The regular officer assigned to the foot post was day off, so the sergeant needed a warm body to fill in. I was assigned to Michigan and Chicago Avenues to direct traffic. It was explained to me that I should be there for the morning rush hour, then “disappear” for a couple of hours and return for the afternoon rush hour. I asked where I should go and was told, “Kid, the world’s your oyster, go find your pearl.” Meandering down Michigan, with time to kill, I turned onto Cedar St. About mid-block, I spotted an old fashioned barbershop and decided to get a trim. As I relaxed in the chair, a burglary in progress call came out on the next street over, at approximately the same address as the barber shop. I walked out the rear of the barber shop and announced on my radio that I was on the scene in the rear of the building talking to the complainant.
A gentleman had started to walk his dog, when he observed a male black climb through a rear window to his neighbor’s apartment. He immediately called the police and began watching the window. Within minutes my backup arrived and we located the building manager who supplied a key to the front door. After successfully opening the door, our entry was stopped by the security chain on the inside of the door. This is an old burglar’s trick. If the residents came in the front door , it allowed him time to escape out the rear door. However, in this apartment, both front and rear doors emptied into the same hallway, and his entry, the bedroom window was controlled by the police.
Breaking the chain with a good kick, we made entry with weapons drawn. We searched the tiny apartment in a matter of seconds but to no avail. I then spotted a curly head of hair just behind the couch. Being a smart ass I took my revolver and tapped the hair with the barrel of my .38 caliber pistol. In a fright, I leaped backward as a furry black cat on the end table sprang straight up. Catching my breath and trying to slow my heart rate, I still believed the culprit to be trapped in this tiny two room apartment. Re-interviewing the witness, he swore nobody escaped through the apartment window while he and his dog stood watch. Standing in the tiny front room, my eyes wandered around. They became fixed on an old style record cabinet about two feet high and four feet long. I slid the thin door to the left and saw a real head of hair. The subject was pulled from the cabinet and instantly bombarded with fists by four police officers. He was “accidentally” knocked unconscious. Standing over the motionless subject, an experienced officer requested a neighbor retrieve a glass of water. Just like in the movies, the neighbor returned and handed me a large glass of ice cold water. I thanked him and began to drink from the container. The senior officer reached over, grabbed the water from my hand and threw it in the old boy’s face, awakening our arrestee. Many lessons were learned that day, the most important one was, it’s better to be lucky than good.