Sometimes I think about how my job has changed me. We all change over time, no doubt about it. After almost 19 years of doing the same job it gets hard to tell if the changes you see in yourself are a result of time, or a result of how you’ve been living your life. MizBubs has stood guard over my mental health for many years now, and I promised her that if she ever saw me going over to the dark side and warned me, that I’d listen to her. She’s done it once or twice, and I’m grateful for it.
I don’t have any doubt that I’m a coarser person now than I was 20 years ago. Even if you don’t start out mistrustful and prone to angry outbursts, odds are you’ll end up that way to some extent. If you have some personal problems to begin with, before you become a cop—say, a bad temper, a bullying streak, some latent racism, you’re a skirt chaser or you like your booze a little too much, or you’re the kind of person who doesn’t really understand the difference between finding and stealing…well then. Those bad habits might take hold of you and flourish like mold in a wet basement.
One result of the popularity of fictional and “reality” TV shows is that almost everyone thinks he knows what it’s like to be a cop. Depending on your background and bias, there’s a cop show out there that reinforces whatever preexisting belief you might have about police work. Some of these stereotypes are true. We do like donuts (I like to refer to them as “power rings”), and I weigh 20 pounds more than I did when I got hired. We tend to have a certain look—if you’re ever talking with my youngest daughter, ask her to do her impression of me and the people I work with.
I’ve seen a lot of dead people over the years, and there’s no doubt I’ve seen some depressing stuff. I’ve been in three car crashes, one of which put me in the hospital. I broke my leg when I stepped into a gopher hole chasing a crack head up a railroad embankment. I went through a few months of HIV anxiety after getting stuck with a needle, and I’ve been exposed to tuberculosis 2 or 3 times. But I haven’t been in a car chase in about 10 years, and I haven’t been in a foot chase for nearly that long. I’ve never shot anyone, or been shot at; I've only been close to pulling the trigger twice.
Here’s reality. An average cop, assuming that he’s not working in some urban hellhole or other high-crime area, does not spend all that much time dealing with actual criminals. We spend a lot more time dealing with people who’ve ended up with us because some other, every other, system or safety net has broken. We are the de facto largest provider of mental health and substance abuse intervention. Not only are we the only government entity that will answer the phone 24 hours a day, we’re the only one that will send a representative to your house to talk with you about your problem!
And those problems can be mighty entertaining:
- The domestic disturbance involving an Italian couple in their late 70’s. She called 911 because her husband said that he was going to go to a prostitute. He yelled that he wanted to die because his wife would not perform oral sex on him.
- The resident at the SRO hotel who said she was “raped annually” by space aliens. She knew this happened because occasionally she woke up in the morning with intense pain in her rectum. She wanted our advice on how to deal with the problem.
- The naked woman standing on a basketball court, singing Romanian folk songs. When I approached her with a blanket, she announced that she was Wonder Woman and slapped me in the face.
- The angry old man who didn’t like his neighbor’s landscaping. He would stand out in his yard yelling at his neighbor. When we arrived, I went to talk to the man, but an older officer on the scene stopped me. He said he’d handle it. What he knew was that, every time he asked the man about “the bushes” the man would twitch, throw his arms up in the air and yell “AH, THEM GODDAM BUSHES, THEM GODDAM BUSHES!” The officer had been there before, and viewed this as powerful fun. It went something like this:
Officer: What about those bushes old man? Huh?
Man: BUSHES?! AH THEM GODDAM BUSHES! THEM GODDAM BUSHES!
Officer: Yeah, but what about those bushes? I asked you about the bushes!
Man: AH, THEM GODDAM BUSHES! SONSABITCHES! THEM GODDAM BUSHES!!
This went on for about 10 minutes.
Those were just the first stories that came to mind when I sat down to write this.
When I became a cop I was prepared to deal with dope fiends, criminals, and the occasional crazy person. I did not understand the extent to which I’d encounter seemingly normal people melting down and freaking out at any given moment, loads of people engaging in behaviors I had never dreamed of. What I discovered was, I had a knack for the work, and I enjoyed it. So, here I am today.
This brings me to the story I said I was going to tell.
Claybrains, one of our veteran patrol officers took a report titled Public Indecency. A witness saw a white or Hispanic female, about 30-40 years old, perform oral sex on an unknown male in his late teens. This happened at 4:45 in the afternoon, in a public park full of people. Now, you don’t see stuff like that every day out in the suburbs.
On Friday at about 10am, the witness called 911 and said she saw the female subject in the park again. An officer located the suspect sitting on a picnic bench drinking a beer. One of my detectives heard the radio traffic and contacted the officer. I was looking forward to finding out who the blowjob artist was. A couple minutes later we found out that the “woman” was a 42 year old guy, who was kind of in-between genders at the moment. I thought, ok, so a simple public indecency just got a little more interesting, no big deal.
Then it got better. The detective talked to the witness, and reviewed Claybrains’ report with her. The witness said that she did not describe the male participant as “in his late teens.” She said he was about 14 or 15 years old, and was obviously handicapped, either retarded or Down’s syndrome, and she definitely told this to Claybrains. What? Our public indecency just turned into a possible class 2 felony—Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault, depending on the age and mental capacity of the as yet unknown male participant.
We had an offender, but no victim—assuming that the victim was an underage kid, or handicapped, and not a willing adult participant. We cut the witness loose and went to talk to “Antonia.”
