Some people are their own worst enemies. No matter what bad situation they find themselves, they can always choose the best way to make it so, so much worse. Let’s take the case of Don South (Not his real name, but not because I’m trying to protect his privacy, I just don’t remember).
Whenever the university hosted large concerts, a certain number of police officers were hired to provide security and various other functions, one of those functions being outside the venue itself, in the parking garages and on the grounds of the campus, stopping fights, enforcing drug and alcohol violations, and contacting and dissuading concert merchandise bootleggers.
During one particular event, there were about eight officers working the event and only two officers assigned to patrol, including me. And since I was the senior officer on the patrol shift, that made me Watch Commander and although that sounds important, it really just means that I’m the lucky one who has to wake up a Lieutenant in the middle of the night if an important decision needed to be made. Anyway, I was the Watch Commander, supervising the only other officer on patrol.
One of the event officers had stopped a bootlegger in the parking garage and asked for backup. Since I was close, I walked over to help out and found the officer, Bob Nope, obtaining identifying information from the man, whom we call Don South, today. But when Bob ran the guy’s name for warrants and identification, nothing came up. That suggested to us that someone was lying about their name. Bob told me that he had seen Don put something down in the bushes, so I went to check. Now, please keep in mind that at this point, the worst that was going to happen, in our minds, was that he was going to get a citation for illegal commercial sales on university property, but most likely, he was going to be released after we identified him.
I found a small duffel bag and brought it over to where Don was still lying to Bob.
“Is this yours?” I asked.
“No, I’ve never seen that before in my life.”
Okay. I put it down and opened it up.
“Hey,” he shouted, suddenly upset. “You can’t open that.”
“Because it isn’t yours, you need a warrant.”
“Um, it’s found property. I have to search it to make a diligent attempt to find an owner. Maybe the owner has their name and contact information inside.”
Don just fumed while I searched and Bob continued to ask him questions about his identity. Inside the duffel, I found bootleg concert t-shirts, lots of them. And then, at the bottom of the bag, I found an airline ticket for the next day. In the name of Ned North (again, I just don’t remember the name). I held up the airline ticket.
“See?” I said. “Now I can contact the owner.”
“That’s mine,” he said.
“I thought that you’d never seen this bag before.”
“I haven’t. I just know that’s my airline ticket.”
I looked at the name on the airline ticket. “What’s your name again?”
He looked up at Bob and Bob smiled at him, waiting to see if he told the truth or lied. Don scowled. “Don South.”
“So it isn’t yours,” I told him. He remained silent.
I took the airline ticket and tucked it back into the duffel, zipped up the bag, and began walking back to the police station.
“Hey!” Don shouted. “That’s my airline ticket. You have to give me back my ticket.”
I kept walking and Bob kept filling out his Field Interview card, a 3×5 card with all of the personal information he told us. As I made my way back to the police station, I heard Bob on the radio say that he had taken a police report and issued Don a Notice of Withdrawal of Consent to Remain on Campus. (Aside: For those that are unfamiliar with this term, educational institution police in California have a law that allows us to bar someone from campus for two weeks. Essentially, we are like the old town, Hollywood sheriffs who can tell people to be out of town by sundown. Only for us, we can “direct” people to leave the campus and not return for two weeks.)
So I got back to the police station and booked the duffel bag into property, awaiting someone named “Ned North” to come pick up the t-shirts and airline ticket. Did I mention that the airline ticket was for the next morning at 10:00 A.M.ish?
Anyway, I went into the dispatch center and another event officer called on the radio and told me that Don had walked across the street, to the 7 Eleven, which was off-campus and was currently using a pay phone there. (Aside #2: A pay phone is a landline, fixed into a metal box that took coins to make it work. They were very common in their day.) The officer said that on the scanner, the city police had dispatched some officers on a robbery because I guy dressed like a cop had stolen the reporting party’s airplane ticket. About five minutes later, event officers radioed that two City police officers had rolled up and were talking to Don in the 7 Eleven parking lot.
The dispatcher answered the phone and then handed the phone to me.
Event officer. “Hey, we went over and talked to the city guys and explained what had happened so they are talking to him now.” I thanked the officer for the update.
The dispatcher answered the phone and then handed the phone to me. “For the Watch Commander.”
“This is the Watch Commander,” I said. “How can I help you?”
“Yeah, so I was stopped by one of your cops earlier and he took my airplane ticket and I need to get it back.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m the officer that took the airplane ticket, but it couldn’t possibly have been yours. It wasn’t in your name and it was in a bag that you had never seen before.”
“I want to talk to the Watch Commander!” he shouted.
“I am the Watch Commander,” I replied.
“NO YOU’RE NOT!” he screamed and the phone disconnected.
Event officer on the radio. “PacBell is going to have to repair that phone, now. He slammed that down really hard.” Pause. “The city cops are talking to him again.” Longer pause. “Okay. The city guys are leaving and he’s walking away.”
And then it seemed we were done with the great airline ticket caper. The concert continued and as the activity died down, some of the event officers were cleared to go home. Bob was one of those officers and he was at the dispatch window, checking in his equipment. I was briefing the Watch Commander for the next shift, as my shift was ending and I was also getting ready to go home. I heard a commotion and some shouting outside the office and stepped out to see what was going on.
And there at the entrance to the police station, Bob was arresting Don South. Bob put him in handcuffs and loaded him into a holding cell. As Bob came out, I asked, “What the hell?”
Bob shook his head. “Apparently, after he found out that you were the Watch Commander, the city cops told him to come in and talk to the next shift Watch Commander. But he forgot he had been banned from campus. When he walked up, I hooked him up.”
I finished up my work, dressed down into my street clothes, gathered my things, and started out the front door to go home, about 1:00 AM. Bob was still filling out his booking paperwork, so I leaned into the holding area and told Don, “Good night.” And I went home, him screaming at me the whole time.
A couple of weeks later, I was down at jail, booking a suspect in, and stopped off to talk to a friend at the release review desk. (Aside #3: Court staff here review the booking paperwork and determine if someone can be released on their own recognizance or if they had to be held for an appearance with a judge.) So my friend asked if I was involved with Don South’s arrest. I told him I was and this is the story he told me.
So Don got fingerprinted as soon as he was booked. Standard practice. So within twenty minutes of booking, they knew he was Ned North and not Don South. They also new that Ned North had a $50k warrant for his arrest in Orange County. But Ned was still claiming to be Don. At his first judge appearance, the judge asked Ned for his true name and Ned still claimed to be Don. The judge sent him back to holding without any other questions. After a few days and a couple more tries by the judge, Ned admitted his true name, when he realized that he was fooling no one. And Orange county sent a bus up to get him.
So the truth hurts for a little while, but lies hurt forever. Or at lease for several days longer than it has to.