Simple policing, (Part 1 of 2)

I was reminded of this call last week as I was talking to the new recruits about my opinions on policing. I’ll wrap it up with a point in a part 2 later this week.


At only fifteen years old, he was a good sized kid already, maybe six three or four and built solidly.

Most people would never guess the boy to be anything but a man, certainly eighteen at least, but that wasn’t the case.

We first met when his mother called about him trashing the front room of their quaint two bedroom duplex one day.

Trashed may have been an understatement.

He destroyed it, really.

I walked into the house to find the coffee table turned over onto its side, one leg was broken off completely and magazines and books had fanned out onto the floor. They were covered in red juice and unswallowed pills that were also victims of the overturning table.

A lamp in the corner still shone brightly, though it lay horizontally on the ground, its shade nowhere to be found.

Family and friends smiled happily from broken glass and busted picture frames scattered about the floor.

They were speechless witnesses to a man child’s tantrum.

The woman had summoned me into her home before I’d even reached the screen door. I’d heard the sound of crashing and breaking and yelling all the way from the street, but it was quiet now.

“Come on in, officer. He’s in the middle room. Please don’t hurt him,” she said as she wiped tears from a face that had clearly neared its breaking point.

She was staring at my night stick. It was over two feet long, thick and heavy wood with brass tips at both ends. It was an intimidating tool. A hole at the fatter end of the stick allowed for a leather rope to pass through. The rope allowed for twirling of the stick in times of boredom, and kept it from flying out of an officer’s hand in times of the opposite of boredom.

In the days before Tazers, night sticks or, “batons,” were the go to instrument to use where mace and hand to hand maneuvers weren’t going to do the job but deadly force was too much.

“Nobody is going to get hurt, ma’am,” I said with some trepidation while noticing an upside down recliner partially impaling some drywall.

I certainly  hoped that would be the case.

I peered around the wall into the middle room and saw the man sitting in a chair at a dining room table. His forehead was resting on his forearms and his eyes were closed. He was sweating and breathing hard.

Jesus, I thought to myself. Why are the craziest ones always so big?

By this time, another officer had arrived.

“This place is a goddam mess,” she exclaimed before she even said hello. I wanted to club her with my stick and tell her to shut the fuck up. She had more time on than I did, but she was, quite frankly, dumb as a bag of hammers and much less useful. I hated answering calls with her, but it was marginally better than dealing with disturbances alone.

I gave her a nasty glare that must’ve made its point because her smile disappeared instantly and she appeared more focused on the matter at hand.

I tucked my stick into its metal loop on the back of my belt, so it wasn’t the first thing the man would see when he finally looked up.

“What’s going on?” I asked the woman.

Even though I was relatively new, I’d handled enough calls in the busy Third District to know what was coming next.

“He hasn’t been taking his medicine,” the woman answered.


The man was paying attention now.

“Who is he to you?” The other officer asked. “Is he your boyfriend?”

The woman chuckled for a second before taking a deep breath and telling us that he was her son.

“He’s my middle boy. He’s fifteen.”

I peered around the corner at the man again. He wasn’t quite a man after all. He was a man child.

“He’s fifteen?” I said, probably sounding incredulous.

“He’s a big one,” the woman continued. “Like his daddy and brothers.”

We talked about his history and which hospital he normally went to when he lost control.

The woman mentioned that the boy liked football, so that’s what I talked to him about to earn a little bit of trust and keep him from flying off the handle. The Greatest Show on Turf was still a pretty great conversation starter for football fans back then, so we shared tales of our favorite memories of Warner, Faulk, Bruce and Holt. I really enjoyed that time talking to him.

With some persuasion from his mom and my two cents every now and then, the boy agreed to go to the children’s hospital for treatment.

EMS came inside and they went through much of the same conversation with the woman and her son again.

When the man child finally stood up to go to the ambulance, I noticed the paramedics look at each other with what I wouldn’t quite describe as amazement on their faces, but it was close. Disbelief was maybe a better word.

