This past Friday I was working patrol in the city when I heard an aid call come out.
An aid call is short for an officer in need of aid call, and it is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a call for help on behalf of an officer. Sometimes the officer presses an emergency button on his radio or in his car, other times, he orally calls for help directly over the radio, and sometimes, the dispatcher will make the important decision to initiate an aid call based on what she’s understanding to be happening from her end of the 911 center. This oftentimes happens when the officer keys up and there’s a lot of commotion in the background, and/or an officer isn’t responding when the dispatcher calls him or her.
In this regard, as well as others, a good dispatcher is worth his or her weight in gold.
When I was a young police officer, an aid call meant everyone in that officer’s district, or in the vicinity, dropped what they were doing and began racing towards the officer thought to be in need of aid. Shame on you, if you were caught by a veteran officer not hustling to your car, no matter how far away you might be within the district, or what you might be in the middle of doing.
I have literally left 911 callers on their porches with an, “I’ll be back; there’s an emergency” in the middle of them trying to tell me why they called 911, while running off to assist on an aid call.
It may sound rude or unprofessional, but the life of another officer is more important than most of the sorts of calls officers are responding to everyday.
It’s a judgment call, but it’s also not a judgment call. As a general rule, unless leaving a person would put them in jeopardy, there is no excuse not to respond, but I notice more and more each day that many officers, particularly new ones, just don’t get that.
I remember my first legitimate aid call like it was yesterday.
A young lady called to complain that her uncle had assaulted her. She didn’t look all that beat up, but it wasn’t my call. I was just the assisting officer.
It was towards the end of the 3PM – 11PM shift, and since the uncle had left, I figured the primary officer would just write a report and put the uncle out wanted, so we could talk to him later.
I was mistaken.
The primary officer wanted to try to arrest the uncle that night, so we ventured over to where the niece said he lived.
It was about time to make relief, and since I was young and childless, I had important plans like going to grab some beers or playing NHL 99 on my PlayStation at home, or maybe both at the same time. But, I was fairly new and it was the other officer’s call, so if she wanted to go try to arrest this man, then who was I to say I thought it was a stupid idea?
We knocked on the door and the uncle opened it. He stood in the doorway wearing the same clothes and looking exactly as the victim had described him.
Thoughts of fake winning the Stanley Cup with my Brett Hull led Blues faded away as I heard the other officer explain to this man that he was going to be arrested for assault. She cut right through the bullshit, not even giving him the chance to tell his side of the story.
People rarely want to hear that they are being arrested, and this man was no different, so with a vulgar, “Fuck that shit!” and a two handed shove of the other officer, our new friend was now running towards the back of his house with me giving chase.
I remember other people in the house sitting on a couch and in chairs in the kitchen as we ran past them. Their faces were not what you’d expect them to be when you think of what a person might be thinking as a loved one or friend is being pursued by police through his own house right in front of them. Their faces showed less surprise and more “what the hell is going on THIS time?” I’m sure in families where uncles assault nieces, having the police around isn’t that unusual.
Anyway, the uncle made it to the back door and I dove to tackle him as I reached the threshold of the doorway shortly after he did. In my imagination, the tackle was glorious to behold. I laid out parallel to the ground and flew gracefully off the deck and over the stairs to the backyard and took him down at the one yard line, like an MVP level linebacker, so to speak.
The reality was maybe not as pretty, but it’s my memory, so let’s digress.
Now the struggle was on.
I wouldn’t call it a fight so much, because the uncle wasn’t trying to assault me, he was just trying to escape me. Still, trying to handcuff a person who is motivated to not go to jail is no easy task, regardless of the strength of either participant. Think trying corral a greased pig, and you get the gist.
I got a handcuff on one hand, and at some point, felt the weight of the other officer, the one whose brilliant idea it was to arrest this man instead of going home to play video games, land right on top of us. I have no idea why the hell she jumped on top of us, but she knocked the wind out of me when she landed, so I decided I’d had enough tussling and pepper maced the shit out of everything around me, suspect, other officer and all.
