The Wagon Run

Wagon Run

Warning: The following story contains some adult material and a few bad words…

I completed both police academies in NH in June of 1991. After that, I went to Ft. Jackson S.C. for three miserable weeks working as a Drill Sergeant. Some time in July of that year I returned from military duty and entered the Field Training Officer (FTO) period of my training. It would be the first time I worked on the street as a police officer. I always thought I was very fortunate to be one of only two academy classmates to be assigned to the 6PM to 230AM shift that summer. It was the busiest 8 hour shift in terms of calls for service, and that suited me just fine. We had 7 shifts in Patrol at that time (two days shifts, two night shifts and two midnight shifts) and I loved the 6-230AM shift. Didn’t help my social or family life, but what the hell, I thought. Those things are often unimportant to cops when they first start out in their careers. 

As long as I can remember I wanted to be a cop. I often dreamed about it. So, I hit the street for the first time during the very hot summer of 1991. I was 35 years old, certainly the oldest rookie at MPD. It turned out to be a wild and crazy summer in Manchester that year, and when in September I was assigned to day shift, I came to hate it, and I had to wait for several years before I had enough seniority to bid for and get back on the 6-230AM shift. 

It was the first week of my street training, and for some reason, I was assigned to a wagon much of my FTO period. This was fine with me. When I was a kid I listened to the Boston Police calls on my scanner and each district had one or two wagons, and I always pictured myself ripping around District 4 or the old District 9 in a wagon, going from call to call. Life had certainly come full circle for me in many ways!

On this night, I was driving and my FTO was the passenger. Back in those days, when we had a prisoner or prisoners in the wagon, they had to be seat belted in, and the cop who wasn’t driving had to ride in the back with the prisoners. That night was the exception. I drove, in order to get to know the city, but when we had a prisoner, my partner made me ride in the back because I was a trainee, also junior to him, but that was good enough for me. Normally, whoever was senior in a two officer assignment usually called the shots anyway. Riding in back always sucked, but that was the way it was. 

There were two wooden benches in the wagon, and they were hard. There was a cushion, for the cop, who sat on the right side of the rear, by the door. Prisoners would be seat belted in starting up front on the left, as far as possible from the where the cop sat. Often prisoners stunk. It wasn’t unusual to transport people who were bloody from fighting, or who had vomited, urinated or defecated themselves. I never saw this on Adam-12, nor did I ever see this in any recruitment brochures or videos.

It was not unusual, on a busy night, to have multiple prisoners from different arrests as we went from call to call around the city providing a sort of Uber or taxi service as cops made arrests, often simultaneously. It could be a dangerous job, as often times the prisoners we transported were intoxicated and / or violent. 

This night, after getting my assignment during roll call, I met with my training officer and we signed out our wagon. I was still brand new on the job, and not having grown up or lived in Manchester, I had no idea what to expect as far as crime or how busy the city was. I came from Boston, so I wasn’t expecting too much. That summer proved just how wrong I was.  

So we hit the street. My Field Training Officer (FTO) gave me a few ground rules, the first of which was to head to the Dunkin Donuts at Valley and Elm Sts. before we called into service. We might not get another chance to grab a coffee, he explained. 

It was still light, but probably close to 8 PM when we got this call. “Valley and Elm. 20X is off with an arrest and has one to go.” (meaning a prisoner to transport back to MPD). I missed both the original call for 20X as well as 20X calling for a wagon, but I didn’t miss the call for us. My partner copied the call and I headed there. A few minutes later, 20X called us directly and told us to “step it up!” That meant he was requesting a code three-blue lights and siren response from us. When he called us, I could hear tension in his voice and people yelling and screaming in the background. My partner hit the blues and siren and told me to step on it. I did. 

Valley and Elm was a busy intersection several blocks south of downtown. Elm Street’s notoriety came from the fact that it was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest street in the country that dead ended at both ends. It ran from a housing project on it’s south end, through a busy downtown up to the North End of Manchester where the old Notre Dame College was once located. It was also an upscale neighborhood . Driving from Valley and Elm to Manchester’s northern end was like going to the moon. The difference was remarkable. 