One of them looked at his chart and as he was flipping pages said, “I thought you said he was fifteen?”

“He is. He’s a big one,” the woman said.

Like his dad and brothers, I thought to myself.

I wondered where they were and why mom was dealing with this alone.

The kid was carted off to the hospital that day and I had several uneventful run-ins with him again during my time on that beat. I stopped and talked to him from time to time, and found him to be quite affable and pleasant when he was taking his medicine. He was always calm and easy going after that initial meeting.

And then one day he wasn’t.

This time it was a similar call as before, but a knife was involved. The dispatcher said that man child was waving a butcher knife around and threatening his family members.

I was the second officer on the scene this time, and sure enough, the man child had a knife.

He was on the front porch alone, ranting and raving about nothing to nobody in particular.

The first officer on the scene had his hand on his gun, but it was still holstered. He was standing in the street, with the car between him and man child for cover.

After a few moments, I noticed mom hustling up the sidewalk. Winded, and with the same defeated look as before, she said she’d gone out the back to the alley and came up to meet us in front.

“I’m glad I got here before you shot him,” she said. “Please don’t hurt him.”

I winced at those words.

“He needs his medicine, doesn’t he?” I asked knowing the answer. “You want us to get him to Children’s Hospital again?”

“Oh, I remember you!” The woman said as she caught her breath and looked at me. She seemed relieved a little bit. “You was here with that little black girl police officer last time he went off his meds.”


Man child had chimed in from the porch.

Without missing a beat, momma yelled back at him,”You put down that knife or you might go to the hospital with a bullet in yo ass! These boys ain’t here to fuck around wit you!”

I laughed a little bit. Momma’s tenacity was a thing to behold. I could tell she was a good woman. She was a good mom trying her best.

“He’ll be death of me that boy,” she said to us.

Man child put his knife down and cooler heads prevailed. We all talked about him playing high school football and he agreed to go to the hospital again.

“That kid was fifteen?” The other officer asked as we walked back to our cars.


“Jesus,” he said. “I really thought I was going to have to shoot him.”

We parted ways in our separate patrol cars without speaking another word.




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12 Responses to Simple policing, (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I hope this story ends well, but I’m worried it won’t. Real life doesn’t often give us those tidy endings like fiction does. As always, your storytelling is wonderful, and I look forward to part 2.

  2. barbtaub says:

    Great post.

    (You know what I’m really thinking, Don. And posts like this just prove I’m right…)

  3. Elyse says:

    There really aren’t any easy answers. But I really think that your blog, your stories, should be required reading — for both police and the policed. Because you often manage to present thoughtful solutions to problems that seem unsolvable. And because you show the good in both sides, which is oh so easy to forget.

    Thanks, and stay safe.

  4. beth teliho says:

    I agree with Elyse! Your stories give a side to the story not often heard. It’s different than all the cop TV shows, because your stories are non-fiction and they have heart and truth behind them. Looking forward to Part 2. xo

  5. Jay says:

    That’s what we need so much more of in this world – a little understanding and compassion.

  6. Thank God for you. Having experienced my bipolar mother when she wasn’t medicated and even when she was medicated, but it wasn’t working well, I don’t think most people can even begin to appreciate what it is to be completely delusional and paranoid. In my case, my mother never went for a knife or a gun when she felt threatened; it was always her sharp tongue. Thank God for your compassion and for your smarts in handling people.

  7. God, these stories are hard. But damn it all, they are real life and I wish so many more people would see them… for so many really good reasons. Thanks for this, Don.

  8. The Cutter says:

    Both looking forward to and dreading part two.

  9. cookie1986 says:

    Goddamn your two part story, Don. When’s part 2?

  10. joey says:

    That last bit makes me feel uneasy. I hope Part 2 doesn’t wreck me.

  11. pegoleg says:

    Like everyone else, I’m both looking forward to and dreading part 2, Don.

  12. Pingback: Floods and shootings and happiness galore… | don of all trades

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