Tunnel vision is a real thing, so I didn’t realize that while this clusterfuck was going on, there was a German Shepard the size of a llama chained to a fence and snarling at my head from less than five inches away. When I got my wits about me, the sight of those teeth and sound of that barking were a sobering reminder of just how much of our lives are often inches away from being altered.
I’m no dog whisperer, but I have no doubt that this dog was barking that he wanted to rip my face off and use my leg as a chew toy. Thankfully, his chain was strong.
During the struggle, I remember very well the sound of the sirens in the distance, as officers responding to help us got closer and closer. I don’t know if the other officer called for help, or the dispatcher did it herself, but it was the right call either way.
It’s hard to describe the comfort the sound of those sirens getting closer brings when you are the officer needing aid. It’s also a prideful moment for me, when I’m a responding officer, to see so many other officers arriving at the same time to help a comrade in need.
That’s when we’re at our best, I think.
When we ride new recruits about running and pushing themselves beyond their perceived limits, part of that is because there will be a time when they are fighting and they will hear the sirens coming from a distance, and know that they just need to hang on a few minutes longer until the sirens are close, and then are finally there. Pushing through a run will allow them to push themselves a few more minutes to fight.
Those are exhausting minutes, but they can be the difference between life and death.
Anyway, our friend the uncle was allowed to wash his eyes out with water and then he apologized to me as he was put in the back of the transport van.
That happens more than one might think it would. Suspects apologize for their behavior a lot, once they realize they’ve been caught.
It’s nothing personal.
The job is so much easier when officers figure out that it’s nothing personal against them. It’s the uniform. You can’t really blame a person for trying to run away, especially when they’re not trying to hurt you in the process. Jail sucks.
I remember as well that night, that one of the police German Shepards that had responded to the aid call was going apeshit crazy in the front yard, and was barking his displeasure at not being able to rip somebody’s face off and use their leg as a chew toy either. He was sitting pretty with his handler when my lieutenant walked by right in front of the dog’s face.
The dog bit the lieutenant, who was also an ordained minister.
The dog didn’t care about either, so he bit him right on his hand, which sent the ordained minister lieutenant into a fit of cursing that started with a loud, “MUTHA FUCKA WHAT THE FUCK???!!” And spiraled into a pretty hilarious rant that included many increasingly vulgar references to his own Lord and Savior, which I’m sure he doesn’t say on Sundays, as well as how he’d like to kick the dog’s ass up and down the street.
He didn’t do that, of course, but he did have a nasty bite mark on his hand. It was nobody’s fault but his own, as we all know the dogs aren’t there to play around, and they don’t necessarily know or care who the good guys are. A hand is a hand to them when they’re wound up.
Anyway, the recent Friday aid call was related to a police shooting here in St. Louis. For the second time in a week, somebody shot at a police officer. Thankfully, the officer was not struck, and he was able to stop the threat using his own firearm.
Again, inches matter a lot sometimes in our lives. Inches worked in the officer’s favor on this night when the bullets going his way missed him, and against the suspect when those bullets hit their mark. Thank God the good guys train more than most bad guys. Some people can be shot eight times and live to tell about it, while others get hit once and die on the spot. It’s just a little bit of luck and a whole lot of when it’s your time, it’s your time. Sometimes it’s about inches.
That’s what I think anyway.
I was too far away to respond to this aid call and be of any use, so I parked my car on a grocery store parking lot and listened to the radio with pride as other officers arrived and did what sounded like a great job of securing witnesses as well as the crime scene.
Police shooting scenes are a mess, for obvious reasons, and have to be investigated perfectly from start to end so that we can tell the most thorough story of what happened via evidence.
The officer involved in this shooting is a man I consider a friend, and I trust that he did the right thing. He was also training a young lady who graduated just a few months ago from our Academy. She’s a brand new officer.
