Another Sergeant backed me up on a disturbance call at a fast food chicken restaurant. PETA, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, was demonstrating outside the restaurant and causing a commotion. When I arrived, I informed them that they have a Constitutional right to picket, as long as they abide by the laws. I also informed the restaurant management about the same restrictions; they can’t block traffic, pedestrian or vehicular on the sidewalks or the driveway. Picketers can’t go on private property and they have to keep moving at all times. Blah blah blah. With that said, the Sergeant and I returned to our respective squad cars and left. Within minutes, I was called to return. The picketers were now blocking the driveway attempting to prevent cars from entering the restaurant parking lot. I again explained the rules of picketing and they seemed receptive. I left. Minutes later the dispatcher sent me back to the scene. The PETA people were now pounding on the glass windows, scaring the restaurant’s patrons, which included small children. I calmly called the group around me into a football type huddle and screamed, “They’re chickens, just fuckin chickens.” I explained in very ordinary street language that if I had to come back there for any reason, the paddy wagon would be backed up and everyone there would go to jail. Apparently my little speech did the trick, no more calls.
The radio blares: “Man with a gun.” All available police officers headed to the scene. The radio broadcast included information about a man who had just threatened someone with a gun and then vanished into the residential neighborhood. It was dusk and his clothing description was very general. I rode the side streets and looked for other signs of the offender. Another supervisor, Sergeant Mike surveyed the dark street and viewed a young man sitting on the front stairs of an unlit house. This young man was sweating profusely and his heart was beating like a drum. The Sergeant collected this fellow, walked him back to the street and ordered him to place his hands on the squad. All was going according to plan when, with cat-like reflexes, the subject pushed off against the car and bounced back into the Sergeant, while shouting “Fuck you bitch.” Next, he was sprinting down the sidewalk with the Sergeant in foot pursuit. At this point it’s no contest, between the young stud in his prime with the old-time sergeant of police. Out of nowhere, a figure was sprinting alongside the Sergeant. The Good Samaritan inquired, “Do you want me to get him for you?” The Sergeant, naturally replied “Yes.” With that, the mysterious savior jetted away, leaped and caught the offender in mid-air attempting to scale an eight-foot chain link fence. The Good Samaritan grabbed hold and body slammed the evader into the ground, bouncing his head off the pavement. The Sergeant handcuffed the stunned thug. As he regained consciousness after the initial shock, he looked up and said to the Sergeant, “You da man.” The Good Samaritan was nowhere to be found. The sprinter was now arrested. While in the District he screamed and threatened every officer he came in contact with, except the Sergeant, the guy who he thought took him down. When his eyes met the silver-haired Sergeant, with the look of admiration he repeated, “You da man!”
After an arduous meeting with the local Alderman and his political cronies, the District Commander instructed me to furnish the beat officers with a cell phone provided by the Alderman’s office. Now the Alderman’s constituents could call the beat officers directly for issues pertaining to their neighborhood. They no longer had to go through the normal procedure of calling 911 and speaking to a police dispatcher. I realized that tying a beat car down to the every whim and fancy of the proverbial crazy lady in the neighborhood would completely remove those officers from any real police work. Begrudgingly, I handed the cell phone to beat officer, Curt. I instructed him, per orders from the District Commander, that he respond to the needs of the citizens on the beat. When the tour of duty was over he was to pass the cell phone on to the next crew with the same instructions.
A week went by and I followed up on the progress being made with the new procedure. The cell phone was missing. Officer Curt and his partner searched the squad car to no avail, the phone was missing. I submitted a short report and it was quickly forgotten.
A few days later, after a particularly warm evening, we all stopped at the local watering hole for a cold beer. The subject of the cell phone came up. Officer Curt smiled and informed me that immediately after receiving the cell phone the night of the meeting, he drove directly to the river and threw it in. He didn’t think it was a good idea for a beat car to by-pass the 911 dispatcher and be at the beckoned call of civilians, so he took it upon himself to correct the situation. I smiled and congratulated him on his resourcefulness.
While working the street, I decided to stop in the station to see what was going on. I was standing at the desk and the phone rang. Naturally I answered it . The conversation went something like this:
Me: “16th District, how may I help you?”
Caller: “I want to beef about one of your fuckin police men.”
Me: “We don’t make pizzas here.”
Caller: “You don’t understand, I want to beef about one of your fuckin police men.” Me: “You don’t understand, we don’t make any pizzas here.”
Caller: “Buddy, you don’t understand what I’m saying, I want to complain about a police man.”
Me: “Buddy, You don’t understand what I’m saying, we don’t make any fuckin pizzas here.”
Click. He hung up.
