Tuesday, August 02, 2005

And don’t call me Shirley...

My back has been changing my sleep habits and last night I ended up reading blogs in the middle of the night when I should have been pushing Z’s, not that the little “Green Z” needs pushing; we just had it in for some routine maintenance and it’s running fine.

I read a great piece by a fellow goes by the moniker Cerberus where he detailed his cautions about blogging for anyone who serves in the capacity of police officer. I’ve been retired a while now and no such medium was available to me back then. It makes for a good read, and I recommend that you take a few moments to take in some of his thoughts; doesn’t matter if you’re a cop or not, the information is just as valid. Here is just one of his cautionary ideas:

“Never specifically identify anything or anyone at your place of work. (See: Cerberus, Some City, and Giant Red State. All figments of my imagination). How
can I interfere with or harm the operations of an imaginary agency in a place that never existed?”
For those of you old enough to remember the Dragnet television series, “the incident you are about to watch is true, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. My partner and I were working …” Jack Webb’s voice runs in my head still.

This morning I was a little groggy, gee, imagine that, as I sat reading my now nearly endless list of favorite bloggers. Jahn had posted a piece he called, “Terror on the Subway”. He and his companion were in Germany riding the rail on their monthly transit passes, something which gets checked randomly by undercover officials. As the doors to the subway car closed they reached inside their coats simultaneously.

“About a half-dozen Turks looked like they wanted to jump out the window. They thought we were Controllers!”

I had to laugh as I read the rest of Jahn’s article. I left a comment, something to the effect that way back when the Iranians were marching in the streets of Houston to protest US involvement, we as police officers had been instructed not to make any arrests or do anything that would upset the “delicate international situation”, what ever the hell that means. My partner and I would drive around and wave at them, when they would look in our direction I would raise my 35mm camera up and pretend to take a picture. There was no film in the camera; but they didn’t know that. We would then explain that all pictures would be handed over to the Iranian secret police at the end of shift and wonder out loud how many of these folks would “vanish” or just disappear mysteriously from the face of the earth. It was worth the price of admission to see the shear panic and fear sweep across their faces.

The art of deception took on varied forms in our limited capacity to “serve and protect”. We found that most motorists believed that every police car was equipped with radar for catching speeders; something that just wasn’t true. Rather than disappoint the public my partner and I invented the “fake radar trap”; something akin to Al Gore inventing the internet I’m sure. Now before you get your panties in a bind, this was NOT done as a means to issue traffic tickets without proper procedures; it was done in order to permit us the luxury of taking a break, to catch up on the newspaper or just take a short nap right there in front of God and everyone. Folks were too busy hitting the brakes to slow down when they saw our blue and white set up on the side of the busy thoroughfare; too concerned with their own worries to notice that the round object aimed down the street wasn’t a radar unit at all, it was a policeman’s saucer cap wedged in the window to look like a radar unit. We were “invisible” for a brief period and, by default, were still providing a service by slowing down potential speeders.

I used to set up my fake radar trap on the side of the freeway when I was in need of a thirty minute nap working day shift. One day I must have needed an hour or so, at least that’s how long I was out of it when a dear sweet little old lady rapped on the window and almost gave me heart failure.

“Are you alright, Officer?”, she asked in a most sincere manner, her concern for my well being at the highest level of human compassion. “I drove by and saw you slumped over and so I pulled over to see if you needed help.” I thanked the lady and gave her some lame explanation about not feeling well, something I’d had for breakfast not agreeing with me and waved to her as she drove off.

I was dispatched to work traffic around a stalled out 18 wheeler that had its transmission locked up on the down side of the large bridge that crosses the Houston Ship Channel. It was in the far right lane and there was no way to let it coast over to the shoulder so he was having to wait for a heavy duty wrecker to haul him off; an hour wait as we had been told. I determined that the safest way to close off the right lane was to position my patrol car at the crest of the bridge with my emergency lights flashing to alert drivers before they even got to the broken down truck. It was working so well that I took advantage of the time to catch up on some Z’s.

I have no idea how long it had been since the wrecker showed up. I glanced up from my slumbers and noticed that all the lanes were clear, no broken down truck. A mild panic hit me; how long had I been out of it? I put the patrol car in gear and eased myself off the bridge. About that time I heard my dispatcher put out a call for a unit to check on a possible “officer down” on the Ship Channel Bridge. I quickly picked up the mike and advised her to disregard, that I was just finishing up my traffic assignment with the stalled 18 wheeler. That was close.

If I were still active duty with the PD, none of this ever happened. I surely never would have written it down in a blog and signed my name to it. “And don’t call me Shirley.”

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