Browsing all articles from March, 2012

First Foot Beat

Posted Posted by DetectiveEstes in Detective Estes' Corner     Comments No comments

First Foot Beat
When I was a new police officer my parents gave me a copy of Joseph Wambaugh’s book, “The Blue Knight”. I loved it. It was a can’t-put-it-down book. For those who haven’t read it, the story is of a cop walking a foot beat in Los Angeles, California during the times of race riots and the youth movement, basically the time-frame of the 60s – 70s. From that moment on I wanted to be a foot patrol officer. In 1975, the police department I worked for made that happen and I became one of a few officers who walked foot beats.
My first foot beat was about a mile square. Naturally, since I’ve never been a runner that meant that everything was too far away for me to get to if an incident was in progress. If I was to get into any action I would either have to walk up on it, or make the action happen myself. The area I was assigned was heavy in garden style apartments. Most of those were inhabited by what seemed to be nice, older, retired ladies. At the time I was 25, in the prime of life, and single. Not a great time to be in the middle of a bunch of retired old women….at least in my mind.
I tried to walk the entire beat at least once a day and usually made it since there weren’t too many reasons to stop; at least until all these ladies found out there was a young uniform officer walking by every day that appeared, to them at least, to be way too thin. After that; every day I would walk past these apartments and at least one, and usually up to three of these ladies would be bringing out a pie, or a cake, or inviting me in for a glass of milk and cake, or coffee and cake, or pie. And they were all so delicious. How in the world could I say no? So I didn’t. In 8 months I gained over 50 pounds! But what a wonderful way of gaining.
Nearly every evening following my shift, I would return to the police station with some kind of refreshment. It got so the entire motor squad and foot patrol would take time out from their busy schedule of getting off to see what Roger brought in tonight. We all gained weight.
One day I walked up on a woman crossing guard who was in clear physical distress. She was in uniform and sweating badly. She was going into shock for reasons not known to me. I talked to her for a little while and called an ambulance for her. I was pretty shy then, even though I’d been a police officer for over two years. Being shy, I didn’t do much talking to her, or touching her to make her feel any better about an ambulance coming. When the ambulance arrived, they asked me what I had done for her. I told them and I was surprised by the contempt on the driver’s face. He said, “So you’ve been standing around here being a JAFO and doing nothing for someone who could have died right in front you, huh?” It was way later in my career that I found out that JAFO stood for ‘Just Another F- – King Observer’. This was exactly what I had been. I was very disappointed in my actions that day. From then on, my actions in general were more professional, to overcome that shyness.
Shortly after this incident, I discovered that writing parking tickets on foot patrol made the day go by faster and there was also a fine chance of some action when the car owner came running out to dispute the ticket. The apartments in one part of my beat had very little private parking, so the spaces were placed on both sides of the street. This left only one narrow lane of travel in each direction.
The parking spaces were made so the driver had to front-end park. This wasn’t difficult if the driver simply pulled into the space as he or she were already driving on the correct side of the street. However, due to the high volume of cars, there were frequent traffic jams of people that needed to back out when they left. And they were backing into traffic that they couldn’t see for the other parked cars around. To alleviate that many drivers would back their cars into the spaces so they could quickly leave the space. Uh-oh….violation. Can’t back into a front-in only parking space. Parking ticket time. This is where I came in. And this is where the action came in as well. There is something about parking tickets that makes most folk’s blood boil. Normal people who on any other day on earth want to stay away from the police, will, when they see they are getting a parking ticket, come running out of where-ever they are, even if it’s in mid-shower, to dispute that ticket! Sometimes it is even to the point of actual combat with the officer!
At that time this ticket was ten dollars. Violators were evident to all concerned that an illegally parked car really was parked backed in, and not fronted in to the space. One day I wrote about 20 tickets at one time. I guess every one of the owners was home at the time. They all seemed to come out en masse. Most of them shouting, some cursing, some obviously wanting to do battle. As they got closer I realized this could be very painful for me if they all decided to take me on at one time. Being young and full of vinegar and looking for action, I decided not to call for backup just then. If I’d been a little older I might’ve rethought that decision.
When the largest screamer got right up to me, he made the error of screaming that he was going to beat me down. I clipped him on the top of the muscle over his collarbone with my nightstick. That was good enough for him. He fell down on the ground and did his screaming from there. That stopped the rest of the pack in their tracks. It’s one thing to be willing to take part in a fight where other folks do the actual beating but when the biggest guy gets knocked down people suddenly realize they could be next and no one really wants to be next. So all the rest just stopped and there was absolute silence.
I didn’t know what to do now. There were 20 people standing around in various attitudes of nastiness, all directed at me, and one person on the ground that should be handcuffed and arrested but I didn’t want to turn my back on the rest to do that. Just then, more screaming from behind the first mob of 20. I looked and here were 8 of my retired lady friends running out of their own apartments hollering at the first group. They were angry at the screamers because they thought they were going to hurt me! They were coming to give their boy some help!
I suddenly realized the dispatcher was calling me, “Roger!! Are you all right?” I answered, calm sounding I hoped, “Yes, kind of. I’ve got some angry people around me. Could I have a couple units please?” The dispatcher continued, “We’ve had 15 calls for assistance for you in the last few minutes! “ All of my lady friends had called and said I was fighting with this group and they were afraid I was getting hurt.
