Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gosh and Oh My Heck

I posted my thoughts regarding the degradation of society after having read about the woman who was issued a ticket for a bumper sticker that included vulgarity (linked via title bar). If you’re familiar with the Paul Harvey Radio Show, this next part might be considered, “the rest of the story”
I need to place a cautionary warning prior to going forward; having been a police officer for twenty years, I might have incorporated some less than exemplary communication skills. I will include a police story based on my personal experience, not so much to justify my use of vulgarity as to identify myself to my readers. It is not my intention to offend while in that same sentence I wouldn’t want to appear hypocritical either; in short, I plead guilty to having profaned the English language. Professor Higgins would have me “taken out and hung for the cold blooded murder of the English tongue”.

While working night shift patrol late in the 80’s or possibly the early 90’s I was dispatched around midnight to transport a prisoner arrested by an off duty officer working for a large well known grocery/general store. The officer had followed a woman in her mid 40’s around the store as she stuffed various items away in her coat to keep from having to pay. The arrest was done properly as the woman exited the store and she was taken to the security office to be processed.

I looked over the items stolen; a little girl’s comb and brush, some jacks and a couple of other unrelated items totaling just over twenty dollars. I talked with the woman while the off duty officer was on the phone with the District Attorney’s office. It didn’t take long to determine that her elevator didn’t go all the way to the top floor; she may have been in her 40’s but her mind was 6 maybe 7 at best, she was “touched”.

“The DA said he’d accept charges; here’s my report.” The young officer was showing off in front of the store manager as if to say, “See, I did a good job and even the DA said so.” I wasn’t as impressed with his decision to place the woman in the county jail rather than turn her over to family for safe keeping and I told him so in an unvarnished way.

“This is pure bullshit!” I told the young officer; pointing out that you don’t have to take everything to the extreme regardless of the dollar and twenty cents over the arbitrary limit needed to raise the offence from municipal to county. I took out my traffic ticket book and wrote the woman a municipal court ticket, drove her home to family members who were worried out of their minds about where she’s wandered off and then filled out a supplement report explaining why I hadn’t taken the proposed legal route of filing county court charges and putting the “hardened criminal” behind bars.

A few weeks later I was called into my supervisor’s office and notified that the young officer had complained that I’d embarrassed him in front of his off duty employment boss by the use of the word “bullshit”. I was asked to justify my use of vulgar language, something which is specifically listed in the rules and general orders of the police department.

I wrote my formal letter of explanation via the chain of command, never once denying my use of those words and received a written reprimand for violating those rules and regulations. Nothing in the letter of reprimand was directed toward my decision not to toss the woman in the county jail and it was assumed that my actions were justified based on my field experience; only my use of profanity in a closed office away from the public was in question.

Formal proceedings are nothing to take lightly in the police department; all the same, my immediate supervisors were having to bite their tongues to keep from saying anything off color as they looked at the junior officer and shook their heads in disbelief. One Sergeant actually asked the officer if his ears were still on fire for having been in the presence of a swear word and asked if he’d chosen the right profession. I was instructed to use the term “male bovine excrement” in the future as the Sergeant attempted to muffle an irrepressible laugh.

I could plead “no contest”, being damaged goods and for having been corrupted by years of exposure to the dregs of society; but that isn’t what I said to start out with. I’m guilty and I admit it. Every now and again I slip backwards and police terminology takes the place of civilized conversation. I’m a work in progress and hope to one day eliminate, gosh and oh my heck; I should have chosen a different word than “eliminate”, such thoughts and words from my vocabulary.

No comments: