn’t know what to do. We booked Jacob into county jail for drunk in public, but after that, I always had a paperback ready in my gear.

It Ain’t Checkers

I happened to be training a new officer. He was nearing the last phase of the training program, so at this point, he was responsible for initiating and handling his own calls, with me there to supervise if he needed help or guidance. This young officer was a bright, energetic, young man, whom we will call Hans. He was making good decisions and interacting with the community well and was even breaking some of his old bad habits that we were aware of, as he had been a student employee of the university police department, prior to getting hired as a police officer.

We responded to a call of a homeless person creating a disturbance at a student function. Unfortunately, the hazards of being a university in a downtown setting, includes interacting with the local community, including the unhoused. Some members of the university population are better prepared, psychologically, than others to interact with this particular segment of the population. And thus a call to the police department, because a homeless man was helping himself to food at a student group’s outdoor barbeque.

We arrived and Hans spoke to the president of the student organization who wanted the homeless man to leave their barbeque area.

“What is he doing?” Hans asked.

“He’s standing in line and getting food and talking to the students.”

“And your event is students only?”

“Oh, no. We’re open to the public. We want people to learn about our group.”

I could feel Hans trying to organize his thoughts as he paused. “But not him.”

The student also paused as he realized what he had said. “Uh…yeah.”

Hans asked the homeless man to step away from the event to have a talk with him.

I recognized the interloper as a black man, we will call Mr. Thompson, whom I had several contacts over the years and when he looked over at me, we nodded at each other in recognition. Hans explained to Mr. Thompson that the student group was asking that he be removed from their event. Hans also explained that, since Mr. Thompson was not causing any kind of disturbance, we had no authority to remove him from an event open to the public, especially since it was in an outdoor, park-like area of the campus. And then Hans asked Mr. Thompson if he would mind leaving the area, if Hans fixed him a plate of food from the barbeque. Mr. Thompson said that would be acceptable to him.

Hans then asked me if I could stand with Mr. Thompson while he went and put together a plate of food and after I agreed, off he went.

Mr. Thompson and I spoke cordially for several minutes, like co-workers who don’t get to interact very often. Finally, Mr. Thompson fixed me with a serious eye.

“That new kid,” he said. “Is he in training?”

“Yes, he is,” I agreed.

“Hmmmm,” Mr. Thompson thought aloud. “Do you want me to fuck with him?”

Having members of the community purposely antagonize a trainee police officer can also be problematic and create problems. There are always unpredictable things that can happen and get people into trouble inadvertently. So I should take the cautious route.

“Yes,” I said. “All you want.”

Hans returned presently with a large paper plate filled with barbequed meats, potato salad, chips, cookies, and some kind of cheese and cracker appetizer. “Okay, Mr. Thompson….”

And then Mr. Thompson went off, as though someone had just flipped a switch. At a high volume, Mr. Thompson accused Hans of racism, classism, discrimination against the homeless, just being mean, and having nothing better to do than to violate Mr. Thompson’s rights. Through it all, I watched as Hans’ face reddened and the hand holding the plate of food began to shake.

Finally, Hans asked loudly, “Do you want the food or not?”

Mr. Thompson flipped the switch back off and accepted the plate of food with a gracious smile and a “Yes, thank you.”

Then he turned to me and said, “Yeah, he’s going to do real well. He’s a good kid.”

Mr. Thompson left the area, eating his plate of food. Then I saw that Hans was staring at me as he realized that I had been in on it.

“What? It was training.”

Can’t You Smell That Smell?

When I was a young police officer, I was sent to check on a homeless person who was reported to have died on a bench outside the theater arts building. I found him lying on the bench, but saw, almost immediately, that he was breathing.


I woke him and asked him how he was doing and we had a short discussion, mostly so that I could determine what to do with him. I asked him where he was planning to go next and he said that he had had to sit down because his feet were hurting. I said, “Oh, what’s wrong with your feet?”

“I don’t know.”

I saw that there was a blackish fluid leaking from his shoe, so I encouraged him to take his shoe off so that we could see if he needed medical attention for his feet. I had to help him get the shoe off, because he was having difficulty, but I was wearing gloves so I didn’t think there would be a problem.

The smell hit me as if it was a physical force and almost knocked me down. My eyes watered and I gagged. His foot was bright pink with black nails and had a blackish liquid oozing from cracks in his heel. I excused myself and walked to a spot about thirty feet away, five feet past the end of the odor, and called for paramedics to respond. As my brain began to receive oxygen again, I realized that the man was probably diabetic and his feet had filled with gangrene from some infection that he had never sought help for.

When the paramedics arrived, they asked where the patient was and I pointed. They looked at me oddly, like, “Why are you standing way over here?”

They started walking toward the man, but reached an invisible line that stopped them in their tracks. They looked back at me again, this time like “You could have warned us,” and went back to the ambulance to get masks and something that they sprayed in them, then went to work.

Ultimately, the man was taken to the county hospital, but I found him on campus just a couple of weeks later. I asked him how his trip to the Emergency Room had gone. He was very agitated and explained,

They were going to cut my legs off, so I left!

You didn’t let them treat you? I asked.

Hell, no! Didn’t you hear me? They were going to cut my legs off! (Released against medical advice.)

The transit police found him a couple of weeks later, dead on a bus bench.

Now, anytime I smell something significantly bad, I have flashbacks to him.

I Will Turn This Car Around

I was driving my minivan, with my wife in the passenger seat and my high school-aged daughter, in the back with a couple of her friends. I don’t remember where we were going, but I do remember that when I reached a ramp in the freeway that I normally would take to go to work, I took that route. Then I realized that I was not going to work. A quick glance in my side view mirror and I jerked back into the lane where I had been.

