Winning a routine call for crazy…

The call was for an “OBS.”

If I’m remembering correctly, OBS is an acronym for Organic Brain Syndrome, but it’s used in my circles to refer to somebody who’s basically crazy.

I guess crazy isn’t politically correct, and maybe OBS isn’t either, but you get the picture.

OBS calls are by far my least favorite, because they almost always involve dealing with somebody who’s agitated, probably not taking necessary medication, and somebody often needs to go to a hospital against their will.

These calls are dispatched as two officer calls, and the other officer had arrived before I did. When I pulled up, I noticed the officer, who’s young and has been doing the job for less than two years, had his Taser out.

He’s a good, young officer. He’s not a hot head or one of those guys who makes a bad situation worse by escalating it with his mouth or actions.

In front of him was a large 19 year old, young man with his arms raised as he moved forward towards the officer. Another person tried to restrain him. The kid was waving his arms in the air and challenging the officer to shoot him with the Taser.

“Whatch you gonna do!? I don’t care, shoot me with dat Taser!”

He was loud and obnoxious and a pretty big kid to boot.

The guy trying to hold him back was trying to help with his actions, but his words were conspiring against those well intentioned actions.

I had grabbed my large flashlight and was walking towards the fun when I heard the other guy telling the OBS that “these officers ain’t gonna play wit you, man. They’s white dudes, man. They’ll shoot you dead.”

“Fuck them then! Let them shoot me; I don’t give a fuck!”

He was getting all wound up and I could feel my eyeball twitching. I’d be lying if I said the thought of drop kicking both of those men across the nearby park didn’t cross my mind.

As I got closer, the OBS turned his rage on me and asked what I was gonna do.

I ignored him and rolled my eyes to nobody in particular as I walked past the three of them to a woman I suspected was momma.

Momma said her son was schizophrenic and was two weeks overdue on his medicine.

“I ain’t taking my medicine!” the boy screamed at his mom.

“You need your medicine, Junior!” Momma said back to him calmly.

I could tell this poor woman was spent. She said Junior had torn up her house. The door was wide open and from the front yard, I could see a Christmas tree on the floor and broken ornaments all around.

“You’ve got your hands full, don’t you?” I’m the master at stating the obvious.

The guy who had been holding Junior back let him go and left in a car, obviously no longer concerned enough that we might shoot his loved one to stick around for it.

“Will you at least let the ambulance come to the house so the paramedics can talk to you, Junior?” I asked.

“I ain’t talking to nobody and I ain’t going nowhere! I need five dollars to buy my weed. That’ll calm me down!”

Junior unzipped his sweat jacket and took a couple of steps towards me.

“No sir,” I said in my regular tone. I pointed the butt end of my flashlight at Junior and said, “Come one step closer to me and you’re gonna need that ambulance for more than your medicine.”

Junior cursed me and started to walk away from the house. He walked down the sidewalk as I talked to mom about what we could do.

“I really don’t want to have to wrestle your son into the back of an ambulance, ma’am. Somebody’s going to get hurt.”

As we talked about different options, Junior came back ranting and raving about still wanting five dollars to buy some weed.

“Get off my property!” Junior yelled at me. “I need five dollars to buy some weed!”

“Oh my god, fuck! Go buy your weed, Junior.” I told him. I was frustrated by this point. “Buy your goddam weed and then come back here with it so we can throw your ass into the back of a police car and be done with you for the night.”

It wasn’t my finest moment, but this house wasn’t in my area and I was getting aggravated.

Junior walked around in a couple of circles before he finally sat down on his mom’s porch.

“Does he have medicine here, mom?” I asked.

“Yes, let me go get it,” she answered.

Momma walked into the house through the open door. I heard her say something to somebody and then say, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” probably to herself.

I felt bad for her.

Junior had lost much of his spunk and looked a little defeated when he looked towards me and said, “I ain’t taking my medicine.”

He said it matter of factly, not with anymore of the anger he had displayed just moments earlier.

Momma had come back out with several different bottles of medicine in her arms.

“Junior, if you let your mom give you your medicine, I’ll leave your property. I’ll leave you alone and you’ll never see me again,” I said. I don’t know how rational schizophrenics off their meds are, but getting rid of me seemed like one of the few positive outcomes for this kid at this point.

I started to walk away as momma coaxed some pills and a couple large spoonfuls of something down his throat.

We win, I thought to myself.

