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Police work is certainly filled with unknown and unseen perils. Without a doubt, it’s a job that comes with a long list of hazards. Aside from the obvious dangers—fights, stabbings, car crashes, shootings, etc.—one of the most gut-wrenching threats to officers is known universally as the dreaded “Open Mic.”

Open Mic – When an officer unknowingly presses the transmit button on his portable radio and is broadcasting everything he/she says and does to anyone and everyone.

And this, one cold, winter night, is when an open mic caused a bit of embarrassing grief for Captain “Jim” and a young female dispatcher I’ll call Geraldine for the purpose of this post. You see where this is going, right?

I was working late that night, wrapping up after a successful raid on a crack dealer’s house, when I heard the “dead air.” A sound, or lack thereof, that’s unmistakable and easily recognizable to officers everywhere. It usually starts out with a bout of silence, followed by faint traffic noises, a car radio playing somebody’s favorite tune, or maybe a conversation. This faux pas often occurs when an officer leans over to one side and accidentally depresses the talk button on his belt-mounted walkie-talkie. Seat belt connections are notorious for pushing the button inward. However, when the officer moves the button is released and all is well. No problem.

Sometimes, though, what comes spewing from the speaker is downright porn. You know, the officer is at home for lunch with the spouse and things get a bit heated and the next thing you know off goes the gun belt. The officer drops the belt to the floor where the radio talk button becomes jammed against the point of a high heel or a chair leg. And, well, “lunch time” is instantly broadcasted to everyone with a police radio and/or scanner. Not good. No, not good at all. No, sir.

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Anyway, back to Captain Jim’s troubles.

I heard the dead air followed by the sound of voices, a man and woman. It quickly became apparent that the male was our boss, Captain Jim. The female’s voice was difficult to pinpoint. Familiar, somewhat, but I had a hard time figuring out who she was because of all the screaming … “Oh, Jim! Oh, Jim! Yes, Jim! Oh, Jim! Yeeeesssssss, Jiiimmmm!!!!

Next, I heard a bit of light smooches and then a few odd, indiscernible clicks and rattles.

Then … silence.

Suddenly, an exasperated voice spewed from the speaker in my car, and from, I’m sure, every police car radio in the entire network—city police, county deputies, state police, and every household where a police scanner sat perched on somebody’s grandpa’s nightstand. Even worldwide should someone happen to be listening in on their computer or cell phone from Padooky, Kansas, or Fryonion, Nevada, or Crookedfoot, Alaska. Or even as far away as China, Russia, or Australia. It’s possible.

“S**t! The door’s locked,” said Captain Jim.

“What?” said the female voice who I immediately recognized as that of Geraldine, one of the night shift dispatchers. “Stop joking,” she said.

“I’m not kidding,” said Captain Jim. “I forgot about not being able to open the back doors on patrol cars.” A pause, then, “I knew I should’ve driven my own car, dammit.”

“What are we going to do?” said Geraldine.

“I’ll have to call someone … oh, s**t, the mic’s open.”

That’s the precise moment when the hot microphone died and regular radio traffic resumed.

The next voice I heard on the radio was Captain Jim calling me, asking if I was available to come to his location. He told me he was at an old abandoned runway out at the county’s private airport. Meeting an informant is the reason he gave for being there. Yeah, right.

I ten-foured him and headed out to the airport, grinning all the way as I imagined the captain and Geraldine trapped in the backseat area behind the partition, waiting patiently for me to come rescue them. I also had thoughts of all the folks who’d urinated or puked or bled in the backseat currently being used as a cozy little love nest.

I drove to the end of one runway and then turned left onto the cracked and pot-hole littered asphalt of the abandoned runway, and there, parked among a stand of tall weeds and overgrown shrubs and sycamore trees, and rusty, old appliances someone had discarded, is where I saw the police car. No one was visible in the vehicle. Not that I could see, that is, because the windows were heavily steamed.

I parked my unmarked car, got out, and walked over to the rear door on the driver’s side where I grabbed the handle and pulled it open. Then I turned around and went back to my car and drove away.

Neither Captain Jim nor I ever spoke about that night. I figured what happened out there was none of my business. I do know, however, that I was never denied a single vacation request from that night forward.

 

Have you hear the rumor? You know the one, that some people are simply not wired to be cops.Shocking, isn’t it?

There, I’ve said it. And and I’m not spreading gossip because, sadly, it’s true.

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that it takes a special kind of person to successfully wear a gun and badge, and to live and work in a manner that coincides with their sworn oath.

Sure, “law dawgs” come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and from varying backgrounds. But there was one officer who, for numerous reasons, shouldn’t have made it past the interview stage, let alone advance to actually working the streets. This pint-sized, woefully inadequate cop was quickly nicknamed “The Little Cop Who Couldn’t.”

Before I delve into the tale of the cop who had to sit on a pillow to see above the steering wheel in their patrol car, we need to assign a name to the officer—a gender-neutral name to protect the identity of the thumbnail version of a real police officer. By doing so, it’ll allow you to paint your own mental picture of him/her. The name I choose is Pat (could go either way with this one – remember Pat on SNL?).

