Looking Back: “Handles”

By Scott Reitz

Police need a sense of humor otherwise they’d lose their minds. You only come across the bad stuff and this requires a degree of infused humor which helps one cope with ugly things. One aspect of this is a ‘handle.’ This is a name or nickname to be clear, which is bestowed upon an Officer due to some obscure rationale which sums up the Officer’s overall character or just who, precisely, he either is or isn’t. As an example, ‘Moose’ in SWAT was actually much smaller in stature than his ‘handle’ implied. ‘Whacko’ was another member of SWAT who was as sedate as they come. ‘Darvon Don’ was another sedate individual who was in fact, as calm as a cup of Darvon. One individual who arrived into Metro’s ‘B’ Platoon promptly stood up on ‘day-one’ in Metro roll call and declared that since his last name was Davidson, he would not ever-ever, in any way shape or form, tolerate being called ‘Kick-start’ or ‘Harley.’ Bad call cupcake. Needless to say that’s all he was ever called. ‘Yassar-o-so-fat’ was an individual in ‘D’ Platoon who was all of 10 pounds overweight. ‘Weenie Fingers’ simply had…well…digit appendages which resembled a pack of Kosher hot dogs.

‘Lizard Lips’ was a partner of mine who I worked with who had very thin lips hence the derivation. ‘Puffer’ was a Metro man who always walked with his chest puffed out. MGM was another who had a personal ‘tick’ wherein he continually moved his mouth much like Leo the MGM lion. ‘Bones’ was very thin. ‘Ra-Ra’ was a cut-up who was funnier than one can imagine and always talked about or at least proffered, dry humor on anything which passed by him. ‘Muppet Baby’ looked like one of Jim Henson’s Muppets. ‘Wrinkles’ was an older member whose face resembled a Chevron gas station road map from the 50’s. ‘Free-Fall’ was a member who had fallen from a rappel tower.

Handles are generally more prevalent in specialized units as the members are generally closer to one another, work more closely and in greater critical conditions than most career individuals. If you don’t have a handle it might not be a good thing. Everyone has screwed up at one time or another or has a personal trait/characteristic which others ping on. In short, if you’re not being pinged on by others it does not bode well for you. This is a sort of dark humor which outsiders might not fully understand. During my first roll call in SWAT one member made a comment referring to another’s wife which surprised even me. It was funny as all get out but right then and there, I knew you better have real, real thick skin to survive in this unit. (All family members especially wives and more especially girlfriends, were fair target.)

Some handles cannot be printed here due to conventional practices and social decorum. Those are always the funniest. A handle can stay with you for life. Fight it and it becomes even more embedded than one would prefer. It is far better to accept it and drive-on from there. Whenever I encounter a unit during my travels where such ‘handles’ are thrown freely about, I know that it is a tight and coherent unit.

The best ‘handles’ are those derived through no fault of your own save a brain dead evolution witnessed by others. These are usually the most endearing, lasting and embarrassing ones that stick with you through an entire career.

I myself was called DCA (pronounced Deeka) due to the fact that I had won the first ever Toughest Cop Alive contest referred to as the TCA. On my very first day in SWAT I lost a swimming match up at the Academy for our squad [I swam faster than the others… just in the wrong direction into the side of the pool] and TCA became DCA (dumbest cop alive) in very short order.

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3 Responses to Looking Back: “Handles”

  1. Robert guzman says:

    We were searching for some males who ran from a stolen car. Ken thatcher and I cornered one in a garage complex. We broadcast our locacation and here comes Scott in a full on flying karate kick. Instead of connecting with the suspect he slipped on a pile of human feces covering him from the waist down.the suspect saw this and surrendered. No one wanted to give Scott a ride. He had to change into his swat uniform and go diectelt to the academy showers. I think that’s where he got the handle of death blossom after the Star Wars movie

  2. Jeff says:

    I really enjoy these articles and this one had me cracking up. Thinking about my own experiences with my agency, and working in small units with great guys. To this day I will run into someone from the past and the first thing out of our mouths is the old nick name. It was sad one time when one of our command staff didn’t like the idea of nick names and accused us of being a sub culture and broke us up, but the names stuck. Please keep up the great flashback articles. And give thought to writing a book about your career, I’m in for a copy.

  3. Ernie H. says:

    Well done Scott. You missed a couple. Lets not forget one of the most famous “Topper” (may he rest in peace). And lets not forget Doctor Dave, Doctor Mudge and partner Rigor-Mortis and, Malibu. ‘How earned’ stories for another day.
    Your Dirty-C lava-lava partner,

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