As a police officer, what's the most slack you've ever cut someone?
I used to not arrest people for Marijuana possession. The area I worked in, weed was very common. I often would stop someone...smell the STRONG smell of weed in the car.
I remember pulling over a particular guy who generally caused no trouble in the neighborhood who had never been arrested for anything serious. I asked him if he had any Weed (the smell was overpowering). He admitted right off he had a "fat sack"...showed it to me. It was about a Zip Lock Gallon Freezer bag stuffed with some incredible looking fat buds. Hairy bastards. It was indeed a fat sack.
I stuck my nose in it and gave it a good sniff. You could tell it was some really good weed. I just handed it back to him and told him to enjoy his weekend, make sure you don't drive after smoking. He went from depressed about losing his weed as well as catching a pretty big felony charge to the happiest guy in the hood when I gave him his weed back. Told him to have a nice day. I can picture him exactly today. He looked just like Biggey Smalls and had a large loud laugh.
I would run into him on and off for years and he would always cooperate with me. LMK what really happened before I arrived. I really was the type of Cop in that beat that was known "not to sweat the bullshit"....unless you want to play games. Letting people go for things like that (crimes that really had no victim but the State) gave me a trust and cooperation from the people of that neighborhood that few Police ever enjoy. Every time I saw him I would yell " I LOVE IT WHEN THEY CALL ME BIG PAPPA!" (a lyrical hook from a popular track of that Artist) at him..cause he was Biggey's twin and he would do that booming laugh.
I also found that it got around that it was better to just come clean and tell me straight what was up when I was dealing with a situation. Saved me time and hassle and generally that credibility plus the liberal use of informants of all types I was usually the only Cop (or one of the very few) who really had a handle on what was up in the Projects I patrolled...who was who and what they were up too...good or bad.
Edited: additional thoughts
Cutting people "Slack" was just a part of the overall way I conducted myself. I had to take every opportunity I could to show my main goal was to help. Giving a Mom and a baby walking home in the rain a ride. Knowing names and asking about how family members are. Helping to mediate disputes where nobody has to go to jail in the end because you helped them work it out instead of just locking one or both halves of the disturbance up. Finding out which kids were getting zero X-Mass due to poverty and having charity bring in gifts and you and the guys pitching in for a tree (even helping put a stupid bike together for 2 hours). Going to court to testify and back up someone getting evicted from public housings story that here crazy Nephew "Trigger G" had not and did not live with her, to save her from being homeless. Generally giving a shit. A City Cop riding a beat is really a type of Street Judge. You're the first say on what and who goes "into the system" and who walks away with a warning. That is some serious shit and a massive power to wield. Sure a Jury and Judge check your work, but even if they do and repair your mistake, "sorry about that year in jail and 250k in lawyers fees, have a nice life"....or whatever impact the arrest had on them and the ripple effect through that family group.
I guess what I'm saying is I tried to settle things with out getting Judges involved when possible. When impossible I tried to be impartial and offer up whatever evidence or observations I made in my report. Most cases (excepting "real ones" where I had run down a shooter or intervened or dealt with the aftermath of violence and this person needed to be caged for the public safety) I never cared one way or the other how the Court decided the matter or if it was even thrown out. People would come up and tell me they "beat the case" (that I had written and been the arresting Officer) to shake my hand and I would be happy for them and hope they would not get so drunk that they had started humping lawn furniture at 3 am singing Big Band lyrics. No hard feelings on either side.
People get to know your general "deal" pretty quickly. as far as what kind of a Cop you are when you show up on the beat. You will be tested. My "deal" about being borderline aggressively firm but undeniably fair AND caring/ attempting to at least understand climate, culture and "rules" of where I was Policing at that moment. I made sure I had what we called a Command Presence, (I'm in charge and not to be trifled with) yet approachable and easy going). It is very hard for a White Cop .....
For about a year, someone had been subjecting the police vehicles in G Division to the regular and annoying habit of letting their tyres down. Once or twice a week, cops would find one of their tyres flat. It might have been while they were in a house dealing with a call or at the local fish and chip shop getting their supper, there was no real pattern to it. On every occasion, it was only one tyre. There was never any damage; the air simply expelled by pressing on the valve.
One night, after dealing with an incident at The Red Lion I came out to find a hooded youth letting the air out of a tyre on my patrol car. He ran off.
