Tales From The Blue Line 24

It had been a busy stretch. An immediate assignment “right out of the barn,” as we used to say, virtually every day. At 4:00 p.m. we’d be running to the squad straight from roll call. Better this than getting some over-the-hill day shift detective’s meaningless follow up, one of my partners used to say.

And he was right. Nothing worse than finishing someone else’s work because they wanted to go home on time, or because they couldn’t figure it out themselves. So off to the wild blue we went, laughing at the other guys who had to sit and listen to someone tell them how to finish their assignment.

burglar“This one’s a little different,” our lieutenant said as he explained the assignment to us while we sat in his office. “Some information came in that a known burglar has been hiding out at the house you’re going to.” It was also a drug house, where they sold crack. Those particular users were out shopping twenty-four hours a day, so the house often had a lot of people there.

He told us to take some district squads with us, in order to clearly overwhelm anyone who thought about resisting our visit.

“What’s his name?” my partner asked about the man we were trying to locate.

No name, only a description, we were told. But the informant was one of the best that the narcotics squad had, and he’d told the narcs the burglar was definitely there. The informant had just bought some rocks of crack, and the dude was sitting in the living room, talking about being wanted on a warrant.

We arranged for four additional uniformed officers to meet with us a short distance from the house we were going to. We told the officers all that we knew, and one of them wisely said, “So, we’ll basically be searching and getting ID from everyone there.”

No one answered. It was true, and it was just business as usual. Defense attorney’s had long been claiming the police would make up a story about some anonymous “informant” giving us this information just so we could roust a house full of people we didn’t like. I personally explained many times to defense lawyers that we would never do such a thing. It would be unethical. It would be outside the law. I don’t think any of them believed me.

We all got into our respective squads and drove to the house. My partner and I would go to the rear, along with two uniformed officers, and the other two officers would cover the front. Standard procedure, just a matter of deciding which officers would execute which assignment.

The residence was on the second floor, and the people living on the first floor let us in after we knocked. The sound of many fast moving feet emanated from the second floor. Of course, our suspicions were aroused. While explaining our business to a man from the lower residence, we could hear chairs and tables being dragged across either hardwood or linoleum floors up in the second story.

My partner and I pushed past the balking, doubtlessly-hesitating-to-help-the-criminals-upstairs-resident, and climbed the rear stairway two steps at a time. We knocked hard on the door. No one answered. We waited a moment, knocked again, and this time we announced that we were the police and that we had business with them.

After a bit of time the door knob turned, and the door opened. A young, otherwise unremarkable looking man given the environment, asked if he could help us. He seemed bored, and talked and moved slowly.
I stepped inside the room with the two uniformed officers. My partner took the young man who’d answered the door into the hallway and closed the door. The room was a kitchen with a bright light overhead, and four or five young men sat at an old style chrome and tile kitchen table. They were playing cards. Poker, as I recall. Each had several playing cards in their hands, and the rest of the cards and some poker chips sat in the middle of the table.

What fun they were having!

While explaining in minimal terms why we were there, we asked to see their identification. One of them asked if we had probable cause to do what we were doing. I told him that yes we did, a reliable informant had just told us that a felony suspect we were looking for was in the house, and we’d gotten there as quickly as we could in the hopes of catching a criminal. I congratulated him for knowing the law so well. I always congratulated suspicious people when they challenged me on search and seizure and such things. The school system was doing its job.

Meanwhile, my partner and the other young man who he’d kept out in the hallway, were still in the hallway. The young men at the table all showed us whatever ID they’d been carrying that day. But they were getting nervous. They were constantly looking at the closed kitchen door.

What could that other detective be talking to him about? They knew it meant trouble for someone – maybe even all of them.

A short while later my partner came into the room with the young man.

“No one say anything!” he quickly said in a loud voice.

The room was quiet.

My partner turned to the young man at his side, pointed randomly at another young man who was sitting at the kitchen table, and asked, “What’s his name?”

The young man said nothing, because obviously he didn’t know.

My partner pointed at another young man at the table and asked, “What is his name?”

Again, no answer.

My partner then pointed at one of the men at the table and asked, “What is this man’s name?” He was pointing at the man whom he’d been interviewing in the hallway. The man at the table said nothing.

My partner laughed and said, “I think I’ve made my point.”

“And what point is that, detective?” one of the officers asking in a most proper and respectful manner.

“It means that nobody knows nuttin’”he said. He laughed again.

He quickly explained that a minute before we entered we had heard a bunch of footsteps and tables and chairs being dragged across the floor, and then by golly we come in and everyone’s sitting quietly at the table, playing a friendly game of poker.
My partner then placed handcuffs on the man he was holding. My partner looked at me, smiled, and said he’d found a pot pipe and a chunk of hashish in the young man’s pocket while doing a pat-down search. The others at the table became anxious and began to speak out.

“You ain’t arresting me!” one of them shouted. “I showed my license.”

“Me too,” another quickly said. “You got a warrant on me?”

We knew that those two were not the suspect we were searching for. In fact, they both voluntarily put their hands above their heads, and formed the most innocent looking expressions imaginable on their faces.

After a few deliciously silent moments, the young man sitting at the end of the table stood, turned, and attempted to run into the front room. The two uniformed officers on that side of the table easily captured and restrained him.

“Where do you think you’re going?” one of the officers asked while laughing.

The man was obviously quite intoxicated on who-knew-what drugs.

Another of the young men quickly stood. I grabbed him and handcuffed him.

“I ain’t tryin’ nothin’”, he said, or words to that effect.

I told him to just relax, that things were getting out of control. I felt his clinched muscles loosen. It was clear that he too was high on some kind of drug. Looking around the table, it was obvious that they were all high.

Once they were all properly identified, it turned out that they were all wanted on warrants. Most of it was petty stuff; shoplifting, unpaid traffic tickets. One of them did have a burglary warrant, but it was from many months earlier – he was not the suspect we were looking for.

We called for a prisoner conveyance and the matter was soon resolved. Except for that one detail that we didn’t get the guy the informant had described. Or, did we? There’d have to be a lineup of photos shown to the informant, and any other witnesses. There was more work to do.

The officers praised my partner for the sweet technique of quickly separating one from the group, and after bringing him back into the room, we saw that “nobody knew nuttin,”. They were all quickly proved to be liars, because they didn’t know what the young man had told my partner, and they couldn’t tell the truth or make off-the-wall alibis, because it would jeopardize the other people at the table.

It’s fun being a member of or associated with a street gang.

It was later learned that the man who tried to run had been using phony ID for more than a year. After he was fingerprinted at headquarters, it was learned that he was wanted for a homicide in Chicago.

All in a days work.


ROb2This is number 24 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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