We arrived. There was a large crowd of on lookers, and they were taunting Jimmy C. Jimmy had a black female in custody. She was barefoot, and screaming obscenities at Jimmy, and trying to break away. Jimmy was a salty veteran cop, had a dry sense of humor and could be funny as hell to ride with but I didn’t know him at that point. I had learned that this female, I’ll call her Holly, not her real name, had a pile of rocks and bricks and was throwing them at passing cars. Since this was a busy intersection, this was a problem requiring a police response. Jimmy was sent to the call, and the situation deteriorated the moment he arrived. I looked about and saw rocks and bricks strewn around the sidewalk and street. I remember wondering where the hell she got all those rocks from. 

Anyway, Holly was handcuffed, hands behind her back as per SOP, and Jimmy sort of flung her at me and said “Welcome to the Jungle”. I grabbed her while Jimmy went back and got her two shoes that somehow had come off during his struggle with her. He tossed her two shoes into the back of the wagon. I seated her up in the front corner, and I reached out my right arm across her front to grab the seatbelt. She bit me, on the forearm, just below the spot where one usually has blood drawn from them. However, she didn’t just bite me, she clamped her teeth down hard, and wouldn’t let go. She bit down into my arm, harder and harder, as though she was trying to rip a piece of my arm off. It seemed like she was trying to take a bite out of a turkey leg.  

I let out a yell, and I tried to pull my arm away from her, but she wouldn’t let go. I must have looked like a cartoon character whose arm was in the mouth of a bulldog and couldn’t shake it loose. I waved my arm up and down, to no effect. 

Suddenly, my partner / training officer appeared in the back of the wagon. “Marty!” he exclaimed. “What the fuck are you doing? We have calls waiting”. I must have glanced back at him over my shoulder with a stupid look on my face. He immediately sized up the situation, as she was still attached to my forearm by her teeth. Without skipping a beat, he threw a fist at her, striking Holly in the face. She flew back, and her head bounced off the inside of the wagon. I was in a lot of pain. I was afraid she had taken a large piece of meat out of my arm. When I looked there was blood, but thankfully, my arm was more or less intact. However, I was  bleeding from the open wound she caused. 

My partner, if he had any sympathy for me certainly didn’t show it. In fact, he went on to chastise me, asking me why I was fooling around when we had calls piling up. I think he thought that I should have whacked her right away, instead of waiting for him to do it. The truth was, I didn’t know what to do. I was a probationary officer, just starting my FTO period, and we never covered something like this at either police academy. Also, since Holly was a female, the idea of punching her in the face was kind of abhorrent to me. In the end, I had no problem with my partner punching her, and I should have done it myself. She did enough damage to me and could have done a lot more. Still though, I figured an excessive force complaint during my first week wouldn’t have boded well for me. Eventually, over time, I realized that it was more important to go home at the end of the shift in the same condition I left the house, and worrying about complaints became a secondary concern working the street. You did what you had to do to survive. But, I wasn’t there yet.

I took my seat in the back of the wagon, my partner closed the door and we were off to another call, siren wailing. On the way, Holly started in on me. Chowing down on my arm like a dog with a bone wasn’t enough for her. It was just the beginning. She started to taunt me. Without going into details here, she went on to question my manhood and my anatomy. She talked about my sexual ability, and how white blue eyed devils could never match a black man’s sexual prowess. Of course, that wasn’t the language she used. I was dumbfounded, no one had ever talked to me in such a manner. I said nothing to her. She put together a string of obscene insults the like of which I had never heard before in my life, and certainly never directed towards me! She would intermittently take breath and spit at me. I had to dodge her spittle as she “hucked” lungee after lungee towards me. After a few minutes they were dripping down the wall behind and all around my head. I had to keep moving to avoid the things she spat at me the entire ride. It was like playing Dodge Ball without the ball. And I certainly didn’t want to become “it’ in this game. The more she cursed me, the louder she got and the worse she sounded. 

Mercifully, the wagon came to a stop, but Holly did not. Her tirade continued. The wagon doors opened and there was a cop I had never met before. He had a middle aged white woman in handcuffs. He started to put her in the wagon, but Holly was still carrying on. The new prisoner had been stopped in her car, and I think her license was suspended. She looked at Holly with horror, and started begging us NOT to put her in the wagon with her. Someone thought better of it, removed the woman.  My partner told me to hang on. The doors closed, and thankfully, we were off hurtling towards the station with blue lights and siren.