The next Tuesday night shift I was patrolling the town and drove into the forecourt of our Mercedes garage. I got out and had a walk round the building, checked the security but mostly just admired the cars on show. It was a clear night, and I was dreaming about winning the lottery and maybe buying one of these incredible cars. A rap on the window startled me from my daydream. Then a door to my left opened, a dark figure the size of a bear came out of the showroom entrance. My flight or fight response kicked in. The adrenalin flowed through my veins, and I panicked. I didn't know whether to run away or just tackle this monster from the off. My hand went to my baton, and I had it out and ready to thump this guy before I realised he was the security guard. He had been watching me mooning around the forecourt and decided to open up and offer me a cup of tea.
Lenny, the security guard, gave me a toothy grin. He had a boring job, so he seemed delighted to have company. I mean, all he had to do all night was wander around the place from the showroom to the garage to the offices and back to the showroom again. I think he also figured that there was less likelihood of anything happening while a marked police vehicle sat in his forecourt. Lenny's hospitality extended to a cup of tea and a tour around the showroom. Lenny was a nice guy, despite being the size of a bear he was a gentle creature. He had worked there for about twenty years, and in all that time he hadn't had a single incident to speak of. If I asked him a question, he would answer it then ramble on for another hour about the most mind-numbing drivel you can imagine. At least the tea was warm and wet, and I quite liked passing the time there than just driving my police car around in circles.
The next night was just as quiet so I stopped off to see Lenny again, and he switched on the kettle. While waiting for him to bring the tea out, I wandered around the showroom looking at all the cars. Sitting on the far side of the showroom, in pride of place, was a top of the range S-Class saloon. The black powerhouse faced the main showroom window looking all mean and menacing. I climbed into the beast, shut the door and gripped the steering wheel. If my police car wasn't parked right outside in the way, I could imagine myself sticking it into gear and smashing through the glass and roaring off up the road.
I sat there in the driver's seat fantasising that I might own one of these cars one day. Then something caught my eye. In my peripheral vision, out of the bushes on my right, a figure appeared. A youth with a hood. He craned his neck towards my vehicle, ensuring the police car in front of him was empty. Then he darted from the bushes across to the showroom window and pressed his face up against the glass, looking in. I was motionless in the black S-Class Mercedes, the low light of the showroom reflecting off glass of the windscreen keeping me hidden from his gaze. The hooded youth was only about ten feet away from me, and I could see his pale face and black pinholes for eyes. There was no mistaking; it was the same boy I had seen letting the air out of my tyre when I came out of the Red Lion. What to do?
I couldn't open the car door and sneak out. The interior light would come on and alert him to my presence. Anyway, I would have to run back to the other side of the showroom out the door and all the way back down to where he was. By the time I did that he'd be long gone. I had no chance of catching him. My radio was in my top pocket, silent. If I radioed in for assistance, he might hear me. Even if he didn't hear me, he would be gone before anyone else could get here. It was a quandary. I sat watching him, immobile but thinking furiously in the futile hope of coming up with some way of getting out there without alerting him to my presence.
He must have decided that whoever had parked the police car was in the back of the showroom and out of sight. He edged back towards the police car and bent down to the front nearside tyre. I knew what was coming. He would let the air out of my tyre, and there was nothing I could do about it. A Catch 22 situation. So I did the only thing I could.
I switched on the full beam of the S-Class Mercedes and flooded him with light. He was directly in front of the beam, and it lit him up like a spotlight. At the same time, I pressed down on the horn and kept it there. The combination of being flooded with light and the noise of the horn was effective. The hooded youth jumped up in astonishment. All natural survival instincts discarded, he froze. He stood where he was. His brain unable to compute how he was standing in the path of a car that was blinding him with light and confusing his senses with noise. For a split second, he must have believed he was in the path of a speeding car heading straight towards him. Right there and then he evacuated his bowels. Literally, he shit himself.
Lenny had been heading back with our tea when I had unexpectedly flashed the S-Class full beam and sounded the horn. Despite dropping two cups of tea and two biscuits he saw the youth at my car and realised what I was doing. He rushed to help. He shot out the exit door and made his way out to the forecourt.
The surprised, hooded, and vacated youth gathered himself enough to try to make his escape. Not quite running, because of what was now sloshing about in his trousers, he moved off. Unfortunately for him, he moved off in the wrong direction. He went to my left, across the front of the showroom and was just about to pass the entrance door when Lenny emerged and grabbed him. Lenny caught the guy who had been letting down the tyres on all the police vehicles in G division for the past year.
The police cars had been tampered with regularly. Once or twice a week cops had come out from what they were dealing with to the inconvenience of a flat tyre. Despite concerted efforts, the tamperer had remained undetected until now. With the help of Lenny, I had caught him. Now I had to decide what to do with him. The first thing I did was find out more about him. More information meant making a better decision.
