TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE 15

harley007FI was twenty three years old and had already had a more diverse career than many police officers have during their entire time on the job. That was because I’d worked undercover for a year-and-a-half; mostly investigating narcotics dealers, but also some with the commercial gambling crowd, which was still illegal in Wisconsin in 1971. Prostitutes, and men fondling their own genitals in public areas, and the private parts of other men who were so inclined, also took some of my investigative time.

My father, a WWII naval veteran and a person who was raised in the first half of the Twentieth Century, would look at me with both fear and sadness in his eyes when I explained my Vice Squad duties to him. Never said much, just stared and leaned away a bit, his thoughts obviously the kind that he could never express to me, or anyone else, for that matter. But I digress.

One early weekend evening, just after roll call, my partner and I were cruising our assigned squad area. I had returned from plain clothes duties to regular police patrol a month or two earlier. Within minutes of hitting the street we saw a motorcycle gang, wearing its full colors, riding together on a street leading to the freeway. The gang was nationally famous with many crimes – including murder – attached to its resume. We automatically began following them, and notified the dispatcher.

They were going the speed limit, but started revving their engines and “mufflers” when they saw us. Paying their respects to their mortal enemies, and all that. The group stopped at a red light, with us right behind them. From what seemed to be nowhere an additional bike rider came up behind us, at a high rate of speed, and joined the back end of the group.

“That’s speeding,” my partner said.

“We didn’t clock him,” I said.

“So what? He was clearly driving too fast for conditions.” He laughed and swatted at me. “We’ll both testify in court to that. Right?”

I said “right,” because it was exactly what we’d do. I was just wondering if I or my partner would be signing the citation. (I kid: He was the senior man, it was his all the way.)

The stop-and-go light turned green and the bikers began to move. My partner put on the red lights, intending to pull the speeder over. Without looking back, the group stopped and opened a pathway for the speeding, dilatory rider, to let him roll through to the front. They then closed ranks. The gang began rolling slowly, with us following them. My partner leaned on the siren.

I watched the speeding biker when he got to the front, and he took off like a bullet to get onto the freeway. His gang buddies spread wide, to block our path, and we watched the offender light it up to 80 or 90 miles per hour on the freeway. We could not get through to him. My partner called for assistance over the police radio, and the dispatcher called for a city-wide officer back up to come to our aide.

The group of bikers slowly moved along on the freeway, and the violator we’d been pursuing was long out of sight. The gang then began to speed up.

“Goddamn sonsabitches!” my partner yelled. “They’re all going to jail for interfering with us.”

Meanwhile uniformed squads with their led lights flashing and their sirens blaring began arriving at the scene. The bikers were sly. They cautiously moved to the side of the road, feigning an effort to let properly allowed emergency vehicles to pass.

Guess what?

We pulled over to the first biker, who calmly sat on his motorcycle. We ran toward him.

“Can I help you officer?” the scruffy looking man with proud outlaw style “colors” on his vest politely asked as we approached him.

“You can turn around and put your hands behind your back,” my partner said. He motioned for me to put handcuffs on him.

“Anything you say, officer,” the biker said in an exaggerated polite tone.

I clicked the cuffs on him and he stood silently, without offering any resistance. I look ahead on the freeway and squads were arriving at breakneck speed. Each biker calmly turned around as officers approached, and put their hands behind their backs. They were immediately handcuffed.

“Wow,” the biker in our custody said. “Must be big trouble in the city.”

He smiled slightly. My partner was furious, but treated him properly. Many, many citizens had stopped their cars and come out of nearby homes to watch the goings on. The police radio blasted with officers informing the dispatcher of their arrests of motorcycle riders, stretching a quarter mile ahead of us.

“Your buddy must have a ton of warrants, for you guys to let him through like that,” my partner said.

The biker leaned toward us with an exaggerated quizzical expression. “Excuse me?” he said in the most polite-but-condescending tone one could imagine.

About two blocks ahead we saw one biker take a swing at a detective who’d joined the chase.

Goddamnit!” the man we had in custody said.

The detective quickly punched the biker, and the biker fell down.

“Ain’t supposed to be like that,” the biker said angrily.

Eventually all of the motorcycle riders were placed in prisoner wagons or the rear seats of properly equipped squad cars. Tow trucks began arriving to remove the motorcycles.

At the 2nd Precinct all of the motorcyclists were being processed for obstructing an officer.

Then it happened.

I walked into the cell block, in which more than 20 biker prisoners were being held, and I saw him. “Him” was a man I’d used as an informant less than six months earlier when I was working undercover on the narcotics squad. He stood leaning against the cell door, and looked at me.

He recognized me first! Me, clean shaven and with short-short hair, wearing a police uniform, and the druggie, drunkard bike guy knew who I was before I knew who he was.

It made no difference; we’d scoped each other out, a la Spy vs Spy. I stopped and stared, and he stared right back. His eyebrows arched in the center, and a few moments later the look of genuine fear smudged his face. I smiled. He cowered. Here he was, a rough and tough motorcycle gangster – in one of the most notorious, violently criminal, and even murderous motorcycle gangs in the country – who was exposed as nothing more than a simpering, sniveling snitch for the po-lice! It just had to burn at him: The code of the gangs is to never squeal on anyone! (Unless, I guess, it doesn’t hurt you or yours.) I lingered long enough for him to step back from the cell bars, and then walked away.

We wrote reports and each biker was eventually cuffed and marched to a squad car or prisoner wagon, for the journey to headquarters downtown, where the processing would be completed.

Biker boy had introduced me to a well-known prescription drug thief and dealer, who sold me a large amount of drugs.

“Don’ you worry ’bout Peter,” the biker had said at the time. “He figures you for The Man and I’ll lunch him myself.” He spoke in a heavy southern drawl.

The drug deal had been one of many similar ones, which had all clustered together in my mind. After arresting the criminal-biker-snitch, the drug deal separated itself into the group of memorable drug deals I’d been involved with. It remains that way to this day.

Eventually the biker snitch was led from his cell to a squad in the police garage. He had to wait a moment before being seated. I walked to where he stood and looked at him, with no expression on my face. He knew I hadn’t “burned” him with his buddies, but I knew he’d worried about exactly what I’d do the whole time he sat in that cell.

“Thanks,” he whispered and lowered his eyes, his hands cuffed behind his back, his shoulders slumped when he eventually shuffled ahead. I stayed at his side and walked along with him every step, but he would not look at me.

I opened the squad car door for him. He sat, and continued staring straight ahead.

Post Script:
The original biker we’d tried to pull over was identified several weeks later. He was from Indiana and was wanted on a murder warrant, and that was why his fellow gang members blocked us from getting to him. He was eventually arrested, and received a life sentence. I heard a long time afterward that he’d been paroled after serving more than ten years in an Indiana prison.

 

ROb2This is the 15th 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 on FACEBOOK here

His website is HERE