I turned back and walked a couple of steps closer to mom and Junior.

“Will that calm him down, mom? You’re going to be okay now?”

She assured us that he would be fine now and that they’d get him whatever more permanent shot he needed as soon as possible.

I thanked Junior for doing the right thing, wished he and his mom a Merry Christmas, and we left, without anybody getting hurt.

That’s a winning outcome.


Dealing with people suffering from mental disorders is one of the most challenging aspects of being a cop. Having mom here certainly helped to keep this from turning ugly. Had this kid left and been somewhere else, would we have known he had a mental condition and wasn’t just all worked up and angry about something or other? I don’t know the answer to that. People don’t carry signs with them indicating they have a mental disorder, and it’s not always easy to spot. I don’t know that he would have calmed down so quickly had he not been at home with his mom there. Had he continued on with his raging, he almost certainly would have been Tazed to keep him from hurting himself or somebody else, but that’s for another day, I guess.

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38 Responses to Winning a routine call for crazy…

  1. 1jaded1 says:

    So happy things turned out for the better (stating the obvious). Hope you and your family have a safe and Merry Christmas.

  2. Maggie O'C says:

    Reblogged this on Misc. Maggie and commented:
    If you don’t follow the Don of All Trades, you should.

  3. Elyse says:

    I don’t think you’re alone as a police officer in making good choices like this one. I do think that so many people in your profession (and a few others) have to make judgments quickly and the consequences can be deadly. Somehow, we need to diffuse the situation for all of us. Wish I had an answer.

    Stay safe out there. And have a Merry Christmas.

  4. Mental Mama says:

    I don’t know how you do it, Don, I’m just glad you do. And heaven forbid I ever go off my meds and someone has to call the cops on me, I hope they’re as understanding and patient as you were.

  5. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    Good job you. Good job to his mom. I’m glad it worked out so well. Hey speaking of tasers, have you ever tased yourself, just to see what it’s like? What.

    • Hahaha, no, I’ve never tased myself. In fact, I normally throw it in the back seat of my car and forget about it. I didn’t start my career with a Taser, so I feel like I don’t need it at this point either. It looks like it really hurts though!

  6. Paul says:

    That is one scary situation Don. I’m so glad that you and your fellow officer controlled it and brought it to a safe and successful (no one hurt) conclusion. A testament to your professionalism. It amazes me that officers out there deal with such sometimes aberrant human behaviour – behaviour a psychiatrist would work on for years – and keep everyone safe. Here in Ottawa, there have been a number of OBS calls that have come to violent ends – some with deaths. The officers in every case were cleared – they did the best they could with the info they had. They have started giving our officers training in handling mentally unstable people and that seems to have helped. Did you get any training for this?

    • Thanks, Paul. We do actually get some training for these sorts of things, and there are a bunch of officers trained for a program designed to deal exclusively with people suffering from mental illness. There wasn’t one available that night, of course. These situations suck because the person just isn’t in their right mind, so they’re unpredictable.

  7. barbtaub says:

    Everyone who reads this (and probably those who lived it) hears echoes of another way this could have ended up. Don, I know I always say this, but people are lucky when you (and hell, I’m guessing probably most cops are like you) are the one answering a call.

    • Awe, you’re always too sweet. There are quite a few people I work with who I’d not want responding to something that involved my family, and that’s just sad. It’s hard to deal with these people when they’re off kilter. I bet if I visited him next week, he’d be a completely different person.

  8. Carrie Rubin says:

    Great example of what you and other police officers face on a daily basis. It’s easy for others to judge, but they’re not walking in the same footsteps–on either side. I worry about my niece every day (she’s a cop). It’s one of the toughest jobs out there and has the highest stakes. My gratitude and respect go to those who do it. There will always be bad apples, just like in any job, but the majority just want to do their job well and keep their communities safe. So thank you and Happy Holidays!

    • Thank you, Doctor Carrie, I really appreciate the comment. This is an all too common sort of call and they can get ugly fast. I didn’t know you had a cop niece! That’s awesome. It can be an even tougher job for women because of some extra curricular stuff. One of my favorite coworkers is a female. She’s a good one.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        I just visited my niece in Washington state over Thanksgiving. She’s a petite thing, and she showed us all the gear she has to wear. I don’t think I could sport that around all day. Then again, I already have the ugly man shoes…

      • You sure do!!! Lol.

        I guess she’s pretty new then? Or were you curious about the gear yourself?

