The phrase that pays…

I have to provide some backstory in order to not sound like a totally cynical prick before I provide you with the phrase that is sure to boil my blood while I’m in uniform.

You see, we in law enforcement do not write the laws we are tasked with enforcing, and at times the command staff dictates some laws are outside of the scope of our discretionary authority and demand a zero tolerance policy in the enforcement of those particular laws.  As a result, the well-intentioned officer of the law who conducts a traffic stop because of a minor traffic infraction at zero-dark-thirty in search of a drunk or general “up to no-gooder” that finds a non-US citizen without an operator’s license behind the wheel of a vehicle registered to a cleaning company is now mandated to not only impound the vehicle, but to charge the driver with a misdemeanor crime of operating a vehicle without ever obtaining a license.

Sounds great, right?  Except that the individual can’t get an operator’s license because he or she doesn’t have a social security number which is required by the BMV before an operator’s license can be issued.  So the duty bound officer does as is required, feeling guilty the entire time for depriving the well-intentioned individual who is working to provide for his or her family of said ability to do so.  Gone are the days of just looking away or using discretion in the face of the mandatory policy, because the entire interaction has been recorded in the car and on the officer’s chest; video that is readily available to the same command staff that decided that the individual officer cannot cut a break in this instance.

After securing a ride for the driver of the vehicle and waiting for a tow truck to haul the vehicle away, the officer is dispatched to a domestic dispute.  When the responding officers arrive they are confronted with a man and his wife who are screaming at each other in front of their small children.  The dirty little urchins who have been placed in the center of the argument are vocally supporting one or another parent as the adults are separated and their respective stories are relayed to the investigating officers.

Mom is adamant that dad shoved her and wants to pursue charges, and there is some evidence available to support her claim.  Dad denies any physicality occurred and is instructed to quietly come outside but refuses to do so.  The officer discretely informs him that he is going to be arrested for domestic battery and expresses that it would not be good for the children to see dad handcuffed and hauled away.  Dad now starts to berate mom for having him arrested and now the children are getting more upset and are screaming at a fever’s pitch.

Setting a fine example for his young son, dad decides to pull away from the officer who is now trying to handcuff him to remove him from the scene and begins to yell profanities at the officers.  Dad squares up to an officer and puts a shoulder charge into him as the other officer deploys a Taser right before the little boy runs to daddy’s aid.  With dad now in handcuffs and facing additional charges for resisting arrest and battery on law enforcement, he is relayed to the jail while sobbing and professing his most sincere apologies followed immediately with assertions that he would’ve won a “fair fight”.

The non-transporting officer remains at the scene to provide victim notification information to the mother and is losing his attempt to calm the children.  After completing all statutory obligations at the domestic battery scene, the officer responds to assist on a “shots fired” call in another neighborhood in his beat.  Joined by others at the scene, they begin to hear a deep and low moaning sound behind one residence.  After making a tactical approach to ensure their own safety they find a male seated in a lawn chair who is bleeding profusely from his head.

The man is remarkably able to speak in spite of missing a large portion of his skull and informs the officers that he shot himself in the head and gestures to his pistol which is beneath the lawn chair.  The man begins to sob while expressing that he no longer wishes to die and an ambulance is requested via radio.  While an officer attempts to comfort the man, another retrieves a first aid kit from his car and returns with gauze and athletic tape, as if it will save the man’s life.  The officers don latex gloves and attempt to replace all of the still attached puzzle pieces that were once a human skull and scalp with the gauze and tape, knowing full well that it is a fruitless act done only to comfort the dying man.  Once he is loaded into an ambulance screaming toward a trauma center, efforts move to notifying family members of the situation.

With notifications made and the domestic battery suspect appropriately housed at the county jail, these officers reunite over coffee at a local convenience store before tackling the growing paperwork monster from a busy night at work.  This serves as an informal group therapy for the officers as they discuss frustrations with mandatory enforcement policies, an idiot who resisted arrest in front of his children, and the frivolous act of applying gauze and athletic tape to a shattered skull that didn’t quite cover a man’s brain and gunshot wound.

The general public comes and goes from the cash register without taking much notice of the officers seated at the nearby table, at least until “that guy” or “that gal” enters.  I’m not referencing the “hey y’all watch this” guy or gal from college who funneled beers before attempting to jump from the roof of the house into the kiddy pool next door-we all know and love at least one of those guys or gals.  No, I’m referencing the one who decides that this is the best possible moment to assert themselves as the protector of the public coffers.  The person who has the gall to approach this group of officers and announce his or her presence as “that guy” or “that gal”-the one who approaches and utters the phrase “so this is what my tax dollars pay you to do?” as though the shift began and will end in the convenience store.

What happens next is a toss up.  Personally, I’ve taken the high road more than I’ve lowered myself to the level of “that guy”, offering a smile and a insincere “thank you”.  I’ve debated the idea that I too, pay taxes and therefore I am essentially self-employed.  I’ve offered up that the taxes paid by “that guy” or “that gal” pay me during the times in which I take enforcement actions while my taxes pay for the down time.  I’ve also offered to perform the duties of a proctologist in order to assist “that guy” or “that gal” from removing his or her head from an irritated and expanded posterior.  Given the ability to set professional decorum aside, I would love to suggest that this self-important tax paying citizen return to closed doors and vicariously gratify himself or herself with a rusty and jagged chain link fence post.

Life in the suburbs typically accompanies a higher tax rate than in a large metropolitan city.  Those taxes pay for all kinds of services which make suburban life exactly what it is, a slower, more insulated lifestyle than big city life.  Schools are generally nicer as a result, streets are a little cleaner, street lights get replaced when they burn out, potholes get filled, snow gets removed in the winter, and pools get filled in the summer because of tax dollars.  Yes, those same tax dollars provide firemen with nice firehouses to sleep at during the night and pay coppers to beat the streets looking for the boogeyman.

So please citizen, with  your well informed opinion, tell me how to best spend my time in between calls for service.  Thanks for asking how my night is going, and by the way, how is your fence looking?

That’s it for now, I’m stepping down off my soap box.  It’s time to go patrol the Donut.

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About donutcountycop

I am a husband, father, and coach who began a career in law enforcement at a very small agency in 2003. After a deployment to Iraq with the USMC reserve in 2004, I changed agencies and moved to a “donut county” that borders a major US city in 2006. My current agency is composed of about 50 sworn officers, and is the busiest agency in our part of the donut. I am currently a mid-level supervisor who is in charge of a night shift, and serve the department in many other areas that include SWAT, FTO, and primary instruction. I’ve been around long enough to lose the illusion that I have every answer to every problem and now fully understand that my experiences have prepared me for little else than a life of wearing a badge and pistol.
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