Looking Back: Police Work and the Holidays

The holidays seem to engender a certain degree of mental instability.  I am clearly not a psychologist yet I have observed firsthand, the symptoms exhibited by individuals who might have benefited from such professions.

While on probation, we had an unknown trouble call at a residence and responded accordingly.  We entered the location and saw that the table was set with the typical Thanksgiving fare.  A number of individuals were eating.  Things seemed normal until we observed the individual at the head and far end of the table.  He was face down in his plate with lots of cranberry sauce surrounding his head.  Upon closer observation we further observed that it was not in fact cranberry sauce, but blood.  It seems the elder gentleman had turned on the TV for a football game though wife disagreed with this less than genteel action in the presence of their esteemed guests.  The wife then proceeded to turn off the TV followed by the husband turning the TV back on.  Seeing that this course of action would prove futile, the wife excused herself from the table, left the room, and returned with a handgun with which she promptly resolved the TV issue by firing one, well aimed shot into the head of the Emily Post (etiquette expert if you are unaware of such matters) offender.  This ended the dispute and apparently the dinner continued on in some form until our arrival.  Not a Happy Thanksgiving.

Every now and then some enterprising robbery suspect will dress up in a Santa Clause outfit and commit a robbery.  The suspect broadcast description is rather predictable for such a caper.  The radio chatter will usually consist of semi-comedic police officers asking for the suspect’s vehicle description, the number of feet on the accomplices and the color of their fur.  But the worst thing is the bad guy who ‘211’s’ (that’s the California Penal code section for robbery) a wayfaring Santa Clause.  Now this is just wrong.  You come all the way down from the North Pole just to get ‘rolled’ in Los Angeles.  We now have to comfort a distraught Santa Clause, find a place for the little reindeer (they can be nasty) and notify Mrs. Clause of her husband’s misfortune.  There are tons of potential victims out there and you decide to hit a fat, old jolly man inappropriately dressed for southern California?  There is a special place in hell for such bad guys.

Wilshire Division had its share of characters.  Some guys would wear Santa Clause hats throughout the watch on all the calls.  One officer tied a sprig of mistletoe under the muzzle of the shotgun barrel and ended up deploying it on a call.  Some guys had found what appeared to be reindeer feet and fixed them in such a fashion that they protruded out of the black and white trunk so it looked like reindeer were stuffed in there.  The RTO’s (radio transmitter operators) would always broadcast a suspect description on Christmas Eve: “All units be advised that Air Support reports an unknown object traveling at a high rate of speed in Los Angeles air space.  Suspect is a white male, heavy-set dressed in red and white last observed southbound in an early model sleigh with unknown accomplices.”

The real danger in holiday calls are the family disputes which erupt dependent on which particular day certain presents are exchanged.  If the exchange of gifts is not equitable then a fight ensues.  The same holds true for those not receiving those gifts to which they might feel entitled.  These disputes also carry over into holiday dinners when someone gets the wing and someone does not.  The fight starts, the Christmas tree goes down, the dinner table is upended and we show up.  We arrest the offender and then the real fight starts with the rest of the family.  Stuffing and mashed potatoes fly, turkey breasts are thrown, Christmas ornaments are squashed and children scream.  Happy Holidays!

Here’s a good one.  One of my partner’s in SWAT went to a family thanksgiving dinner.  His brother in-law, an attorney, made a number of inappropriate references regarding the dimensions of his wife’s breasts across the dinner table.  My partner advised him to cease and desist from such comments but being what attorneys are, the brother in-law continued on with his line of comments.  My partner then decided that the best course of action was to stab him in the chest with his dinner fork which in fact, he did!  Down goes the attorney, up stand the guests and out go the phone calls.  The LAPD showed up, The LAFD showed up, the watch commander showed up while the attorney lay throughout the incident on the floor with the fork sticking directly out from his chest.  Not none of the responding entities had great affection for attorney’s, and my partner explained the incident and his subsequent actions to which all responding entities agreed was an appropriate response under the circumstances as laid out to them.  The attorney was treated on-scene and advised against such comments in the future especially during turkey day.  The LAFD and LAPD departed the scene with drumsticks and pumpkin pie and all parties resolved to get along in the future.

Hopefully you will not experience such incidents as these during your holidays.  If you do however, then take it all in stride and look back on it as some really good stories to be retold in front of the fire and at future holiday dinners.

It was great working with all of you this year and we resolve to make next year even better.  Happy holidays!

PS:  Shameless plug… The book, “The Art of Modern Gunfighting” makes a great holiday present.  (Just a thought!)

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