TALES FROM THE BLUE LINE 16

If it weren’t for dealing with unexpected, crazy and very often dangerous events, police work would simply be another “pencil pusher’s” cozy affair with the working public. That is quite obvious, but it is virtually never considered when people evaluate a police officer’s job. It involves looking things up, writing things down, sending information to other agencies and the like. In fact, there is a division of that type within every police department in America – the Inside Crew. Many are officers recovering from injuries before they can be released for street duty.

I spent my own time doing that work – after spraining an ankle while chasing a juvenile thief. It was the first assignment I had after joining the Milwaukee Police Department as a police aide. I learned a lot and it was the foundation of my career.

But once you’re sworn in as a police officer and are qualified to hit the streets to enforce the law, it is quite obviously a different business. Depending on the areas and neighborhoods you work in it can be slow and leisurely – He/She Serves Too Who Sits And Waits – and relatively calm. Citizens in quiet, mostly crime-free neighborhoods deserve on-the-spot service, the same as those who live in, ah, “busier” areas.

My lot in life was to be a busy cop. I liked it. There were dangerous and sad and strange moments. But it was the crazy times that created the raised eyebrows and the looks of disbelief given you by those to whom you explained your story. Most of them happened when I worked on the Vice Squad. The Vice Squad is by nature Crazy Town. I’ve cited several examples. But one crazy deal occurred while I was a detective investigating major crimes – dressed in a business suit and tie. A small group of uniformed officers was there with me and my partner. And it was like nothing else I’d ever experienced as a cop.

It was nighttime in a “busy” i.e. wild-assed criminal infested neighborhood in the heart of the inner city. (To put it plainly, and perhaps even a bit rudely, people with enough money fled the inner city and moved to the suburbs. People who were broke were stuck in the inner city. And in our culture, being broke brings a long list of unhappy, even violent experiences, over which you have little to no control.)

Dark_Street-1024x683Anyway: Nighttime. Dangerous surroundings. Calls for police crackling through the airwaves. My partner and I got our crackling call shortly after a pair of uniformed officers were sent to investigate a break in of a residential garage. But this was different. Other squads were being called for back up. That usually happened before detectives were sent to investigate.

When we arrived upon the scene several officers were standing around outside the garage, which was dark inside. Several of its windows had been smashed, with large shards sticking out from the frames. One officer standing by the side door had his gun drawn.

“Not sure exactly what this is,” he said to us before we could ask. “A dude’s in there, yelling to himself, throwing stuff. Look at this,” he said, and pointed to a remaining piece of glass still stuck in its frame. A thick, long steak of blood stained the glass.

“Sounds like a drunk trying to do a garage burglary,” my partner said.

“Exactly,” the officer said. “But he’s screaming and yelling that he’s going to kill us all. ‘Look at all the goddamn blood,’ he said one time. “And we did. We peeked through the window with flashlights and there’s blood here” he pointed at the streak on the window before us “but there’s blood all around on the other broken windows.” He pointed to the front, overhead door.

The other officers at the scene stood behind us, seemingly waiting to be told what to do.

I was confused. Why hadn’t the officers forced their way in and arrested the screaming, bleeding drunk?

“He keeps saying that he’s cut to pieces, and that anyone who touches him will die,” the officers said.

“Well, we gotta go in,” one of the officers said.

Random chatter among the officers continued:

“I don’t know. Dude sounds like Dracula, to me.”

“Got that mixed up, Dude. Dracula drinks blood, he don’t give blood.”

“Well, that long, sharp broken window thing here. Looks like a vampire’s tooth.”

“Why don’t you shut up?”

“Why don’t you shut up?”

They chuckled. The sacred bond of blue blood shared by cops does not always kick in when engaged in juvenile banter while doing things like ginning up the nerve to arrest a drunken, bleeding and belligerent, blood demon.

Or words to that substantial affect. Cops will say anything at any time to break up the tension, and this guy was going to kill anyone who touched him. Or touched his blood. Or whatever.

My partner and I stood behind the small group of uniformed officers as they prepared to enter the garage. An officer reached through the side door’s broken window, found a light switch on the wall, and turned on the lights. We all waited outside for the blood drunk’s reaction. Nothing at first. A single car sat parked against the far wall of the two car garage. Inside the car sat a very drunk, very bloody man.

Officers pointed their guns at him as they entered. I took my turn entering. The man had come to a sitting position at the edge of the driver’s side doorway. The officers had stopped their approach to assess the situation.

“Come get me, bros,” the man shouted. He held out his hands. His very bloody hands, which he shook at the officers while laughing hysterically. Drops spattered through the air.

He moved out of the car and stood. His face was streaked with blood, as were his clothes. He continued laughing uproariously.

“’Fraid of a little blood, bros?” he challenged.

Of course, no one wanted to touch him. But they had to. An officer had gone to one of the squads and retrieved several pairs of vinyl gloves, which he divvied up and gave to his fellows. Two officers approached and grabbed him. He lashed out, putting up a fake resistance, and attempted to have physical contact with any officer possible. He wasn’t fighting or striking out in any way, just trying to touch everyone he could. He continued laughing, and forced the officers to handcuff him. The rest of us moved in to help hold and push him along. He laughed and laughed.

I wondered why.

All I knew was that a few tiny drops of his blood spattered onto my clothing. Other officers had drops on their face. They struggled to get him into full custody. He continued laughing. We all looked at each other. What a fucken mess.

Some officers conveyed him to the hospital where he was quickly examined and bandaged. By the time my partner and I arrived at the detective bureau assembly, he’d already been placed in an interrogation room.

So far, just another drunk using available weapons, like his own blood, to put on his show.

The officers were beginning their reports. Attempted burglary; a felony charge that the D.A. would drop from felony status to some sort of misdemeanor, where it could be quickly disposed of in a city court.

We were sitting right outside his closed detention door. He started kicking it. Over and over. Nothing unusual. Maybe he had to use the restroom and was using some sort of code to alert us. Maybe he was lonely. A uniformed officer opened the door.

The prisoner had stripped all of his bandages from his wounds – wound it should be restated that he’d inflicted upon himself. He waved the bloody bandages at the poor officer. He’d squeezed as much blood as he could from his injuries and began flinging the droplets at anyone who approached him. Once again, it took several officers to hand cuff and restrain him.

I knew what he was doing. Later, it turned out it had dawned on us all.

“Heard of Hep C?” he shouted. “I’m a carrier! It’s in my blood! Y’all have just been infected.”

We all stepped back and examined ourselves. I had a few drops on my dandy new suit. Rubbed my face; my hand had a few tiny streaks of blood. One uniformed officer had a partial hand print of blood on his face. He blanched. Tears welled in his eyes.

“Hep C can kill ya!” he shouted. “I’ve seen it. And he’s a transfer dude,” the officer said in a loud voice while pointing at the blood savage.

The bloody prisoner laughed until he doubled over and dropped to the floor. I personally wasn’t fearful. I knew there was treatment. But at least one officer was truly terrorized. Others started taking off their outer garments. They examined each others faces.

A lieutenant had been notified and came to us. “You’ll all be tested and given immunizations,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

The officer whose face had gone whiter than a Pope’s robe, sat with half of his clothing removed. He stared straight ahead. Thinking back I know he had health hangups. He was in deep distress.

“Worst day on the job,” I heard him mutter while we all gatherrd our garments and filed into the restroom to scrub up.

Note: This was just before the HIV nightmare had begun in the early/mid-1980’s, so we only considered the treatment for Hepatitis C.

Imagine the panic if AIDS had been on the table.

 

ROb2This is the 16th 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