An Old Sheepdog’s Day, Not Too Long Ago
Friday, eleven PM. I’ve been working since ten AM, and my regular shift ended at eight thirty PM. But another unit needs our help with surveillance, our specialty. This is the fourth night in a row.
If you were to observe the town from on high, you’d see that house lights have been going off for some time as residents retire for the night. Another day is over. The trials, tribulations or joys of the day are fading fast. I slid into my assigned spot and affix my gaze upon the house in question. Unlike the neighbors, this household is not going dormant. And, it won’t since the inhabitants and visitors are fueled by methamphetamine and pills. This is a dope party-house. A lady staying at the residence appears to be heavy with child. Two weeks ago she was arrested by another agency for being under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant. They apparently did not ascertain that she is pregnant. Maybe she’s just fat. Nevertheless, it would not surprise me if she is pregnant. Recently, the girlfriend of a major dope dealer gave birth, and the hospital personnel discovered that the newborn baby girl had illicit drugs in her system. Nice start to life, don’t you think?
Last night at this time, a known dope dealer’s car was already parked across from where I sit. His last arrest resulted in the confiscation of over 100,000 illegally obtained popular street prescription pills. He’s back on the street waiting for the creaky and ponderous wheels of justice to take its course. If tonight is anything like the three previous nights, people will drop by to party until the sun starts to lighten the sky, or they will leave earlier to thieve throughout the city. The latter are our targets.
The hours drag by. Boredom and exhaustion are occasionally punctuated by jolts of adrenaline. This time it is one-fifty-two AM. Suddenly from my left front, one maniacal looking individual is hurtling directly toward me chased by another. Decision time! Sitting in my car, I am at an extreme disadvantage. The car that had offered me concealment and protection from the elements is suddenly turned into a prison, or potentially worse a coffin. Do they see me? Am I their target? If I leap from the car, do I blow the surveillance? And, can I even get out of my car in time? Draw-down and confront or hunker-down? I choose hunker-down as the chased one crashes into my car and continues on. Then as quickly as they arrived, they are gone into the night. The whole scenario took three seconds max. The duo return a few minutes later carrying beer from the nearby all night stop-and-rob, apparently oblivious of my presence.
At four-eleven AM, a bicyclist, wearing a backpack, stops adjacent to me and stares intently in my direction. Does he see me in my car? If so, what are his intentions? Will he make me for a cop and snitch me off to the people in the target house? Or, maybe he does not see me. Is my car a target for a burglary? He rides off and takes way too long to reach my partner down the street. The routine is repeated, and he is undoubtedly casing to commit automobile burglaries. He vanishes into a residential neighborhood as mobile officers in cars take-up observation posts and cops on bicycles glide silently through the streets.
The police radio begins to crackle as officers locate and begin trailing two bicyclists making their way through residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. My partner and I leave our fixed surveillance posts and join the chase. As the net closes, suddenly there is a third bicyclist fleeing to the north of a commercial building. Or was it to the south? Radio transmissions are broken and covered as more than one officer speaks at the same time. Tired minds struggle to piece together the disparate bits of information. I’m having trouble discerning between cops on bikes and crooks on bikes. They are dressed the same. Precious seconds are lost with misidentification, while my partner is pursuing the fleeing bicyclist north of the building. I find my partner stopped with his car lights illuminating someone he is holding at gunpoint. The individual is standing among a bunch of bicycles sandwiched between a junker motor-home and tall vegetation abutting the end of the property. As I approach, my partner yells that there is someone in the bushes to his left. Damn, it’s up to me to address the potential threat. The vegetation is dense, and I know that my flashlight is potentially making me a target. I find two transients. They are detained.
Five people are in the vicinity of the motor-home, two with warrants for their arrest. One just got out of the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver, and he still has the port used to drain his abdomen. Another is 33 years old and can pass for sixty, with his balding head and goatee. He says that he suffers from colitis. One is a female about 50 years of age. She owns the junker motor-home, which appears to be in better condition than she.
These are a particular segment of the down-and-outs we call the homeless. They are alcohol and drug abusers. They are thieves. They are polluters turning streets, parking lots and bushes into outhouses. Their trash and discarded items are strewn all over their encampments. They refuse to use community homeless facilities because dope and alcohol use at the locations is prohibited. They live a parasitic life offering nothing positive to the community as they cycle in-and-out of jail and hospitals on the public dime. Just to be clear on the matter, your dime is in the form of higher taxes, higher insurance rates, and other direct costs. That says nothing about the anguish when you discover your car window smashed or your home burglarized.
My surveillance work ended at five-thirty AM. It’s Saturday, my day off, sort of. I get four hours of sleep, and then I’m up again since I have to go to the shooting range for the monthly qualification. It’s a struggle this time, even though I shot extremely well in the last few weeks with the interactive laser courses involving shoot-don’t shoot scenarios. I finally settle down and pass the course. It was reassuring to watch the center of the target disappear as the .45 caliber rounds found their mark.
At eight PM, the curtain rises at a community theatrical production. My wife and I are fond of live theater, and we attend often. This time it is a marvelous musical about the life and music of Patsy Cline. I can’t help but contrast at that which the performers bring to the community in the form of beauty and joy, as opposed to the dregs of life who were the center of my previous evening.
Eleven PM, we’re home from the theater. I was a little out of character tonight. I consciously did not carry my weapon with me to the theater. There was a need to discard my role as a sheepdog, if only for a few hours. But, I realized walking from my car to the theater that leaving the weapon at home did not relieve me of my sheepdog responsibilities. I was just un-armed. Nevertheless, it felt good to sit in the theater as if I was just like everyone else there to enjoy the evening, unburdened by the responsibility of carrying my weapon. I’ve been at this cops and bad guy game since 1972, and it strikes me as if it has just been so much pissin’ in the wind. Someone has to do it, but I’m getting tired.
Tomorrow is my birthday. My family: wife; daughters; son-in-laws; and grandchildren; will gather for the celebration. That’s reason enough for me to keep sticking my law enforcement finger in society’s leaky dike, against those who intend to abuse the people that I love.