Friday, November 24, 2006

Why Rookie Cops Need To Listen To Old Timers

When you’re a young cop, you instantly become the smartest, strongest, best looking, bravest son of a bitch on the planet. You look in the mirror a lot to admire yourself in that superman uniform.

Soon you are sent to patrol and get an lazy old goat for a partner instead of another cool dude like yourself. That’s a bummer. Your new partner has bad feet, seems way too cautious and you just know he was hired when cops did not get real training like you’ve just gotten. You find it embarrassing to be in the same vehicle working with a guy older than your own father.

In Chicago I worked on the Near West Side (012). I had Cook County Hospital, Greek Town, Jew Town, Taylor Street, Skid row and a large high crime area with projects filled with poor African-Americans. It was a busy district and a great place to work. My first boss, Commander Ronald Nash took a big fall and went to the joint for corruption.

As you come to the end of your police academy training you are sent out for Field Weeks to district patrol units. The normal plan is to pair you with an experienced officer working as a “Field Training Officer”. Sometimes they just run out of those creatures and you get what you get.

I was sent to the Near North Side (018) for one such Field Week and was assigned to work a wagon with a real dinosaur. His first name was Gene but I can’t remember his last name. Gene was several months away from mandatory retirement because he’d be 63 years old.

It was Easter Sunday morning and I knew it would be a really dull day. Gene was complaining to me about having to baby sit for a recruit. I was to keep my ears and eyes open. Further I was told to keep my mouth shut and perhaps he’d let me live. We were off to a great start.

Our first radio call did not come in for two whole hours! Then the radio cracked, “Eighteen-seventy-two.” I grabbed the microphone and responded, “Eighteen-seventy-two” The reply was,“Eighteen-seventy-two, a complainant says there’s a DOA floating in the Chicago River." I retorted excitedly, “Ten-Four squad we’re in route!”

Gene said two words, “Oh fudge!” Okay, it was a little stronger than fudge. I was going my first probable homicide call! Gene drove the wagon to the river parking next to the bridge. There was nobody around, not even a complainant, or passers by. As we got out of the wagon to look for a body we were suddenly hit with a really foul odor. Instantly we knew the call was legitimate as we gagged.

Walking closer to the river there he was in all his glory. Large and obese, this fellow was floating face up in the water. He was wearing only a white t-shirt and had his left leg severed attached only by a little tissue. He was bloated and looked ready to explode from the expaneded gas inside his abdominal cavity.

Suddenly the glamour of being a cop was on the ropes for me. We would have to somehow put this huge smelly pile of sh*t into our wagon, take him to a hospital, get a physician to pronounce the guy dead (they won’t take a cop’s word on that in Illinois) and then we'd take him to the Cook County Morgue. Once at the Morgue we'd be expected to remove his t-shit and inventory it as evidence once it was dry. This last procedure has since changed and been assigned to Medical Examiner’s personnel.

Our uniforms would be destroyed and we’d be barfing for sure. Suddenly our fortunes were improving! Two little Black boys were crossing the bridge on bicycles carrying fishing poles. Gene quickly flagged them down and asked to borrow one of the poles. Next, I watched an expert fisherman go to work.

Gene cast the hook right to that T-shirt and snagged it. Then I watched Gene pull the floating mess straight West from the bridge. The soon the body was on the West side of the river! Gene yanked the fishing line and broke it. He crossed back over giving the pole to the now complaining Black kids. Gene reached in his pocket and fished out $5 and gave it to them. The boys left happy and Gene said I now owed him $2.50.

Gene grabbed the radio microphone and called, “Eighteen-seventy-two” The dispatcher responded, “Eighteen-seventy-two.” Gene replied, “Eighteen-seventy-two, be advised this call is bonafide but the DOA is on the 13th district side of the river, we’ll stand by for 13. They’re going to need the Marine Unit or Fire Boat for assistance squad.”

We waited and watched the two poor bastards working a 13th District wagon as they handled the job in the finest tradition of the Chicago Police Department. That was the day I learned that the old timers were smarter than I was. There are some things you just can’t learn in the academy.


Anonymous said...

Great story Paul!!!!

ewink said...

That is awesome. Great story. Although I find it hard to imagine you being excited. :)

Anonymous said...

Man does that bring back memories.

Anonymous said...

Great story! Did you ever get to play the role of the old timer Paul?

leomemorial said...

Hahhahahaha!!!!! Good one...

jumpinnan said...

u are brilliant at storytelling as well as detective work!

Anonymous said...

Hey Paul. THis is Mick. Great Story guy LOL

Anonymous said...

Paul, Coming up on twenty with CPD; similiar story- I was a rookie working a cold winter night with an (great) old timer on a wagon in 013. Got a call of suspicious odor from an SRO on the 3rd floor. As we walked up we knew the smell of rotting flesh. The old women was blotted lying half on her bed with juices all over her. Well two of my buddies on another car,came by to sight-see and were enlisted by the old timer to help us. We placed the body, bed sheets and all into the body-bag and proceeded down the narrow winding stairs, Old-timer and me on top, two other guys on bottom.- this women was huge- As the bag was tilted as we were going downstairs The bottom guys were SCEAMING!!!! There was a hole in the bag and all the fluids and juices poured out on them.. I was almost rolling on the floor laughing.=== Anyway- we got her downstairs to the wagon, let the other guys clean- had a couple of six-packs under the viaduct and eat some burgers from MR. ONION while she "cooled off" that was my tour with an old timer, and I learned alot from him

Anonymous said...

Similar story. Floater in the water. I was looking for a way to get down to the bank and the old timer (now I am the old timer) just waited for the stinking corpse to float to the other saide and called in to the dispatcher that it was then in 017. Just then the romping stomping young turks from the Fire department showed up. They snatched that body in their wire basket, took a few pix and went back to their lunch laughing with another gory story to tell. They can have it. I once watched a recruit turn green literally after he removed a real stinker and saw the outline of the body in maggots on the rug. That was a first. The old grizzled wagon guy actually said "that was a bad one." Now that was a whole lot of words for that guy. If he said it was bad, phew, it was once in a lifetime. You just don't get stuff like that any more.