"What's your name?"
"No, Randall McBrayne."
"What age are you Randall?"
I squeezed his date of birth and address out of him and radioed into the Control Room and asked for a check on the Police National Computer (PNC). I was pretty sure there would be a record of him. While I waited for the check, I asked him a few more questions.
"Who do you stay with?"
"You don't live with your Mum and Dad?"
"My Mum is dead. She died when I was young."
"What about your Dad?"
"My Dad left to work abroad not long after my Mum died. He came back two or three times to see me, but I haven't seen him for years."
"Who looked after you then?"
"My aunt took me in, but she got fed up and put me in a children's home."
My radio sparked into life.
"Control to Sergeant McEwan, come in, over."
"Yes, go ahead."
"There is no trace of that name or date of birth. The address is a DSS bed-and-breakfast, over."
My suspicious nature took over.
"Randall, do you have any identification on you?"
Randall produced a student ID card with his picture on it. The name and date of birth checked out.
Randall was unusual, despite having been in care from an early age, unlike the majority of such wards of the state, he did not have a criminal record. He hadn't come to the notice of the police before, even for a warning. Randall was a quiet loner, with no friends to speak of. He was pretty much an anonymous entity.
For thirteen or fourteen months the police officers of G Division had been inconvenienced by having their tyres let down. I couldn't just let him go. Here he was squirming in front of me, worried about getting caught and uncomfortable with what was swilling around in his pants.
"Why did you do it, Randall?"
"Why did you let the tyres down on all those police cars? You know that it caused us a lot of bother."
"Just because what?"
He didn't answer at first, but I waited, looking at him for an answer. Silence. People have to fill that silence and Randall did too, he broke the silence and explained why he did it.
"I bought a bike, a Raleigh Chopper, you know the one with the big back wheel."
"I used to love bumping up and down pavements on it. I was always getting a row from the local community cop for riding it in the precinct. One day I came out of the paper shop, got on the bike and cycled off down the steps to the road but the back wheel was flat, and my wheel broke. Your community cop was there, and he laughed. My pal told me it was him that let my tyre down. I had no money to fix it, so it went in the skip."
Karma. What goes around comes around. In this case. what went around was a flat tyre. I decided to let Randall go.
First of all, not one previous incident where a police car had had its tyre let down had been recorded as a crime. The police are keen to keep detection rates as high as they can and having a few undetected tyres tampered with on the statistics every week would have skewed the figures badly. Officers simply blew their tyres up and got on with what they were doing. There was no appetite to create work for themselves by writing up an undetected case. Something the bosses had conveniently ignored. They were quite happy to supply foot pumps for all the vehicles but forcing officers to record the undetected offence would reflect on the Division. After all, G Division had performance targets to meet. Secondly, I felt sorry for Randall. He hadn't had the best start in life. Through no fault of his own, he had ended up in care. I particularly felt sorry for him as he stood there squirming in his soiled underpants. I would not put him in my police car like that.
So that was it. I headed back to my station, confident knowing that we would have no more flat tyres, my warning to Randall before he waddled off would be sufficient. I was confident he wouldn't do it again. He knew I would come looking for him the second we had another episode.
So I kept quiet about catching Randall. I didn't want to have some overzealous senior officer instruct that we bring Randall in and resurrect all previous incidents. I determined that the bosses would want to see the detection figures go up but that would have been at the expense of common sense.
Of course, there was also the little matter of having to explain what I was doing sitting in that S-Class Mercedes waiting for a cup of tea.
(I wondered if this was too long an answer for here, hopefully this didn't bore you.)
Discretion is/was an officer's most important and powerful option and responsibility. It gives us the opportunity to show compassion and provide those ‘extra' chances that all of us need from time to time. Knowing when and where they are appropriate is something I struggled a bit with over the years, but it did get easier with time and experience.
Just a few examples:
To give a warning vs a citation on a traffic stop to the man who recently lost his job and you believe may not be able to pay the ticket and could end up in jail, making his situation much worse, or the teen who could benefit from a stern ‘talking to', or the...well, innumerable others who can benefit more from this random act of kindness more than a fine that may take away from their family. Yeah, some may con you with their sob story, but many are very real - I rather err on the side of kindness.
Commenting (to no one in particular) that should that small amount of green leafy material accidentally fall outside the car and be blown away by traffic, then there wouldn't be anything to seize/test. These ‘accidents' were not uncommon when possession of ANY amount of marijuana was a felony.
