Friday 31st October. Cleveland, Ohio -> Toledo, Ohio, United States.
Remember the Toledo cops I met in Cincinnati about five weeks ago? They'd said that if I ever made it to Toledo, they'd take me on a ride-along and show me round town. Well, you better know that if you say that to me, I'm likely to take you up on it. I hope they were serious because here I am!
Sangeeta was kind enough to drive me to Toledo this morning. She even found her way without too much difficulty! It was about noon when she dropped me in the centre of downtown Toledo, and I phoned Joe to let him know I'd arrived. He was on duty until four o'clock but came to pick me up in his squad car, and took me back to the station to meet all his colleagues. Terry and Jim were there- the other two I'd met in Cincinnatti. Joe opened the lid of a white cardboard box on the table, and told me to help myself to the assortment of doughnuts inside.
"It wouldn't be a police station without doughnuts", he laughed. Terry and Jim were heading out on patrol though, and were happy to take me along for a ride. Yeah! An unfortunate result of Joe's recent promotion has been that he spends more and more time at his desk and less time out 'having fun'.
..of course first a police check had to clear me of any criminal history and I had to sign a waiver.
"The waiver's just in case you catch a stray bullet or something", Joe said casually. I signed the waiver and asked where I pick up my badge and gun. Apparently there was a shortage of guns and I'd have to go without for the moment, but the badge was no problem. Terry pulled a sticker from his pocket. It proudly proclaimed me to be a Toledo Junior Police Officer. This was just getting cooler by the minute! I wondered if they'd let me drive the squad car.
Joe, Terry and Jim belong to a squad that patrols one of the worst parts of town. They spend their days busting crackheads and hookers and immersing themselves in a world that I didn't really know existed. We idled slowly through the neighbourhood streets, under the constant angry glare of the local drug dealers and gangbangers. I asked Terry if the black residents treated him differently because he's black. He said they sometimes expected him to cut them some slack or give them a break, being they're brothers and all. "But they soon find out I'm not their brother. I'm not here to dish out favours", he said. I said that made him an equal opportunity asshole, and luckily he and Jim seemed to think that was pretty funny.
Our first radio call was to a domestic disturbance. Two teenage brothers trying to stab each other with a screwdriver! Welcome to police work. With lights flashing and sirens wailing, we sped to the scene. Terry managed to corner the big squad car at quite high speeds, and suddenly we skidded to a stop outside a small house in a tree lined side street. I guess the scene inside quietened down real quick when the boys in blue turned up. When they'd made sure the situation was under control, Terry came back to the car to get me. I was introduced as an observer. Two black boys, twelve and thirteen years old respectively, and literally just under four hundred pounds between them, were handcuffed and sitting on the sofa, looking rather solemn. My first thought was that I'd hate to get in between them when they were fighting!
After Terry and Jim sorted out the brothers, we continued our low speed patrol, checking out suspicious vehicles, and running licence plate numbers through the on board computer. Around three o'clock we had to patrol around the local schools, making sure the students head home and don't get too excited along the way. A gas station attendant waved us to a stop and informed us of a blue Chevy that had been circling, the driver and passenger both in ski masks. It wasn't long before we came across a car that matched the description. It was pulling in to park in a neighbourhood residential street, and as our vehicle approached from behind, we saw the driver quickly remove some sort of mask. Rather than stop and question them there, the boys thought it better to drive by and watch from a distance. They'd recognized the driver, and figured it was just as likely that he recognized them. If the suspects knew they'd been spotted, they weren't likely to get up to much mischeif in the blue Chevy that evening. Besides, if the vehicle was reported in any future incident, Terry and Jim knew where to find the driver.
"Hey look- there's 'Karate Man'" Jim said. A little ways down the street, there was an old homeless guy kicking the crap out of a lamppost and a bus stop, accompanying each kick with the appropriate karate noise. Apparently this is how he spends his days; wandering the streets and practicing his martial arts. I tell you, for an old dude, he was doing some impressive roundhouse kicks! 'Karate Man' was just one of the many colourful characters that Terry and Jim introduced me to. We slowed to walking pace alongside a young black guy sauntering down the street. He recognized them both instantly. One of the boys made a comment about the gang colours he was wearing. The guy ignored the comment but looked straight in the open back window at me at me.
"What's with the fake S.E.D (S.E.D is the equivalent of S.W.A.T) dude in the back?" he asked, and flashed a smile of gold teeth. We drove off.
It was Halloween today, and Joe had to get home to hand out candy to the neighbourhood 'trick or treaters'. In addition to his stressful full time position as a police Sergeant, Joe is also a fulltime Dad, busy bringing up two daughters, eleven and thirteen. One of the girls was home, getting ready to go trick or treating with her friends. The eldest girl was at a friend's place for a 'haunted house' night. Joe and I hung out by the front landing, knocking back a cold beer or two, hiding the bottles each time a group of kids arrived. It started raining about an hour into the trick or treating, and the stream of goblins, witches and mummies stopped as suddenly as it had begun.
Joe and I headed into downtown Bowling Green to see what was happening. We had a couple of beers *Blue Moon Belgian style beer, brewed in Colorado* upstairs at Ezy Street. There was a live band that was okay, but Joe said there was another place that would be more fun. 'Nate and Wally's' it was called, and there were definitely some Wallies there that night. Men in drag, couples in togas, even a guy in a garbage can. Remember it was Halloween and it's not just for the kids. Bowling Green has a huge university, and almost half of the town's forty thousand residents are university students. That's a recipe for a fun little town.