The next thing I knew police cars and police officers were all over the place! This is what happens in police departments when an officer needs assistance. Everybody drops whatever they’re doing and comes on the run. Nothing is more important than an officer in trouble or in danger of getting injured. Well, it must’ve been evident to the officers that the problem was not with the retired ladies but with all these people standing around looking mean, mostly in my direction. The officers walked toward the group and advised them that if they wanted to dispute the parking tickets they could come to court. But now, they needed to disperse or they could come to court the following day by way of the jail which was going to be their next stop. The group started to disperse amidst a lot of annoyed mumbling
I handcuffed my man and arrested him. The patrol wagon was on scene so my arrestee was searched and packed into the truck. After that, I turned around, and walked up to each of my lady friends, gave each one a big hug and my sincere thanks for calling my pals out. Then I left to go make my charges. And that was that day.
One day I walked into a 7-11 store to use the bathroom. I was pretty desperate. I called the dispatcher from the store phone and advised him I’d be out of service for awhile as this need was strong by now. The dispatcher agreed not to call me. Of course, since I was on foot, calling me was of little value unless the call was next door. And be damned if the call wasn’t RIGHT NEXT DOOR!! Some man had entered the cleaners, naturally while I was indisposed, and created a disturbance. Throwing stuff around, making threats to the clerks inside who were all recent refugees from Vietnam and who were terrified. This guy was just generally being a first-classed jackass.
The dispatcher called me and had me go to another channel. He apologized to me for calling and gave me the call which really was right next door. I thanked him for destroying my concentration, got up, stuck my radio into the commode, keyed the mike and flushed. He understood perfectly.
I walked over to the cleaners. The guy was outside by now, standing in front mumbling to himself. I walked up on him, and right past him and into the cleaners. Now, if the clerks were terrified of the jackass, they were simply beside themselves with fear when the law walked in the front door! They were from a police state and figured that though America was better; the police were probably someone to bribe, or pay protection to or at least to be very afraid of. So no one spoke, or wanted to speak English. Once this no-speak-English issue is established, not much rapport can be gained on short time frames. I made sure that no one was obviously injured and walked back out to the mumbler.
I was not happy. This man had made short work of what I had hoped would be a sit-down, relaxing time for a little while. But because of him, I still had to go and I was uncomfortable because of it. Something had to be done. I called for the wagon. My intent was to provoke this guy into taking a swing at me so I could arrest him and feel better for it. This was not to be. The wagon pulled into the lot and the jackass took one look; his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell down on the sidewalk, out cold. Now I was really not happy!! This was not good.
I bent down and hollered directly into his ear, “Hey Bud!! Get the hell up!!” No response. That holler would’ve woke up the dead. But not this guy. Not even a peep. Not even an eyelash flicker. The wagon man got out and walked up and toed the guy. Nothing. The wagon officer suggested we might want to consider an ambulance. By now I was in a true snit. There was not going to be an ambulance there. I got out my tear gas, put a little on my finger and ran it along his upper lip. That’s usually good for those faking illnesses or drunks. Jumps’em up like jack-in-the-boxes. This fellow opened his eyes, looked at me and started to cry. No jumping, no jack in the box jerkiness, just open the eyes, and cry.
He told me he’d just gotten back from Vietnam after his 3rd tour of duty and he had no place to go. His parents lived in a senior citizens home and he found when he got back the week before that somehow they had both passed away and he had not been notified by the military of their deaths. He’d had a girlfriend when he left, but had received a Dear John letter a month or so before. He had no one in his life to turn to. He had no place to stay and had been living aimlessly on the street since he heard about his parents. He and I were the same age.
Now I’m just like most other cops. We have high opinions of soldiers and what they have to go through, especially ones in war zones. I guess its maybe because we’re in war zones ourselves. So we can relate. Anyway, he & I hit it off. I took him over to the Village Grill Restaurant across the street. It was a topless joint, one of two in town at the time. I asked the waitresses to look after him until I got off in another couple hours and I’d be back after him. Then I could find a place for him to stay. When I left, he looked like he was in 7th heaven. I mean, who could ask for much more than that? A single guy being looked after by a bunch of beautiful nearly naked women. He was well taken care of.
When I got off work, I went back to the Grill and we talked some more and got more acquainted. He really didn’t have a place to stay. He thought he was coming back to see his parents and now he had none. He was stationed in another state. Well, we had a few drinks together, and talked long into the night. In fact, we closed the Grill down. I let him stay in my place that night. We’ve been friends ever since.
After about 8 months of this beat, another foot patrol area opened up and I transferred over to it. It was in a different part of the County. It had lots more action as most of the beat was not in the best part of town. I went around to all my lady friends and told them about my pending transfer. They were sad. I was not. Nice folks, but not much to do. I was pretty sure the next place would be a better beat.

About Detective Estes

Detective EstesMr. Estes has lived in the DC Metropolitan area for most of his life. His father’s influence and expertise in firearms resulted in Mr. Estes beginning to rifle shoot at a young age and eventually shooting on the Washington-Lee High School rifle team in Arlington, VA.

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