Blauer - Tactical Clothing & Equipment

05/07/18
"He's Here" - By Lt. Tim Cotton

The shift had been quiet and that was always concerning to him. Each squawk of the Motorola radio would cause him to cringe a little bit. Each time the feeling would pass as the dispatcher called out someone else’s radio number.

At the station, everyone is referred to by their last name, maybe a nickname. On the road everyone is a number.

There are nights that it feels like you are playing an imaginary game of Battleship and the dispatcher has honed in on your carrier group, with every call hitting the target. Tonight she was missing by a mile.

He had backed up officers on a couple of minor calls. It was always a pleasure to back someone up on a call. The reports were not his to write. He was there for physical or moral support. Hopefully, the latter.

Moral support was appreciated by the other officers. Another set of eyes, maybe some insight or an opinion. Nothing too taxing. The shift would be over in two hours.

The road was wet from the melting snow and it caused the headlamp’s ambient light to be soaked into the blackness like water to a dry sponge. The window was down and the cold air felt pleasant. Aiming the round dash vent correctly caused the air to be slightly warmer but still had the desired effect of keeping him alert. His black coffee was a nice chaser to the cool cocktail of wind and warmth.

B-beat had an active domestic disturbance. The woman on the porch asked a passerby to call the police as she walked back into her apartment. The caller saw the look in the woman’s eyes and knew that her quiet request was earnest. The Samaritan called 911 on her cellphone and stood a short distance up the street. She told the dispatcher that she could hear loud voices. She was not sure what they were saying. She heard a child crying. She was asked to stay on the phone until the officers arrived.

He turned the cruiser around and while it was not on his assigned beat, it didn’t matter. He was closer than #726. Of course unit #726 would be coming as well, but he would not arrive first.

In this job the minutes sometimes feel like hours, especially to a victim. He pulled up before the others and parked about a 50 yards up the street, shut the lights off, and placed the cruiser in park. He could see the woman on the sidewalk, she was standing back to him and still on the phone with dispatch. She didn’t hear him walking up behind her as the soft snow muffled his footsteps. He spoke softly in order to avoid jumping her. She turned quickly and appeared relieved when she saw the uniform.

She said, “He’s here,” into the phone. It had a nice ring to it. “He’s here.” It reminded him of when his mother used to use the phrase when his father drove into the yard after work. Mom was great, but having dad home made him feel safer. The way mom would say it indicated that she felt safer too.

He could hear the muffled hollering from the apartment and it caused him to become more focused. The lady looked scared but stated that the woman from the apartment told her to call the police. She had not said anything else.

He walked toward the porch and did what he had done so many times before. He interjected himself directly into a situation that he knew nothing about. Yet, he was the person that had been asked to fix it. At least plumbers know where the leak is when they arrive. He never could solder a joint that didn’t leak water. It was partially the reason he had become a cop.

The job sometimes feels like you are a really bad actor trying your hand at improvisational psychology.

This is the part where he was supposed to knock. The door was ajar. Through the dirty glass he could see a woman standing in the living room, a man sitting in a chair, and a child crying in the doorway to a bedroom.

He knocked hard enough so that the door swung open and the woman said, “Come in.” His boot was already well past the threshold and he glanced around the kitchen/living room area for weapons, alcoholic beverages, or items that were knocked over or spilled. There were no signs of a struggle or physical confrontation. There was a knife on the counter near a previously frozen, and now partially consumed, pizza. The knife had mozzarella on it, indicating to him that it had been used for its intended purpose. There were no liquor or beer bottles to be seen and the couple was silent. She had been crying.

The man looked angry and asked her if she called the police. He ignored the presence of the officer and was trying to play the sympathy card. Passive aggressive words like this triggered something inside the officer. It wasn’t anger but the look that came across his face certainly indicated to the man that he should avoid saying it twice. He didn’t.
The woman told him that she did not call the police. This was true. The officer interjected quickly that someone else had called for service and that he was just checking on the loud voices and crying child. He knew he needed to change the focus of the exchange onto himself. If the man was to become angry, he wanted it to be at the right person. That would make this go much more quickly but that would not calm the child. His focus became making it better for the young boy. He was positive that he would not make everyone happy tonight.