A ride to a shelter vs jail for a homeless person that may technically be ‘drunk in public', but doesn't need a night in the drunk tank. Or dropping off a few sandwiches from the diner down the street - or simply stopping to talk with them, to let them know you SEE them and care what happens to them.
A ride home to the office worker who had one too many at the office Christmas party and a DUI arrest could drastically alter their life.
Convincing the shop owner that the elderly woman that he wants prosecuted for shoplifting, does not need to go to jail and then paying for the few dollars of toiletries that found their way into her coat.
Parking on the street to write reports in front of the home of a family that recently had a break-in so they can feel a bit safer at night.
..and many, many more.
It's not ‘slack' - it's basic human decency and kindness - something that benefits us all. There is typically no documentation for these incidents and only those directly involved may know of it, but that is enough.
Most people think that cops just write tickets and arrest people, but we have the opportunity to do so much more that tends to go unnoticed, which only makes these acts that much more important. Thank you for the A2A.
Well this story is one that I'll never forget, I still wonder if my actions that day are honourable. Well anyway I shall proceed with the story.
It was the middle of winter and I got a call of a domestic, nothing unusual for the neighbourhood I was covering. Had several of these everyday, even more during the holidays and weekends. As I arrived at the address I could not see any evidence of disturbance, and certainly couldn't hear the noise (screams) reported 5min previously. I approached the front of the property, and I don't know why but I had a terrible feeling something was very very wrong. The door was ajar, I called out whilst slowly entering the property. My calls went unanswered. The property had clear signs of a disturbance, a fight had clearly happened (broken pictures, furniture thrown and smashed television).
It was then that I noticed the blood on the stairway, I again called out but no response. I immediately phoned for backup, as I was now certain someone sinister had happened. I made my way onto the second floor, sweeped and cleared the adjacent rooms. As I approached the bathroom I could see a individual, crying and covered in blood. The bathroom was covered in blood, and had a partly dismembered body in the bathtub. I was not fazed having seen many bodies in various states over the years, and my assessment led to be believe the female was of no immediate danger to me (and the male certainly wasn't).. It was then that I realised the girl was one of my relations ! Holy shit my heart began to race, I knew the evidence here was staggering and would be a closed case and her life destroyed forever. I couldn't do that to my family, so I quickly rushed her (carrying her) out of the house and sped to my property and told her to wait. I raced back to the property only moments before the backup came. I informed them that I had not fully checked the premises, so we did a sweep of the property. I had to fake shock on discovering the body and everything was then taped into a crime scene. Till this day that case was never closed or even solved, so I think that was the most slack I gave (retired now) but I would always give slack to family and friends it wasn't uncommon
That's a good question. I have to think back over a few decades. I gave many breaks over minor traffic offenses to people with a good attitude; however, to find one that stands out will take some thought. I had a call on a shoplifter. Upon arrival it was an 18 year old kid from a bad neighborhood who had stolen a three pack of underwear. This kid had a full athletic scholarship to an ACC school for sports and told me he was embarrassed thinking about showing up with hand me down underwear. If I had charged him his scholarship would have disappeared and he would have ended up like most of his buddies which was most likely going to be jail. The manager didn't push the charges but didn't say don't charge. We left the store, the kid cuffed. We got down the road, the cuffs came off and we went to McDonalds. We had a long talk, then I took him home to mom. There we had an even longer talk. To the best of my knowledge he understood life was giving him the ultimate break with a free education to play sports. I believe he graduated.
I'm not law enforcement, so this story is from there other side of the equation.
It's 1994, and I'm a sophomore in college. Every year the school had a festival day on the quad, and every student would get wasted. It was known at the time as the day you "took your chemical use up a notch," if you had never drank, you drank. If you had drank, you smoked pot. If you had smoked pot, you ate mushrooms. Pretty dumb in hindsight.
Anyway, the day was winding down, I was happily buzzed and sitting in the grass with friends, and a police officer walks up holding something in his hands. He asks me "is this yours, son?" And holds out a glass marijuana pipe.
"No sir, it is not," I reply - very happy that it actually wasn't.
"I found it on the grass right over there and observed you there recently. Are you sure it isn't yours?"
"No officer, it is not mine, I am sure."
This is when he threw me for as loop:
"Do you want it?" he asks.
What the heck do you say to that? If I had been sober, I would have said no thank you. But I wasn't, and I said "Uh...sure?"
And dead honestly, he hands it to me, says "Have fun and be safe" and walks off.
Best part is that the bowl was packed with far better weed than I had in my pocket at the time.
100% true story.