But I hadn’t looked closely enough, because as I looked in my rearview mirror, I realized that there was a Highway Patrol vehicle right there and the only way that he could be there is if he had been in my blind spot when I changed lanes back onto the freeway. I took the very next exit.

My wife and the kids suddenly asked where I was going, as that is not where we were headed.

“I’ve got to pull over for the Chippie.”

“But he’s not pulling you over.”

We reached the surface street and I saw a safe location to pull over. Just as I reached that curb, the lights turned on and the siren bleated.

“He is now.”


“Because I cut him off.”

The van became silent. The Chippie approached on the passenger side, as they do, and asked for my documents. He was young, probably on the job for no more than a year or two. I gave him my license, registration, and insurance, which I had ready when he arrived.

“Sir, do you know why I stopped you, today?”

“Yes, officer, I crossed the gore point and then cut you off when I returned to the freeway.” The girls in the back giggled, noticeably.

The Chippie looked confused, but nodded and walked back to his car. The giggling from the back got louder.

Presently, the Chippie returned and showed me the citation (just unsafe lane change) and began to explain that signing the citation was not an admission of guilt.

The giggling erupted again. A voice from the back, “He knows.”

Now the Chippie looked annoyed and he turned toward the back of the van. “How does he know?”

“He’s a cop,” came the response, and now full laughter.

The expression on the Chippie’s face changed and now he looked a little concerned. Was he being set up? Was this some kind of sting, making sure he was doing his job right? He turned to me as I handed back his citation book, now bearing my autograph.

“You didn’t say anything,” he stuttered, unsure of himself now.

“I just need my copy, please.”

He handed it to me and walked away, looking as though he had done something wrong (he had not) and the young women behind me in the van all burst out into raucous laughter.

I got us back on the road and headed to where we were supposed to be. A few weeks later, I received my notice and sent in a check for $248. All in all, I got off easy.


Working a regular patrol shift on a particularly, hot, bad day (rough calls for service, angry people, no-win situations, difficult co-workers), I was frustrated and distracted. I was thirsty and headed back to the police station to write my reports and wait for the next stupid call that would test my patience and push my buttons. When I saw the 7 Eleven, I decided that I would grab a guava soda.

Many of you may not remember, but in the 1990s, there was a brand of sugared, flavored, carbonated, mineral water sold under the brand name, Koala Springs, and the guava flavored variety was my favorite. I grabbed a 24 oz. bottle, just about every work day from the 7-Eleven, for only about $6. Yeah, I know, that is an expensive way to purchase diabetes, but don’t worry, I used cheaper options, as well. Anyway, like Lifesavers soda, and Jolt Cola, Koala Springs fell out of favor (following a Benzene scare and complete recall of thousands of bottles of soda) and eventually disappeared. But back in the early 90s, I was still buying my highly flammable sodas by the quart.

Koala Sodas

So anyway, back to my bad day. Now, I don’t know if I was trying to put together the details of my report or if I was thinking of inventive ways to tell off my annoying co-worker or if I was simply shutting my brain down. I don’t remember what I was thinking. I walked into the 7-Eleven, strode to the cooler, grabbed my Koala drink, and walked toward the front of the store. I walked past several people waiting at the register and exited, unlocking my patrol car and getting in. I sat there for a moment, thinking, “did I forget something?” and slowly realized that I had not paid for my drink.

I climbed back out of the car and meandered into the 7 Eleven. Everyone watched me as I walked to the back of the line and waited with my drink in one hand and my debit card in the other.

“Sorry, I don’t know what just happened there. I think I thought I was at home.”

Everyone laughed. Thank goodness.

That Rings True

One of my officers had stopped a car and after a few minutes called for a supervisor. I responded out and saw the officer standing beside his car, behind the Lincoln Town Car he had pulled over. It was about 1 AM, and dark, with street lights in a downtown neighborhood with a high crime rate.

“DUI?” I asked.

“No. There are two guys in the car and neither one of them has any ID on them. The driver keeps telling me he’s a famous football player, Blah Blah.” (I’m not going to include his name because I don’t want to get sued).

I shrugged my shoulders because I had never heard of him, but then again, I’m not really a football person and this guy had played in the late 70s, early 80s. The original officer was not a big football fan either, so we were a little stumped as the guy had a somewhat common name and we were not finding a match in the database for a drivers license.

I approached the driver and asked him his name. He looked at me in shock and said, “I’m Blah Blah,” in a manner that suggested, of course he is. He then handed me his Superbowl Ring. I can now say that I’ve held a real Superbowl Ring. He kept telling me, “I’m Blah Blah,” like repeating it was going to make me realize who he was. Finally, I handed the ring back and walked back to the other officer.

I asked the officer what the stop was for and he explained that the Town Car had been driving around the small neighborhood several times, driving into a couple of different parking lots and driving back out, and finally did so without turning on their headlights. The officer believed that the two men were looking for either drugs or prostitutes or both, but just weren’t familiar enough with the neighborhood to know where to look.

But since the officer didn’t have anything else to go on and a couple of tries on the date of birth finally brought up a driver license, the officer let them go with a warning.

The next morning, I called my brother-in-law who happened to be a die hard fan of the team that Blah Blah had said he played for. I asked my brother-in-law if he knew who Blah Blah was and said that we had stopped him earlier that morning. My brother-in-law was very excited and said that of course he new who Blah Blah was and gave me a run down of his career.

Finally, he asked, “What did you guys stop him for?”

I responded, “We thought he might be looking to buy drugs or prostitutes.”

My brother-in-law didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, yep. That would be him.”