She is a good person with a big heart, but violent offenders don’t care about the heart of the person wearing that blue uniform. That lesson is often learned quickly in North St. Louis City.
I waited in the parking lot to see what sort of fallout there might be from the shooting.
The dispatcher had unnecessarily made it clear that it was a police shooting, so it was on social media in a hurry.
Would groups gather quickly to protest?
Would there be riots?
Would I have to make my way up there to help out?
Would I have to work overtime?
It was a waiting game to see where my next call would be, so I flipped through my phone for a bit to look at the many posts and Tweets about the outrage du jour.
On this particular Friday, one of those outrages was Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem, because he feels the flag symbolizes a country that “oppresses people of color.”
When asked what needs to change in this country vis a vis oppression, he made some myopic comment about police officers getting paid leave to murder people in the streets.
That was the only example of this oppression he could come up with during the interview I saw.
My issue with his blanket statement about police officers murdering people equating to the oppression of people of color is this, if we removed police brutality from society altogether, would people of color not be oppressed anymore?
The answer is no.
A few questionable killings by law enforcement officers during the course of the hundreds of thousands or maybe it’s millions of interactions between the police and the public each year isn’t why not enough blacks have jobs as CEO’s, or why the urban poor peoples’ school systems are for the most part pathetic in comparison to those in surrounding areas. It’s not the reason why many can’t get loans for houses or cars or the best internships or whatever.
It just isn’t.
Because of these things, such as the inability to get better education and jobs and loans, people of color are rightfully angry, but it’s not the street officers’ fault that oppression is still happening systemically.
Officers are seen as the soldiers of the oppressors, maybe. It’s like we’re doing their bidding.
I guess in some respects that’s true, but I’ve never felt like I was doing the bidding of some rich white men living on a hill somewhere. I’ve used my discretion and common sense wisely for nearly twenty years, and I think most other officers do so as well.
The truth is that that are very few GOOD jobs for less educated people, black or white, to find nowadays. Lower middle class and poor people used to be able to make a good living putting parts on cars on assembly lines or elsewhere. They would suffer the mind numbing work for three decades because they earned decent enough money to buy nicer things and send their kids to better schools. Their kids in turn would get better jobs than their parents had, and the cycle would hopefully continue until that family was firmly entrenched in middle or upper class America.
That’s not happening as much anymore as companies have replaced people with robots or found cheaper labor across the oceans. Shame on us for not getting companies to keep those jobs here somehow. Officer Don has nothing to do with Nike outsourcing jobs that people with no college degree could do here in the USA.
A place that does value diversity though, and that will hire people of color with limited or no college education, if they show good sense and potential, is nearly every single urban police department in the country.
Yes, being a police officer is still one of the ever dwindling ways that a lower middle class or even poor person can earn a decent salary so that he or she can offer their kids a better life and move on up the class ladder as mentioned.
It’s not an easy job though, and not everyone is cut out for it.
I work for a strong black woman. I love her and would go to bat for her anytime. Her boss is a black man, whom I also respect and enjoy working for. His boss is another black woman and so on. The Department isn’t perfect for sure. Cronyism and nepotism are disgustingly obvious, but we do hire a lot of minorities, probably more than any other place in the City, really.
When I hear somebody like Kaepernick calling officers murderers and oppressors, I’m just not seeing it.
Fixing the police to end oppression for certain people is like finding a better bandage to put on open sores caused by a terrible disease. The bleeding may stop at the sores, but it’s not addressing what’s killing the person.
Address what’s killing the person to give them a better quality of life, don’t just cover their obvious wounds.
Handcuffing current police officers and making it more difficult to find good people who want to do the job in the future just makes the situation worse for everybody. It misses the mark as to what the real problem is not by inches, but miles.
Miles that are making all the difference in the world in keeping this country from moving forward together.