It was hot and humid, and the nighttime crept into every crevice, like the swarm of cockroaches in my own cheap downtown apartment, where lately I’d taken to expressing my displeasure with their presence by use of a number three wood…Sorry, got carried away. Actually, it was a warm night and I was on patrol with a trainee in the driver seat. Driving through campus, well after last call, we began hearing laughter and voices in the dark, winding along the walkways, until we saw a crowd of young, drunk people in mobile party mode. The trainee crept up on them (in a full size, Crown Vic, engine growling, headlights illuminating them all) until we could see that each and every one of them was carrying a sign, or barricade, or traffic cone, or in other words, something stolen.
I got on the public address system and ordered them all to, “STOP.”
And like a nest of Sage Grouse, they took off in all directions. Until the trainee hit the lights and siren. That was the signal that made them all sober up and realize that they were in small trouble, but that it could become big trouble, very quickly. They all stood stock still at this point, as if they realized that I had not said, “Simon Says Run.”
There were nine of them, altogether, and the trainee informed them that they were each under arrest for petty theft. We collected their IDs, except for one young woman who had run for a little bit longer than the rest. She happened to be a little person, and didn’t have the speed to outrun us, especially holding a sandwich board sign that said, “Caution. Wet Floor.” Since we couldn’t fit all nine of them into the car, we walked them back to the police station. Well, the trainee walked them back. I followed along in the car.
But it wasn’t until we reached the station that we developed a problem. We were able to identify and issue citations to all nine of the young people, except one, the young woman with the “Wet Floor” sign. She had given us a name and date of birth, but the date of birth was off by a few days, and she didn’t seem that drunk. And her height was off by a few inches (she stood about three feet, one inches tall, but the driving record we found said three feet, four inches). As we released the other young people with their citations, one of the young men told us that the misidentified women was giving us her sister’s name. Another of the young men asked why he would tell us that. The first young man said that he knew, and liked, the other sister and didn’t want her to get arrested for some warrant because this sister lied. Which shut down the complaints about snitches.
With everyone released except for (we will call her Kim, even though she kept giving the name Kathy), who now sat in a holding cell, grumbling. I asked the trainee what he wanted to do. He had to think about it for a few minutes and then do some research before he came back with his answer. Simply giving a fake name to the police is a misdemeanor, but giving out a real name that could get someone else in trouble, is a felony, and because he was in training, he felt he had to make the felony arrest. The trainee gave Kim one last chance to tell the truth and when she refused, even after he asked if Kim wasn’t her real name, he placed her in handcuffs and told her she was going to jail.
This made Kim very angry. Perhaps she was a perfectly nice human being when sober, but as so many of us know, some people are just hostile when they drink. And this is where she tried to bite the trainee, and then kick the trainee. Using extreme caution, we were able to escort her back out to the patrol car and into the back seat. Kim wiggled her way out of the seat belt, rolled onto her back and began kicking at the windows of the police car. Fortunately, this car happened to have bars on the windows, so I wasn’t concerned. The trainee nearly panicked, pulling the car over to see what should be done next. I told him not to go back and try to fix it because all we needed was to lose a three foot tall prisoner because we were afraid to hurt her, wrestling her back into the seatbelt. I am not an expert in the variety of genetics that result in these conditions, but I know enough that I understand that little people’s bodies do not necessarily bend and move in the same manner as mine, and I didn’t want to experiment with Kim’s flexibility on this night.
I told the trainee to have dispatch call the jail and let them know that we had a combative prisoner who was kicking the windows and was likely going to fight when we arrived at Lower Booking. This usually resulted in several corrections officers meeting us in the sallyport, where we parked the police cars, and taking the prisoner into the jail for us, thus reducing the chance that the overpowered prisoner can get hurt or hurt us. We pulled into the sallyport at jail, and saw the gates at the entrance and exit close, trapping us inside.
While we waited for the corrections officers to arrive, I tried one more time to reason with Kim. I explained that it was likely that the corrections officers were going to carry her in, if she didn’t cooperate. She agreed to go in under her own power, and the trainee and I cautiously removed her from the back seat and walked her into the entrance of Lower Booking. As we walked in, a crew of about six corrections officers double-timed their way past us, out into the sallyport, ready to take control of our combative prisoner. A little embarrassed, because I should have caught them on the way out, I told the desk officer that we were the officers with the combative prisoner.
Seconds later, the officers returned, and saw my prisoner, all three feet and one inch of her, and they began to laugh. They thought that I had played a practical joke on them. They told me how funny they thought I was and that they appreciated the funny break in their shift. Then I told them my prisoner was theirs. I let go of her shoulder as one of the corrections officers took the other shoulder and said, “We got her.”
There was then a flurry of blue jumpsuits surrounding what looked a little like the Tasmanian Devil from Warner Brothers cartoons whirling about. Now, there was still laughing, the kind of surprised laughing that comes with the phrase, “Wow, that nail went all the way through my foot,” or “Who knew a dachshund could do that kind of damage.” Instead, amid the laughter was shouts of:
“Ow, she bit me.”
“Look out, she’s kicking.”
“Jesus, doesn’t anyone have her?”
“Somebody call a supervisor.”
“Waist chains won’t fit.”
“Ow, she bit me.” (Again).
“I’m not laughing anymore.”
And then we dropped off our paperwork, and we were gone, scurrying away like squirrels in a large dog’s yard. Done.
The following week, I returned to the jail to book another prisoner. As I went inside, the desk officer pointed at me and then pointed down. On the wall in front of him, I saw a piece of masking tape about four feet off the ground.
Written on the tape, in black Sharpie was, “You must be this tall to be booked into this facility.”