Saturday, October 13, 2012

That damn cop's just sitting there watching the construction! Useless waste of time!

The other day, I was the officer everyone sees as they drive through the construction area. I was directed to "make a presence." I asked the Chief, "should I get out and help direct traffic?"

"No," Chief said. "The construction crew has their own flaggers. I'm putting you there because if you're not there, some people ignore the flaggers and we've had several near misses."

I wasn't thrilled. I'm not one to spend the day parked in a cruiser, in all reality trying to look good for the public. And some of my detractors might offer that I am ill-equipped for any job that requires good looks. But when the Chief gets an idea, it's best to go with the flow- even if he tells you to do nothing . Hell, If I ever wanted to be a Chief, this assignment would prove I could do the job. Did I mention the Chief doesn't read blogs?

I pulled up to the construction site, hit the lights and got out of the car. As I closed the door, I saw a construction worker look at me, get that look of terror in his eyes, drop his tools and start running. They're still looking for him. Not even out of the car and I'd made an impression. Today might be fun after all.

I approached the foreman, figuring he'd be pissed at the intrusion. "Morning," I said. "I've been directed to sit over there with my lights on."

"Hey, that's great!" the foreman said.

I must have looked confused and I was. I expected to get the "lazy freakin' cop" look. But the foreman looked happy.

 "These freakin' people think my flaggers are targets. With you here, maybe they won't get run over. Yesterday some asshat nearly clipped Chunky."

The foreman nodded to "Chunky," obviously not named for his svelte figure. Chunky was at least three hundred pounds and he wasn't a tall man. Any car that hit Chucky would remember the collision.

"Well, if you have any problems, give me a yell. I'll be in the car."

The foreman thanked me, shook my hand and went to find out why the guy he called "Lucky Eddie" bolted when I arrived. He seemed to think Eddie was just being proactive, the result of many run-ins (no pun intended) with officers over over the years.

I got into my car, pulled out my latest batch of training materials and tried to get a little work done but the ten year old boy in me was fascinated with watching the crew rebuild the road. The Gradall, dump trucks, vibrating compactor- they even had a backhoe! I was in Matchbox heaven!

I took a glance around the site, just in time to see an older, obviously well cared-for Mercury Marquis, mangle several pylons and end up in a ditch. I headed over, knowing this story would be good.

I took one look at the driver and for a moment, I thought I finally had the privelege of meeting Yoda. Well, maybe not the actual Yoda but possibly a stunt double?

A little old man I'll call Mr. Mort, managed to extract himself from the car and headed for the flagger with a full head of steam. Apparently this Yoda was not one to spout Buddha-like philosophy while maintaining an even temperament.

"You bastard! You lazy bastards are tryna kill me!  I'm gonna put my foot up your...." Mr. Mort was yelling as loud as a pissed off old goat could yell. I got between Mr. Mort and the flagger.

The flagger was caught off guard by the sight of the little old man, hell-bent on using more than the force on him and he looked confused, unsure whether he should be laughing or running for his life, a pissed-off Jedi puppet nipping at his heels.

"Sir, sir, calm down! What's going on?" I asked, noting Mr. Mort had a hospital bracelet on his wrist.

"You saw him! That fat bastard put those cone things in my way so I'd have an accident! Arrest him!" Mr. Mort Screamed.

I nodded to the flagger to go back to the now-knotted traffic. I said, "Sir, come talk to me and we'll figure this out.

I obtained his license and called comm center, asking them to contact the local hospital listed on the bracelet  while running his information.

Turns out Mr. Mort was a guest of the local hospital. He managed to drive himself there a couple of days before and they had admitted him. A call to the hospital confirmed he was a guest suffering from the onset of  dementia, diabetes, heart disease, psoriasis, deafness, partial blindness, incontinence (oh, no, a transport via my cruiser there will not be), chronic halitosis, several unnamed and miscellaneous other maladies, the ever-present anger management issues and the occasional hallucination.

For his safety and that of the general public, the only wheels Mr. Mort should have been piloting was a hospital bed.

An ambulance was dispatched to pick up the recently found, formerly lost patient.

I called for a tow for the car, got Mr. Mort calmed down and kept him from his plans to assassinate the flagger. Mr. Mort still did have a valid license and I would have to deal with that administratively but for now, the hospital swore he'd be staying in a secure geriatric wing. I wanted to ask why he wasn't there in the first place but being the firm believer in discretion that I am (no comments from the peanut gallery), I let it go.