He asked for man to stay seated for a moment and walked between the couple to make sure he was a barrier against any attempted assault. He looked her in the eyes and asked her to step toward the bedroom and into the room with the child. The little guy was wearing Stormtrooper pajamas. The Stormtroopers were wearing Santa hats. The officer had never seen these before but felt that he would definitely wear them if they came in his size.

Mom picked up the boy and swept him into the bedroom. The officer turned so that he could see the man and listen to the woman at the same time. Being alone in the initial stages of this type of encounter demands that everyone is watched, at least until he could read the situation. Being in the doorway of the bedroom allowed him to protect the mother and child as well as leave an avenue of escape for the man in the chair. It was probably unnecessary but you never know for sure until it becomes necessary.
The woman said that her ex-husband had shown up tonight with some money for neccessities, but now was refusing to leave the apartment. There had been no physical assault. Ex -husband was concerned about things in her personal life and had become vocal about it. There was no protection order in place and he had not assaulted her. He would not leave when she asked him to.

The young boy appeared to be three or four. He had stopped crying as mom sat on the bed with him and rubbed his back. The floor was littered with Legos. Exactly like a three or four year old boy’s room should be. The remnants of Star Wars Lego sets mingled with Nerf toys and Spiderman paraphernalia. Like a hash made of happy things. Perfect in a way.

She said that she did not want to keep the young boy away from his dad but that each time he stopped he seemed to become more focused on her personal life. For tonight she wanted him to leave.

The cop peeked over her shoulder at the boy’s face and smiled. The boy’s eyes turned away quickly. He didn’t push it as he knew that he could do more harm than good by forcing friendship on the lad. He asked her to stay in the bedroom and went to speak to the man who was listening to the conversation but staying away from the room.
The man gave similar account and said that he wanted some accountability about who was spending time with his family. The officer remained as neutral as a human being can be. He told the man that when he was asked to leave, his best option was always to leave. The man begrudgingly agreed.

The sound of boots kicking off slush and snow echoed from the old wooden porch. The call would belong to 726 as it was his beat. The two officers spoke softly and quickly as one briefed the other on what had led up to them being inside someone else’s home tonight.

The newly arrived and well seasoned officer drew his improvisational short straw and stepped into the conversation like he had been there the whole night. Skills that had come from repitition. Like his drama teacher had told him in high school, “Practice makes permanent.” It applies to police work as well.

The initial responding officer returned to the bedroom where the young boy played in the middle of the scattered Legos. He explained the process of getting a protection order to the woman. He used veiled terms in order to keep unnecessary details away from the boy sitting nearby. He gave her a couple of cards with information for support in these situations. She said she would be fine, but indicated that she appreciated the speech. She had heard it several times before tonight.

Her assumption was that things would just get better as time went on. He knew that it was possible, but not probable.

He dropped to one knee and just like at home, he felt the sharp pain of a tiny plastic brick shoot a searing electric shock into his aging patella. He hid the grimace and smiled at the boy. Tiny hands held up a small pirate ship. It was a sign of progress in their friendship. He took it gently from the boy and made out that it was the best pirate ship he had ever seen. At that specific moment in time, it was.

Three minutes on your knees with a small boy and a pirate ship are not enough to fix every problem, but they are enough to find out if he is going to leave carrots out for Santa’s reindeer and to inquire if he likes carrots. He will, and he does.

Before ushering the man from the apartment, the officers faded into the corners long enough for a dad to hug his son goodnight. The cloak of invisibility is not in our issued duty gear, but dark blue uniforms are remarkably transparent when necessary. Especially when worn by professional and competent police officers who are also parents.

The drive home put him in the dooryard well after the dishes were cleared from the table. As he walked up on the old wooden porch, he kicked off the slush and snow from his boots. He heard someone inside say, “He’s here.”

The pain had left his knee and he hoped the Legos were spread all over the living room so he could feel it again, but this time get a hug from his son. That always made the pain go away.

Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another.

TC



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