        I laugh at a lot of the younger officers. They put all sorts of crap on their belts. I have a gun, radio, handcuffs and mace, and that’s it. Lol.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Yes, she’s pretty fresh. A couple years, I guess. Probably not too jaded yet. 🙂

  9. KODonnell says:

    Both of my parents suffered from untreated mental illnesses. Not much fun for the rest of us. It’s a sad, damaging situation. I could’ve used a taser…I still kinda want one.

  10. lrconsiderer says:

    Still not an asshole.

  11. markbialczak says:

    That’s so tense, Don, not knowing which way the agitated dude is going to swing during the peak of the situation. This time you and mom and the big kid himself had it go the right way. Whew. Did the other policeman with his hand on the taser stick around to watch and learn this lesson, I hope? We need more talk-firsters and less tase firsters, I guess. Merry Christmas to the DOATs, my friend.

  12. mollytopia says:

    Don I love these stories. They give me hope, and make me so grateful for you and all the police officers who are out there protecting us and helping us every day. Thank you.

  13. Mike says:

    Great job on diffusing another situation and in this case a potentially very volatile one, Don! It’s their unpredictability a good part of the time that can make those situations so dicey. LOL to all the stuff the young kids put on their belts…yep! The only thing missing is the Bat Signal when they get dispatched. Don’t get me wrong, TONS of great young cops out there. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family, sir! Stay safe always 🙂

  14. Shelley says:

    Hey! As always, am mesmerized by your stories. Wanted you to know that one of your blogs has been recognized as Editors’ Picks of the Year: Notable Reads on
    Popular posts and community favorites, published in 2014. Congratulations. 🙂 All the best for the new year.

  15. Sandy Ramsey says:

    I’m glad that this story turned out the way it did. Lord knows (and I’m sure you do too) that this could gone to hell a hundred different ways.

  16. Kind of a damned if you do situation. I’m sure the meds make him sick in some ways, but not taking them puts so many in jeopardy. Another good call on your part. I hope he agreed to getting help, his mother and family must be worn out.

  17. Bowrag says:

    What is so sad in this country and not many people are acknowledging it or ever know about it is the mental health situation. How can you do your job, how can teachers educate, how can social workers help, etc… When you get a mental patient into a center and they are released when they dry out a few days later. If we don’t get a handle on it soon then violence and crime will only increase. I’m a little nervous about it to be honest. Good work on your part but your are absolutely correct. If momma was not there then you would have had to taser, arrest, etc…

    • I’m lucky to work for a department that does a reasonably good job of training us for such things, so I can’t imagine some smaller, less trained officers trying to deal with these same matters. It’s scary for sure. Thanks for the comment.

  18. I think your calm thinking – along with Mom’s presence – led to the best possible outcome. Mom certainly does have her hands full. Wish her well, and I wish you and your family the very best New Year in 2015. 😉

  19. lisanewlin says:

    At least you were able to calm him down. I probably would have resorted to taking some Skittles and telling him I’ll take my medicine if he takes his….but mostly just because I would want to eat some Skittles.

  20. Like any landing you cn talk about is a good one for a pilot, any call that doesn’t end up in a wrestling match with an oversized subject and probably mom too is ok. Back in the “old days” when I started (no, we did not ride horses) we had no portable radios, tasers, pepper spray and often no back up. We had to talk the talk and, if necessary, “lay hands upon”.

    I shudder to think of the footage a body camera would have shown from some of those encounters. It is frustrating for those of us that are supporters of professional law enforcement to listen to the opinions of detractors for which the facts of each case of “Use of Force” seem not to make the least bit of difference. Hang in thee, retirement awaits.

  21. pegoleg says:

    Jeez, Don, you never know what you’re going to run into out there, do you? I could never do your job – God bless you for taking it on..

  22. julie says:

    Thank you Don. Thank you for what you do, for doing it so well, and for sharing it with us. You have earned a special place for sure! I just love when I pop over and find that you have posted!

  23. oh2bhuman says:

    Wow …just found your blog because it was reblogged on another post…I will be following your adventures..

  24. claywatkins says:

    It’s been a while – I hope you had a great Christmas and I see your tweets now and then so I know you are out there doing what comes natural. Love your stories about the folks you encounter as a peace office enforcing the rules with a grain of common sense. Thanks for what you do, it’s sorely needed and greatly appreciated.

  25. Whoa!

    I am so glad nobody got hurt!

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