If you think TV and movies make police work sound like fun, well, it is. Sometimes. I spent several years on the job, and as I've mentioned before, it can be dangerous and disgusting, but you sure as hell wind up with some great stories. I mean, they weren't great for everyone involved, but that shouldn't stop us from laughing at their stupidity.
#5. People Tell the Worst Lies
As a cop, 99.999 percent of everything you hear and probably 80 percent of everything you see is a lie. If I had to come up with the most common lie, it would have to be "These aren't my pants." In virtually every case where someone gets shaken down and drugs or guns are found on them, their immediate excuse is "These aren't my pants." Apparently there is a circulation of ownerless pants going around, with people just grabbing them off of a communal pile before leaving the house.
Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images
Always check the pants for meth, firearms, and firearms converted into meth pipes.
However, there are grander lies, lies that are told in the hope that if you seem confident enough, I might believe you. One night I took an assault call at an apartment. Apparently a neighbor pushed my complainant down the stairs, and the complainant reacted in the way that people who have been pushed down stairs tend to react. So, I went and knocked on the door of the suspect's apartment. No answer. About a minute later, I heard a woman scream.
One swift kick to the door later, we had the husband prone and handcuffed in the living room, and I found his wife in her bedroom with a fresh wound on her head. Head wounds bleed a bunch, by the way. The sheets on her bed were covered in blood. The floor had blood on it. Her clothes. Just blood all over. We got her an ambulance, and I asked her what happened.
"I had 11 separate nosebleeds."
Um, no. You're bleeding from the head. There's blood everywhere. You can't say that nothing happened.
"Really, nothing happened."
So I asked the husband.
"Oh, nothing happened. I was baking bread."
Dude, she's got a head wound, and I could hear her screaming from out there. And I can see your kitchen from here. You weren't baking bread.
"Yes, I was baking bread. I scream at the bread when I bake it. It's a Greek thing."
Oh yes, he went to jail.
Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
He still has an oven, but it's a Dutch oven courtesy of his cellmate, Ox, and jail's enchilada night.
One particularly enterprising gentleman told me that he was hiding from Bigfoot. He told me this after I found him hiding in a woman's apartment -- a woman who thought he was a particularly boisterous raccoon and called us to "get rid of it."
Which leads me to ...
#4. The Best and Worst Calls Involve Animals
We once got a call that two men, dressed in boxers and a Speedo, were bothering some peacocks. Now, if any of you have experience with peacocks, you know that they don't take shit from anything. Here's one trying to murder a car:
My partner didn't know much about big birds, so I had to explain on the drive over that this would be a self-correcting issue. Sure enough, before I'd even finished the explanation or moved one street closer to the call location, a new call came in:
"Two naked males being attacked and chased by feral birds."
Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty
Karma will peck your goddamn nipples off.
I've answered dozens of "dangerous animal" calls, including some where children were bitten by these "dangerous" animals. In every instance, save one, the dogs behaved exactly as I would hope a dog would behave. The call sheet from 911 would read: "Feral pit bull in alley, caller afraid dog will eat his children" (yes, a real concern). I would show up, see the dog, pull out my sad little control baton, and say, "Who wants to fetch?"
Invariably I would then have to deal with the uncontrolled fury of a really happy dog.
In the cases where dogs did bite someone, it was generally because that someone was annoying the dog, trying to intimidate the dog, or just trying to break into that dog's home. It's almost never the dog's fault, because dogs are shitty at a far lower rate than human beings.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
This little guy never stabbed anyone in a bar fight.
Case in point: We had two burglars break into a house once and "accidentally" steal, among other things, a Chihuahua hiding in a shoebox. They tossed the "loot" when we started chasing them, and the little dog didn't survive. Well, those boys wound up doubling down on their felony charges: Burglary is already a big fat F, and so is animal cruelty. We also stuck a charge of criminal mischief on their record for the "value" of the dog, because sometimes people deserve to have salt poured in that open wound.
#3. The Cool-Looking Gear Is Stupid
Getty Images/Photodisc/Getty Images
One of those little things that only a former cop would get upset about is when news reports talk about SWAT teams in "full riot gear" bursting into places. Riot gear is usually a big padded section of armor and a helmet designed to keep falling bottles from hurting too much, and a key part of "riot armor" is that big plastic shield you see at actual riots. What riot armor isn't very good for, and why The Walking Dead needs to suck it up and quit taking Damascus' product placement money, is moving around.
I mention The Walking Dead because I watched a season on Netflix and immediately recognized Damascus' FlexForce Armor system:
This isn't really "street riot" equipment so much as jailhouse equipment (which makes sense, since that's where they found the stuff in the show). That's the gear you wear if you have to haul someone out of a prison riot. It's stiff, and the hard exterior is fun for taking hits for you, but actually functioning in it is sweaty, sweaty work. That's because riot gear is for making a human wall, not for moving around.
Also, it's not bulletproof, so I have no idea why they were wearing it during a shootout. Ironically, it's easier to move around wearing "soft" (National Institute of Justice Level IIIA) armor under a rifle plate than a full riot armor system, and movement is everything when you're in a situation that necessitates body armor. (Note: Body armor will not help you if you decide to stay in one spot and soak up all of the bullets.)
Although the good stuff can ensure that your disembodied torso is fit for an open casket.
Speaking of which, bulletproof vests do not breathe, which means you sweat constantly when wearing them. Over time, the material is ruined by sweat and/or water. Also, did you know that they have a lifespan of about four years? And that you can shorten that if you live somewhere hot, because you're constantly sweating into it? Yeah, let's see them include that plot point in a cop movie. ("Oh, thank God, he was wearing his vest! Oh, wait, the bullet went right through because he didn't check the expiration date.")