Plain Clothes Part II

NOTE:If you haven’t read part I, scroll down and read that first!

After cruising around and finding the streets unusually quiet, talking and laughing about our earlier contact, 2 AM rolls around. We drop my brother off at MPD, say good night, and Jimmy and I head back out to what we assume will be an uneventful morning. There is nothing going on, either on the radio, or on the streets. Jimmy decided to drive, I rode shot gun, making me the book keeper and observer. Due to the fact that this car was used for undercover operations, it had no police radio, or blue lights or siren. I placed my portable radio under my lap, so that anyone who walked up to the window would not see it or hear it. 

About 330 or so, I saw someone on a corner I figured to be selling. Drugs, that is. Jimmy pulled up to him, I rolled down my window, he walked up, looked us over and asked us what we needed. I told him I was looking for 2 Quarters, which was street language for two separate 1/4 grams of crack, packaged and sold for $20.00. At the time, this went for $10 each in Lawrence, so their business naturally moved up here, and sure enough, this guy turned out to be from Lawrence. 

He said OK, told me to meet him in 5 minutes outside a nearby garage. I agreed. Jimmy drove to the lot, there were several cars parked on the lot, and we pulled up and waited. A few minutes later,  I look into my rear view mirror, and I see this same guy crouched down at the back of my car, apparently thinking we couldn’t see him. I also saw he had a long piece of wood or board in his hands. I immediately tried to roll up my window, as he crept up, warned Jimmy, and when he reached my window, he started to swing at my head and face several times I ducked, he hit the window striking it, but no breaking it. 

I got out of the car and lunged at him, yelling “POLICE, POLICE” as though that was going to induce him to stop for us. But, if either Jimmy or I were going to get hurt making this pinch, I wanted him to know we were cops. I wanted to be able to testify that I announced to him that we were cops, and not two shitbirds out to rob him. He turned and ran down westerly down Lake Ave with Jimmy and I in pursuit on foot. We were in plain clothes, and I realized I left my radio in the car. I as we ran I yelled to Jimmy, inquiring if he had his radio. “it’s in the car” he huffed at me. Now I knew we may have been in trouble. If this took an even worse turn, we had no way to call for help, and any bystander would not realize we were cops. Sucking wind, as I sprinted down the street, I answered, informing him, all the while panting, in between threats to the suspect about what would happen if he didn’t give himself up. All this just motivated him to keep running, and it became obvious we were going to have to catch this dude by ourselves. Why? Because both of us, foolishly, left our radios, our lifelines for support, behind. Being that it was about 4AM, there wasn’t a soul around. Certainly there were no cops that were out and about. Hell, those radios might not even be in the car by the time we get back to it. 

Good thing about many bad guys, they are often not in as good as shape as many of us, so eventually we caught up with him and the three of us go tumbling down into a pile. We must have rolled down the street like bags of garbage being blown in the wind. And, that’s a pretty fair description of what we must have looked like. Going down hard on the asphalt really hurt, and knocked the wind out of me. It must have resembled Hightower and Butler taking down an opposing runner after catching a pass.

To make matters worse, for both me AND the suspect, I was angry. No, I was LIVID. This has become personal. This guy tried to rob me, knock my head off with a stick, and then ran. I am bruised and scraped, really, really pissed off, and this guy is still struggling to break away from us. He almost did break away a couple of times!

Finally, I’d had enough. I took my pistol (I don’t even remember when I drew it) rolled over on top of this guy and placed the muzzle on his upper lip, just under his nose, pressed on it hard. I told him if he didn’t give up I was going to kill him. I never intended to shoot him, not at that point, and looking back on it, I know that introducing my pistol into the struggle certainly escalated the situation, if that was even possible. But, at the time, that’s the decision I made, and it was my lawful choice. Apparently he believed me, which was the purpose of the exercise. He immediately stopped and let Jimmy handcuff him. I actually saw the imprint on his lip of the barrel of my pistol! I’m pretty sure I remember pulling his nose hairs out of my barrel! 

At this point all three of us were wheezing, trying to catch our breath. We dragged him back to the car, miraculously, the radios were still there. I was finally able to call for a wagon and some back up. I recovered  the stick he tried to bash my face with.

That was the end of my plain clothes assignment that night. I think I charged him with Entering into a Conspiracy to Sell a Narcotic, (We never did find any crack on him) Attempted Armed Robbery, Attempted 1st Degree Assault, and well as Resisting arrest, maybe even Disorderly Conduct, which was the least of his problems.

This event woke everyone else on the shift up. I assumed everyone had settled in for a quiet last couple of hours of the shift, at least until the tax paying citizens started to wake up, head for work school, whatever. Most of the cops were probably reading, eating, even a grabbing quick nap, with one ear listening for the radio. None of this ingratiated us to many of the others on the shift.

As we dragged our prisoner into booking, I don’t know which of the three of us looked worse. We must have been quite a sight. We got a few shots in on this guy while he fought, but I will say here that neither of us struck this guy after the handcuffs were applied. I never did that.  

The Shift Commander strolls into booking, sizes up the scene before him, shook his head, and muttered something under his breath. I couldn’t be sure but I think I heard the F word at least once and the A Hole word a few times. I’m not sure if he was talking about me, or our prisoner. We figured, all in all, it was a good pinch. Apparently, no one else was impressed. For sure, no attaboys, no “are you OK”, nothing. 

In the morning after finishing my paperwork, I got called into the Legal Department. I received a cold welcome, for sure. Our police work and minor injuries earned us a lecture. I was told I overcharged this guy (criminal charges) and that most of these charges would never fly. How did I know he was trying to rob me? He never actually TOLD me he was trying to rob me. Didn’t recover any drugs. Really wasn’t a felony level assault, more like an attempted misdemeanor. What did I think I was doing anyway? Yada yada yada, and he just droned on and on and eventually I just stopped listening. I tuned him out and shook my head in a combination of bewilderment and disgust. I finally left thinking, this was a high ranking boss that hasn’t spent much time on the street. Certainly no one on the command staff had any empathy for either Jimmy or myself. 

As the morning wore on, and the adrenaline started to wear off. My bruises and cuts started to throb. I was tired, and decided it was time to nurse my boo boos and try to get some sleep. Of  course despite all that, when I got home, I was pretty wound up. Don’t remember if my wife was home, or if she had left for work, 

The lesson I took from my first shift working plain clothes, was that if anyone took this job looking for attaboys or a pat on the back from the bosses or taxpayers, this was the wrong profession. Such is police work. Looking back, I suppose in someways, sometime after three o’clock we would have been better off finding a place to hide and nap or just take it easy. Of course, we would make sure we didn’t miss any calls for back up, or calls we felt we should roll on. But, that  wasn’t me, and it wasn’t Jimmy. Not saying I never copped  ZZZs from time to time when it was slow on midnights, but after trying to get on the job for so many years, I wasn’t going to waste that opportunity. 

In the end, we went to court a few times on this case, never went to trial. I’m sure he took a plea, but I don’t remember how much, if any time he did. After all, as I’ve heard many times over the years, selling drugs is really a non violent, victimless crime. 

Oh yeah, in case anyone is wondering, it was a very long time before they let me go back on the street in a plain clothes assignment. But you needn’t worry. One nice thing about police work. Bosses come and bosses go. Some have short memories. Others take their enmity towards you to the grave. Mostly though, time passes. Sometimes, you will actually find yourself working for a boss who actually respects the work you do and likes you. I bid my time, continued to work hard. I found there was more than one way to skin that cat as time passed. As good as those first years were for me, the best (and worst) still lay ahead for me.


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