The story goes something like this…

Pat was a unique police officer who stood at a towering 4’10” tall, with shoes on. Not a single supply company stocked police uniforms in toddler sizes, so Pat’s clothing had to be specially made and ordered from a company located in a remote corner of None Such County.

Even then, with None Such’s finest clothing maker assigned to the task, a good bit of onsite tailoring was required, snipping here and stitching there, to insure a proper fit. To provide a better picture of the size of this person, had someone bronzed Pat’s Bates work footwear they’d have looked a lot like “baby’s first shoes.”

During basic training, one of the practical exercises for the class was to direct traffic at a busy city intersection. Trainees were required to be in full uniform for the exercise, including hats. Well, they just don’t make police hats that small, so Pat borrowed one from a fellow classmate.

The hat was the thing that sent the rest the class over the edge. The minuscule officer looked like a kid playing dress-up in adult clothing.

Not the actual Pat.

We each took a turn in the intersection, stopping traffic  to permit left turns, right turns, and allowing cars to travel forward. We repeated the process until our instructor felt comfortable with our ability to control traffic flow.

Then it was Pat’s turn. So the recruit in the intersection, a full-sized officer, successfully stopped traffic in all four directions to allow Pat to assume the position in the middle of the street.

Then, with arms outstretched and a short blast from a whistle, Pat then sharply and crisply motioned for one lane of traffic to move forward. And, for a brief moment, all was going well until Pat gave the whistle another tweet to stop the oncoming traffic and then turned to the left to start the next lane of traffic moving. Well, Pat’s cantaloupe-size head turned left, rotating inside the big-man-size cap. But, instead of moving in sync with the turning head, the too-large hat remained facing forward. The entire class erupted in laughter, as did many of the drivers who were absolutely confused about what they should do next.

Our instructor rushed out into the ensuing traffic jam to straighten out the mess and calm the drivers who used their car horns to blast their displeasure. Pat, in a moment of self-induced blindness because the hat had slipped even further down the face, totally blocking any hope of seeing, well, anything. Unfortunately, during the melee Pat dropped the whistle onto the pavement and when attempting to retrieve it, lost the hat. Of course the swift evening wind gusts sent it rolling into the lines of moving cars and trucks.

Pat once responded to a shoplifting call—an 11-year-old girl swiped a candy bar from a local K-Mart—and just as Pat was about to enter the store the little kid ran outside. Pat grabbed the little darlin’ who then pushed Pat down to the pavement. Pat got up and grabbed the 70-ish-pound kid and it was on.

According to bystanders, who, by the way, called 911 to report an officer needing assistance, said the child was absolutely beating the tar out of Pat. One witness told responding officers that Pat closely resembled one of those blow-up clown punching bags that pops back upright after each blow.

Then there was the time when Pat’s fellow officers had responded to a large fight outside a local bar. The dispatcher cautioned that weapons were involved and that several people were already injured and down. Pat was in the middle of answering a domestic he-said/she-said when the call came in.

When officers responding to the brawl saw the massive crowd they immediately called for backup, which, at that point, meant calling in sheriff’s deputies and state troopers since every available officer, except Pat, was already on the scene. The fight was a tough battle and officers and bad guys were basically going at it, toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow. Officers were outnumbered 4-to-1, at least.

And then they heard it … a lone siren wailing and yelping in the distance, like the sound of a ship’s horn mournfully floating across vast salt water marshes at low tide. Soon, intermittent flashes of blue light began to reflect from brick storefronts and plate glass windows. And then, out of the darkness appeared Pat’s patrol car, bearing down on the parking lot and the fight that was well underway.

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Pat didn’t bother stopping at the curb. Instead, the teeny-tiny officer who, if you recall, had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel (no, I’m not kidding), pulled the car directly into the parking lot beside the action, flung open the car door, and stepped out. Well, sort of.

Pat’s pistol somehow had become entangled in the seat belt, which sort of reeled Pat back into the car like a Yo-Yo on the upswing. Pat’s Maglite hit the pavement, coming apart and spilling batteries in all sorts of directions. The pillow fell out of the car and slid beneath the vehicle. And the hat … Pat had donned the cop/bus driver hat, which, of course remained motionless while Pat’s head spun around like a lighthouse beacon as he/she surveyed the scene.

Suddenly, as if a magic spell had been cast, the fight stopped, with everyone turning to watch “The Pat Show” unfold. Even the bad guys chuckled at the ridiculousness before them—Pat on hands and knees retrieving lost gear and, of course, the pillow. But, at least the fight was over.

By the way, Pat’s hands were so small that the department had to purchase a pistol that’s a bit smaller than standard cop issue. However, Pat’s index finger was still too short to reach the trigger. So he/she learned to shoot using his/her middle finger when firing the sidearm. Didn’t matter, because Pat failed to shoot a satisfactory score during the first annual weapons qualification.

So, I guess the true test of becoming a police officer is not how strong the desire or how big the heart, it’s how well the head fits the hat. And, of course, you must be “this tall” to drive a police car.