By the time we arrived, I had already had more than a day’s worth of exercise while I rode in back with Holly. Holly had quieted down as we backed into the sally port. Thank God, I thought. When we came to a stop I CAREFULLY removed her seatbelt, fearing she would spit on me, but she did not. We got her into booking. She was brought to the booking window and the arresting officer Jimmy carefully removed her handcuffs. Suddenly she went off once again. Several of us wrestled with her, and we all fell together to the floor.

Suddenly, as we struggled with her, someone appeared with a straight jacket. Yup, an honest to goodness straight jacket that up until now I had never seen except in the movies. Guy (pronounce GEE, as in Guy LaFluer) was a traffic cop with a pronounced French Canadian accent. Guy happened to be nearby and came to our aid. I have no idea how many of us were fighting with Holly on the floor at that point. There were other prisoners within the cell block who were cheering her on. Guy grabbed a handful of disposable gloves, and as we wrestled, we each stuck up one hand at a time while he placed a glove on each outstretched hand. 

My problem was that I had no idea how to put this thing onto our prisoner. They never taught us how to do that at the police academy. We were involved in a long, protracted knock down drag out battle on the floor with Holly. In addition to punching and kicking, Holly was spitting and trying to bite anyone close to her. At one point, Jimmy, who had left the room for a moment came back, stood looking at us wrestle with his prisoner, and then said “Hey Marty, how do you like your new fucking job so far ?” I was unable to answer. Guy, kinda the senior cop present told Jimmy to get out and slammed the door. Eventually, we did get the straight jacket on her, and she was put in a cell. I’m not sure what happened to her after that. I was filthy, uniform ripped, out of breath and covered with spit. Not to mention, my arm, where she bit me was a mixture of fresh and dried blood. 

When we were done, I finished my shift in the emergency room of one of the local hospitals. It was my second trip there as a patient since I had started this new career. I made many more trips to the ER as a patient before the year was up. All relatively minor injuries, but never the less, I got tired of calling my wife at night, telling her I was going to be late coming home because I was in the hospital. She didn’t care to receive those calls very much either.

Fortunately, I didn’t need stitches. Doc told me that because the wound was where it was, stitches wouldn’t  do any good anyway. So they patched me up, gave me a tetanus shot and eventually released me. However, the staff was VERY concerned about the human bite. In the end, I had to be tested for all kinds of diseases I could have contracted, and in the following weeks I had to endure a series of painful injections to immunize and protect me  against who knew what. It was not the last time I was bitten at work, and sadly, not the last time I had to endure this series of nasty injections. 

As for Holly, she had already been designated by the courts as being unfit to stand trial, so nothing ever happened to her for that day or any of her future arrests. My first meeting with her, was the first time I had shed blood on the job and may have well have been the first time I was assaulted on the job. Such a great milepost for my career. Unfortunately, it was certainly not the last. 

Post Script. 

Several years later, I was working a quiet midnight shift on the West Side when I stopped a car for blowing a red light. The driver pulled into the driveway of her house, which was the only reason she stopped. I walked up to the car, already determining that I was going to summons the driver for the red light. I made contact with the driver, who was a black female. I asked her for her license and registration and an explanation as to why she ran the red light. She gave no explanation. I went back to my car. I pulled out my clipboard and a blank summons and started to write. Date, time ,location…then I looked at her license. Yup, you guessed it. It was non other than Holly. I immediately went back to her. I noted that several adult members of her family had come outside to see what was up, even though it was about 2AM. I handed her license and registration back to her, gave her a brief oral warning, went back to my cruiser and couldn’t get away from her fast enough. I got the hell out! I tore up the summons. I cleared the stop with a warning, wrote the contact in my notebook. 

For many years, every so often I would hear her name over the radio, called in for a stop, and occasionally she would be arrested for whatever. I always chuckled to myself and silently wished good luck to whichever cop had the misfortune to have stopped her. As for me, I wanted no part of her, ever again.  

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