I also called the number for a granddaughter Mr. Mort gave me but it was disconnected. I hoped it was just a wrong number. My experience with the elderly these days is not riddled with supportive family members just waiting to help their family. Unless there's a mess of zeros at the end of a bank account in Grandpa's name- then, Grandpa's every movement, from the cha-cha to the latest find in his depends becomes an adorable and oft spoken-of event.

Traffic soon returned to the normal construction-related confusion.

I was sitting  there watching the progress of the project when the emergency siren went off for an auto accident, outside our jurisdiction. Traffic became a mess as vehicles climbed curbs to get out of the way of the volunteers and their blue lights. (I highly respect volunteers but sometimes their driving is on par with Mr. Mort. With the full agreement and support of the Fire Chief, who has suspended volunteers too for the same reasons, I might add, I've cited responders several times- after they responded to the incidents- for careless driving.)

I saw that only one engine and a single ambulance headed past me toward the wreck.

These days, volunteers are hard to come by. Jobs, the state-mandated firefighter/EMT training, child care, apathy- these factors all conspire to reduce the volunteer pool. As I sat there, a second tone went out to neighboring stations for more manpower and a crew to man a landing zone for a medivac chopper. But within seconds of  the first paramedic unit calling on-scene, the second tone and chopper were cancelled. The wreck was a one-car fatality. Another life lost to a traffic accident. Time was no longer a factor in extracting the driver from the car.

The coroner was contacted and one fire unit remained on-scene until the State Police found their way to the site- budget cuts are really hampering the State Police. It can take an hour or more to get a unit on-scene, depending on the circumstances.

In this case, the decedent wouldn't be complaining but in a domestic, an injured person could conceivably die with a rescue squad staged a block away, waiting for a police response to give scene-safe confirmation. Protocol and standard safety practices forbid EMS from entering a domestic without police clearance. There's a saying in Emergency Services- don't become a victim. No clearance, no access. No police, no clearance.

I watched as the volunteers, heads a little lower at the loss of a patient, straggled back to the station.

Rush hour, or what passed for rush hour in our little corner of the world hit. I got out of the cruiser and stood on the sidewalk by the flagger. Several times, the flagger motioned to cars to stop and they kept coming. I stepped off the sidewalk and the cars suddenly stopped. The flagger blamed the Sun. "I think they're having trouble seeing me," he said.

"No, that's not it," I said. "The car behind him stopped. The driver saw you. The driver just chose to ignore you. You're interfering with their lives. Sheep only care about their agenda when they drive."

"Good point," the flagger said. "I just don't have the authority to make them stop. You do."

"Yeah, it's amazing how an invitation to discuss their driving with a magistrate works better than a stop sign. The fines don't hurt the cause either."

As quickly as "rush hour" began, it was over and the number of cars dwindled. As I opened the cruiser to get back in, my phone buzzed. It was the Chief, asking,  "do you see the smoke?"

I scanned the horizon and saw a plume of smoke. "Yeah, it's coming from the south."

Chief said, "I was headed home and when I came around the corner, all I can see is smoke. Did county get anything?"

"No, it's been quiet."

Just then, the siren went off. The radio squawked, 'Structure fire, county road."

I relayed the info to the Chief. "I better come in and grab a cruiser."

I offered to head up to the fire scene. "They're just about done here," I added.

"No, I'll go up. Your shift is almost over and I'm guessing it was a long day," the Chief said.

I couldn't argue the point. When the Chief gives an out, I take it.

Again, a procession of blue lights, followed by a stream of firetrucks filled the road. More volunteers came this time. A structure fire draws volunteers like a magnet. I'd probably be banned from the local MagicDonut if I asked but I'm betting my friends who volunteer on the big red trucks probably have a cooler with hot dogs and buns behind the seat, just waiting for a working structure fire.

I sat listening to the incident commander organizing the operation over the air. A pumper here, a ladder there and the ambulances staged over here. Fire scenes are like symphonies, everyone has a part and a strong incident commander can paint a mental picture in your head of where everyone should be.

The fire chatter fell as the fire was contained. The Gradall and the dump trucks were headed back to the yard.

I headed back to the station.

This was just another day in the life of a cop. This one was quiet and most importantly, I got to go home to my family, safe and in one piece. That, my friends, is a highly successful day, in my book.

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Margie's busy formatting again! A new short story is nearly ready! -Rog is getting tips from a very unusual confidential informant! Who is it? "Drop a Dime" is due out soon!

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