Returning to the 17th District, after being absent a few years, I was driving down Irving Park near Central Ave. I looked to my right and observed a man sitting in a Lazyboy chair, fully extended, in the middle of the empty parking lot, sipping on a cold beer. I pulled a u-turn and drove into the parking lot. As I pulled alongside Louie, I was met with “Get the fuck out of my front room.” I backed my squad car up and got out and reintroduced myself to Louie. I explained to him that he should not yell at the police and to validate my point, I took the remaining four cans of beer and I placed them in a straight line in front of my tire. I returned to my squad car and proceeded to run them over, watching Louie’s reaction as they burst, beer and foam sprayed in all directions. Louie’s expression was equal to that of a mother deer watching a wolf tear the life out of her new born faun. I explained to Louie that with a little mutual respect, we could both exist on the same streets. After that one disagreement, Louie and I went on to have a symbiotic relationship. Although Louie would never become a snitch, a casual conversation with him provided you with the pulse of the neighborhood. On occasion, I would throw him a bone, like lunch or beer money. This was why I was probably the only police officer in the District who never had to fight with Louie.
The tactical office had received a tip from an informant that a person wanted by the police would be at a pawn shop on Belmont Avenue. The intelligence gathered on this fleeing felon stated that he was heavily armed and would shoot it out with the police when stopped. Quickly gathering officers in civilian dress, we setup around the pawn shop. We had five marked squads in alleys and nearby parking lots prepared to block all traffic on Belmont when necessary. We had pairs of undercover officers in the stores adjacent to the pawn shop. I was sitting across the street in a parking lot with another sergeant using binoculars to observe the front door. One of the officers spotted the offender parking his vehicle. We wanted to do the takedown but there was too much pedestrian traffic so we allowed him to continue into the pawn shop. I requested that the dispatcher give us the “air” and keep all other officers off the radio. I announced to all the officers on the detail to be on their toes. After a few minutes, the felon completed his business and emerged. As he stepped onto the sidewalk, the Sergeant and I shouted on our respective radios to take him down. Within seconds, the streets were blocked. He spotted the officers running toward him from across the street. This allowed officers from the adjoining storefronts to bum rush him and take him to the ground with him never being able to draw the .357 magnum from his waistband. Great takedown! No officers injured, one very bad guy in handcuffs, and within a few minutes the area was returned to normal. It is a phenomenal feeling when a plan of that magnitude comes to fruition. But, it pays off to work with some of Chicago’s finest police officers.
A great gag we pulled on recruits went awry. During a typical traffic stop, a salty veteran would search the vehicle, while the recruit would guard the driver standing by the squad car. I pretended to search a vehicle this one time, and pulled my own gun from my holster and held it up for the recruit to see. I shouted out “Look what I found.” Normally the recruit would simply handcuff the subject and maybe curse him a bit. My new recruit flattened this driver with a round house that Joe Fraser would be proud of, screaming “You dirty bastard!” I jumped out of the car and stopped the recruit from pummeling this guy. I picked the guy up, choking back laughter while I brushed the dirt off his shirt. I pulled out my handkerchief and dabbed the bloody corner of his mouth, as I attempted to explain the joke that I just pulled on my new recruit. Luckily, this fellow was a sport, although not a very happy one. We parted ways with an earnest apology and we walked back to the squad car with our tails between our legs.
Officer Ron and I were working beat 1732 and stopped into the station for him to use the washroom. I sat in the car, bored. I took Ron’s ticket book and opened it to the next citation to be issued. There are 5 copies of the traffic citation and the yellow copy goes to the traffic violator. On the backside of the yellow copy, in very small print I wrote “You’re a jagoff.” Then I put everything back in order. When Ron returned to the squad car, I suggested that we write some tickets and make our sergeant happy. Soon afterward, we stopped a violator for going through a red light, and Ron issued him a citation. Thirty minutes later, we were summoned to the District, and Ron was directed to see the Watch Commander. I stood outside the Watch Commander’s office listening. After getting his ass handed to him, he stomped out the station cursing under his breath. I caught up with him and asked him what happened. When I burst out with laughter he immediately new I was the culprit. Boredom is what you make of it.
With longevity and seniority, common sense and respect should follow…
Working beat 1722 for a while, I got to know certain people on the beat and repeat callers. One caller happened to be the daughter of a man suffering with Alzheimers. A couple of times a month, he would wander away causing great anxiety in his daughter, his sole care-giver. After my first contact with the missing person, I realized that he happened to be a retired Chicago Police Officer. After returning him home one afternoon, I stayed down on the job and drove to the closest hospital. I requested and received a plastic informational bracelet that they place on patients entering surgery. With his name, address and phone number on it, I drove back to his house and the daughter gratefully secured it on his wrist. When the next time came that he was on the loose again, if I could locate him I would quickly notify the daughter because I now had her phone number. I would then place my missing person in the front seat of the squad car and “go on patrol.” On occasion, if the radio was quiet, I would take my new partner to Dunkin Donuts for a reminder cup. After he got a taste of “policing”, I would return him to his loving daughter. Having explained where we went she was elated to see the huge smile on his face. Then and there I realized that some of the more important things in life are small and that our time should be used wisely, and not only spent on law breakers.