Tales From The Blue Line 22

The first day that I was assigned to work a one man police squad was – different. Of course I was anxious, as all cops are under that condition. But a short while later my anxiety turned to a sort of bravado. I was young. What did I know?

My assignment was in a very quiet area of Milwaukee: The south side. The homes in the area are gorgeous, mostly built in the first half of the twentieth century. Their design was based on the Old world-European style, which still populate most large American cities.

Down-to-Earth type people dominated the area. There were some rundown, shanty type homes gathered in the areas where the first family businesses were opened. Only a few were in the slum category. On this fine autumn day I started by driving the particular route I’d seen veterans follow when I was the passenger in two officer assignments in the area. They knew the so-called hot spots. But this was the cities 2nd Precinct, after all; it was mostly crime free.

“Squad twenty-seven” sounded on the police radio. It was my squad number and the dispatcher was calling to give me my first assignment of the day. There’d been a report that some juveniles were “throwing things out of a second story window.” It was in a shanty home area, and considered a minor assignment.

When I arrived there was no one around. The residence to which I’d been sent was a small, white two story building. The front door, which was immediately adjacent to the sidewalk in front, stood wide open. I called out, and received no answer. I slowly entered, continuing to ask if anyone was home.

I cautiously stepped inside and continued calling out. Finally, a young boy (later determined to be eleven years old) with long jet black hair, appeared at the top of the stairs.

“Is something wrong?” he asked anxiously, in a pre-pubescent, boy’s voice.

He was obviously the kid who was throwing stuff out of the window, and he knew someone had called the cops. It was laughably obvious, and one could feel his angst while he continued trying to play innocent. New guy though I was, I felt confident that I’d quickly solve the mystery.

He provided his name and birth date without hesitation, and stated he lived at that location. He said that his mother should be in the kitchen downstairs, at the back of the house. He came down the steps and went to get her.

The boy’s mother came out to the hallway. She was extremely short and plump, and wore a light colored, full length house dress. She appeared utterly perplexed while looking me up and down. She was very upset. I would even say she was a bit frightened. I sensed that she spoke only broken English. Comparing her to other foreigners living in the area, I guessed that she was an immigrant from Central Europe.

The boy stood next to her. I explained the reason why I was sent. Her quizzical look remained. The boy started off by translating what I was saying. She relaxed a bit and looked at me with anticipation.

After a few moments of the boy playing interpreter, the woman began to speak for herself in very poor English. She’d been cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Before that she had done laundry in the basement. Her son had a couple of friends over and they were laughing and playing in the living room. They ran up and down the stairs leading to the second floor, where her son’s bedroom was.
After explaining the details of the complaint, the boy quickly denied throwing anything out the window. He volunteered to take me into the front room and up to his bedroom to show how everything was neat, and in order.

I had no doubt that he was lying. He and his buddies had indeed been “throwing something out the window” when they went upstairs, mostly likely to his bedroom. They had upset at least one neighbor, who called the cops. He had the look of a kid who would automatically deny any complaints about his activity.

Having a foreign mother most probably gave him an advantage when it came to getting away with “naughty” things.

The kid shrugged, his mother smiled and winked – yeah, she was flirting – and I left. About ten minutes later the dispatcher called me again. The same anonymous person called and complained that the cop who was just there didn’t do anything about their complaint. How come? And the kid’s buddies, who’d left just before I’d arrived, had already returned.

I immediately returned.

This time the original young boy and two others who appeared about his age were standing outside the house, laughing. When they saw me pull up, they quickly moved toward the front door of the house.

The boy who lived there entered the front door. The two boys stopped when I called out. They shrugged when I told them why I was there. One of them said “It was just some paper airplanes.”

So, the boy who lived there had in fact lied. I said I had to talk to his mother.

Both boys became uneasy, and one of them asked if I could just let it go, which surprised me. There was a strange, anxious tone in his voice.

I went to the open door and called out. The boy and his mother appeared in the hallway. It was eerily quiet. The boy walked up to me, head down, and handed me some crumpled pieces of paper – paper airplanes. He turned and went back to stand next to his mother. His mother remained silent, and appeared to be confused.

“Here,” I said, showing her the paper airplanes. I told her that I’d been called back to her house, that neighbors want her son to go to jail. (A typical exaggeration by a cop, to get someone’s attention.) The mother suddenly looked at her son and began screaming, in her native language. I was shocked. She suddenly stopped, aware that she was creating a scene, and smiled weakly at me. She signaled that I could leave. She’d gotten it.

Once outside I heard a loud slapping sound. She’d obviously struck the boy. She began screaming again. He began crying. I stopped and waited. Some parents hit their kids. I waited a while longer, and there were no more hitting sounds. With no complaining witness, and no signs – proof – that she’d hurt him unreasonably, I had no choice but to leave.

Not long after I heard “Squad 2-7” on the squad’s dispatch speaker. When I answered he said, “Return to your previous assignment. There is now a battery complaint.”

Not surprised, I answered the dispatcher, and headed back, yet again.

“Squid 2 will join squad 27,” I quickly heard on the radio. “I know what this is about.”

Squad 2 was my patrol sergeant. Uh oh. Had I done something wrong?

We arrived at the same time. We exchanged salutes but no words were spoken. He pounded on the door. There was no answer. The same neighbor approached us.

“Wow,” he said, “she was strappin’ that boy good.”

“Did you see it?” the sergeant asked.

“No, just heard it.”

The sergeant clenched his jaw and deeply knit his brow. He slammed his fist on the door several times. There was no answer.

“They still in there?” he asked the neighbor.

“Far as I know.”

The sergeant’s expression relaxed and looked me dead in the eye.

“Take your turn,” he said to me.

Knowing what he meant, I pounded on the door. There was no answer. No sound at all from inside the home.

“Thanks for your concern,” he said to the neighbor, and began walking away. I followed

“Nothin’ you can do?” the neighbor called to us. “This ain’t the first time. She wallops that boy.”

The sergeant and I both stopped.

“Did you see anything?” the sergeant asked the man. “Anything at all? Did the boy come outside with injuries? Anything?”

“No,” the man replied in a soft voice.

The sergeant and I walked away.

When we reached an area where no one else could hear us, he stopped and said, “Whadaya think, Kid? Should we break down the door and grab everyone, and see if the kid has any marks on his body? Put handcuffs on the mother and take her with us?”

I didn’t hesitate. “We can’t,” I said. “We don’t have enough evidence.”

“We know about this woman,” the sergeant said as we started walking again. “The kid won’t make a complaint, no one’s seen any injuries that we can prove he got from his mom.”

We walked on, silent for a moment.

“Fun, huh?” the sergeant said at last, with a strong edge of irony in his tone.

I said nothing.

“Get used to it, young copper,” he said.

Like everyone who does police work, I never really did “get used to it.”


ROb2This is number 22 in an ongoing series from Rob.

He spent thirty-two years as a Milwaukee police officer: seven years doing undercover narcotics investigations and twenty-two years as a major crimes detective. Writing and reading have been lifelong passions, and he began by writing short stories more than thirty years ago.

Rob is published by Orange Hat Press

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