Let me describe Antonia. Antonia stank—body odor and stale beer. The wisps of underarm hair sticking out from under her tank top were distracting. She had some bad collagen lips and a messed up face--a combination of acne scars, botox shots and taking a few punches over the years. Picture a set of plastic Mister Potatohead lips, slapping them on a pineapple, and hanging a greasy blonde wig over the whole affair. That’s Antonia. She’s been pinched about 15 times for prostitution and related offenses, most recently along Splotchy’s beloved North Lincoln Avenue. Guess what she does for a living? She’s an in-home caregiver for an elderly woman with kidney problems. When we found her, Antonia was chilling in the park, drinking a beer, waiting to pick up her employer from a dialysis treatment.
Imagine making it to your 70’s or 80’s. Your health is starting to fail, and you need help. You wake up in your bed one morning, and look up, and some freak of nature like Antonia is hovering over your bed, waves of B.O. and beer breath rolling over you as you lie there wishing things had only worked out differently.
Antonia gave up a statement pretty quick, describing the event like the witness had. She described the recipient of her oral love as handicapped (“yaith, ah theen he wath a reethard”) and said he “deent comb”. Antonia then enthusiastically acted out, by holding her left hand in her right, left thumb extended, exactly how she performed on him, fluttering eyelashes and all. When I suggested to the detective that Antonia was attempting to flirt with him by showing him how good she was at her job he was not amused. “Fuck you” is what I think he said. Anyway, we had a statement from our bad guy. Gal. Whatever. Now the question was, who was the retard?
One of the guys remembered, from when he was a patrolman, a kid who lived across from the park who fit the description given by the witness. Believe it or not, we found him by mid-afternoon: an 18 year old with Down’s syndrome. We explained the situation to his family, and dad brought him in. The family is Assyrian, and the kid didn’t speak English, so we had to use dad as an interpreter, which sucks in a case like this. Getting an Assyrian interpreter wouldn’t have worked either, according to the kid’s family, because the family was used to how he talked, and an interpreter wouldn’t be.
Normally, when you’ve got an offender in custody for a felony, you have to do what’s called a warm-body lineup. That’s the kind you see on TV, 5 or 6 people lined up behind a 2-way mirror while the witness picks out the bad guy. So, where in the suburbs on a Friday afternoon do you find 5 transsexuals to stand in a lineup? Since the witness had already identified the suspect, and the victim was handicapped, I decided to do a photo lineup.
Let me stop here for a moment, with a word of advice for the ladies: watch your lifestyle, especially your drug and alcohol intake, and your skin care regimen. If you don’t, you could end up as filler in a photo lineup with a transsexual suspect. And I don’t think you want that.
We assembled a photo lineup consisting of our offender and 5 ugly women. It was really pretty good. Our victim picked out the offender instantly. He also described what happened in the same fashion as the offender had. The only difference was that Antonia said the blowjob started because the retard was horny and came on to her; the kid said that Antonia approached him, pushed him back onto a picnic bench and started unzipping his pants. Both of them described getting yelled at by a woman who was walking through the park, and both said that the act was not, eh, completed. Then, to make sure that our handicapped victim didn’t just pick out the wrong person, we had our offender identify a photo of the victim. So far, so good. Next step was to call Felony Review and have an Assistant State’s Attorney come out and interview everyone. I went and picked up our witness, and brought her in.
By now it was about 6:30 pm, and we’d been working on this since about 10:30 in the morning.
A few minutes later, waiting for the ASA to arrive, one of the detectives walked into my office with a funny look on his face. He told me that our witness, when showed a picture of the victim, said “that’s not the guy I saw in the park.” She identified the victim by name, said she knew the family (she’s also Assyrian) and added if she’d seen him in the park she’d have taken him home.
Did we have the wrong retard? I asked the detectives whether they had asked any leading questions that might have gotten him to state he received a hummer from Antonia, or to pick Antonia out of a lineup. They said no, but who knows how dad was translating their questions. They went back to Antonia and talked to her again, and her story remained unchanged.
We found out, in talking some more with the witness, that Antonia is known as the neighborhood drunken prostitute who works the park. The victim’s dad also recognized her photo and said the same thing. Of course, no one ever called us to say anything about it—a result of lack of English and having moved from city neighborhoods where they’re used to seeing hookers and public drunkenness.
I came to the conclusion that, at some point, Antonia had indeed performed an act of oral copulation on our Assyrian handicapped kid. However, that wasn’t the incident described by the witness. Since Antonia is so busy, there must have been another retard, and we had to find him.
You see, a sex case isn’t complicated enough. A sex case with a smelly transsexual hooker isn’t complicated enough. A sex case with a smelly transsexual hooker and a non-English speaking handicapped kid isn’t complicated enough. Nope. We like ‘em challenging where I work! And since we like it complicated, we decided to visit some group homes.
There are two group homes, a total of 7 townhouse units, within walking distance of the park. I ended up visiting all of them after getting a more detailed description from the witness. We did not find a second victim, but I gave a lot of “high-fives” to some very special people, and eventually I was able to lose the smell of Pine-Sol and ass that clung to me when I left.
Ultimately we decided that, since the witness was the most credible person involved here, we couldn't charge Antonia with the felony. We charged her with one count of Public Indecency, a class A misdemeanor, and released her.
You get home after a day like this, and someone asks you how your day went. How do you describe it? What do you say?
“Yeah, we spent all day investigating some tranny blowing a retard in the park. We got the tranny and she copped out to it, but get a loada this—it turned out we had the wrong retard! We think he probably got a blowjob too, just not this time. Looks like the tranny’s been giving blowjobs all over the park for a while now. We visited all the group homes, but we never found the other retard, so we let the tranny go with a misdemeanor. Is there any beer left in the fridge?”