I used to work with a guy, and for the purpose of this story I’ll call him Pat. Now Pat was a really sharp guy. He was generally quiet, and unless you got to know him personally, you’d never guess how funny he could be to ride with. He definitely had a dry sense of humor. If you spent any time with him in a cruiser assignment, he would amuse you non-stop with stories about his wife, children, politics, current events or whatever the two of us happened to be doing at the time.
To be sure, he was a bit cynical about life in general, police work and whoever the deity is who rules the universe. But, I guess most of us who spent any time on this job can’t help but to develop a cynical outlook about people, or for that matter, life in general. But I always thought that one of the keys to surviving a police career was to develop a sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously.
At one point, Pat decided to go to an advanced Defensive Tactics course up at the Police Academy. It was a couple of days long I think, I don’t exactly remember how long it was. But, let me say this:
I discovered early on in this job, that if you couldn’t handle yourself on the street, physically, you were, sooner or later, gonna get your ass kicked by some shitbird. He’ll try just because you are a cop and he thinks he can. In my days growing up in Dorchester and Quincy, I learned that no matter how tough you thought you were, imaginary or real, there was always someone out there that was tougher and crazier than you were. My police career validated that lesson. So, if you were going to survive life as a street cop, you had to learn how to handle yourself.
In order to help cops develop those tactics (I’ll call them survival skills) from time to time various police training organizations, to include MPD, offered training to develop use of force skills, along with the legal guidelines to establish what kind of force you can use in what situation from a practical, legal and ethical standpoint.
One technique that was often taught to cops was to utilize various “pain compliance” techniques to use on suspects who actively resist arrest. Using these various selected strikes or restraining moves on combative suspects was often effective because they hurt like hell. These strikes and restraint tactics were preferred because although painful, the techniques themselves don’t cause any serious injuries to the suspect you are trying to take into custody.
Often (unless the suspect was dusted out on PCP or had severe mental health issues) applying these learned techniques would usually, I stress usually, result in the suspect complying with your commands. As a result you were usually able to subdue and cuff the suspect before anyone else got seriously hurt.
Another good thing about employing these techniques is that if the suspect did inadvertently get hurt, or there were allegations of excessive force, all you had to show that the technique you used was taught to you at the police academy or PD, and legally, you’d be covered. So Pat goes off to one of these schools, gets his certificate and comes back to work the street. A newly improved, wiser, tougher street cop, or so he assumed.
Some time after Pat goes to this school, I find myself working with him and he tells me the following story:
Pat and another cop are sent to a loud party call late one night. Nothing unusual. Patrol units, in my city anyway, are fed a steady diet of loud party calls late at night during any typical shift. Pat and the second cop, to this day I don’t know who the second cop was, arrive at the address where the party is, or was.
Pat makes contact with the person who rents the apartment where the disturbance is. Where I work, the tenant or person in control of a residence in which a disturbance occurs can often be held criminally responsible for what goes on inside if you have a complaint. The person who answers the door that night happened to be a very large character, and Pat is immediately impressed by this guys size. Now 9 times out of 10, when we make contact with someone during a noise complaint, we try to have a pleasant chat with that person, and during that chat we work in the fact that 1) we have a complaint, 2) it’s late, and 3) the noise coming from within is unreasonable. Also, we work into the conversation, in a polite but stern manner, that if the problem persists and we have to come back for the same reason, we will make arrests.
What we normally didn’t tell people was that where I worked, the unwritten rule was, if we had to go back to the same call a second time, we’d better make sure we didn’t go back a third time. A third call would indicate to the bosses that we didn’t do our job during the first and second complaint. So, in these cases, at least during the first call, we were normally as courteous as possible, but when we left, we wanted to make sure they knew if we came back again it was trouble for them.
It was not unusual to be invited inside, offered a drink and sometimes even invited back to the party (the party they told us they would now shut down) later after we got off work. Of course we would thank whomever for the offer and always decline.
However, every so often you run into a jack ass that for some reason has a hair across their rear end for the local constabulary. They want to give you a hard time. Maybe they had too much to drink. Maybe they are just a fool. Maybe they just hate cops in general. Maybe, their idea of fun is kicking the crap out of a cop. Even better if they do it in public or in front of their peeps.
The guy who came to the door that night was all of the above. Apparently he was not going to be happy until he got dragged out of the house and taken away to jail that night. But he was going to go down swinging and get his shots in, that you can be sure of. Pat, being the reasonable and even tempered person he was, tried to reason with this guy, but the situation quickly deteriorated and before he knows it, Pat and his partner are inside the doorway rolling around with this guy in a fight for their lives. They were trying to handcuff him, but this behemoth was having none of it. To make matters worse, he seemed impervious to pain.
At one point, Pat decided to utilize a series of knee strikes against the guy he’s trying to arrest. Well, to be clear, he was already under arrest, he just decided not to go. These are strikes that Pat learned while at the Defensive Tactics course.
The theory on this knee strike is that if you strike your suspect’s upper thigh by forcefully driving and thrusting your knee into it, along with the proper follow through, the kinetic force of the strike will be unbearably painful and the suspect will involuntarily stop resisting. Even better, this strike, although very painful on the receiving end, does not cause any lasting injury. Maybe a hell of a charlie horse…
So Pat keeps striking this guy over and over again, driving his knee into the guy’s thigh as hard as he could…nothing. No effect what so ever. The battle rages on. Pat’s thinking ‘what the hell…’
Eventually, the guy is handcuffed and loaded into the wagon. No thanks to the fancy strikes he just learned at the police academy. Pat being the arresting officer and catching the paperwork on it, he drives to the station to book his prisoner and complete the paperwork that goes with that.
During the drive in, Pat is irritated and very depressed. He doesn’t understand how he could have struck that guy so hard, so many times, and the guy never flinched! By the time he arrived at the station, he’s already talked himself into joining a gym and start lifting weights. He’s now decided that it’s imperative for him to embark on a serious strength training routine. He can’t believe how weak he’s become, and even though he’s a thin guy, he always thought he was physically fit. Now however, he has come to the conclusion he is going to get his ass kicked one of these nights. He hasn’t yet decided which gym to join, but he has to do something, and he has to do it fast.
So, the wagon drops the prisoner off, and finally it’s Pat’s turn to take his prisoner up to the cage and book him in. First thing that happens is that the prisoner is thoroughly searched by the arresting officer. He orders his prisoner to put his hands, palms raised and flat against the plexiglass window. Then to take several steps backwards and spread his legs apart. Prisoners are routinely searched this way for two reasons-1) They are off balance and if they try to attack the cop it’ll be much harder for them to gain their balance and swing at the cop, and, 2) It allows the officer to thoroughly search the prisoners crotch area for weapons or other contraband.
So Pat is now in kind of a surly mood, and he started searching his prisoner. He begins with his hands, down his arms, chest, stomach, around his waist, removes the guys belt, then his hands travel down to the prisoners legs. ‘What the hell is this?’ Pat feels something unusual so he pulls the guys trousers down and guess what he finds. The guy has a prosthetic leg! Pat had been striking the guy’s prosthetic leg! Pat lets out a sigh of relief. So it wasn’t Pat after all.
Well, Pat ends his story there, except I know after being startled by this discovery, his mood improved vastly and despite the battle he just had with this guy, he’s now feigning outrage and surprise, but by the end off the booking process he and the prisoner and the booking officer had a good laugh. It’s all you can do, right?
Pat never did tell me if he joined a gym the next day…