Tuesday 4th November. Toledo, Ohio, United States.
"BAD BOYS, BAD BOYS! WHAT YOU GONNA DO?"
Joe was disappointed that my ride-along the other day hadn't been real exciting for me. A nighttime ride-along was in order, he said. I'd see a different world after midnight, he promised me. Well, I was all up for that. I've been working at the car dealership for the last couple of days- painting, tree planting and shifting furniture- and I'll be working there again tomorrow. But I'll gladly sacrificed a night's sleep to take advantage of this unique experience. Who knows when there'll be another chance like this? I wish I was allowed to take photos, but Joe was very clear about that from the start. There's privacy issues and security issues to consider. I could take photos of him and Jim, but nothing that showed suspects or anything that could possibly be 'controversial'.
We rolled into the station at about 8:00 p.m. Jim had been working all day, but was happy to join us for an extra shift. They have a special project underway, and there's always plenty of work to be done if the officers are prepared to put in the overtime. The city is trying to 'clean up' the inner suburb areas, and a youth curfew is part of their strategy. We'd be out looking for kids breaking the curfew, but would no doubt come across a world of other madness along the way, especially in the early hours of the morning. This could be a real active night, they thought, since it was so unseasonally warm. Today had set an all time November record, with a temperature of almost eighty degrees. In pleasant weather like this, you'd be more likely to find people out on the streets.
Our first arrest was something of a disappointment for me. A big old car chugged around the corner ahead of us. It was riddled with rust and blowing smoke. Joe punched the licence plate number into the computer and it came back that the owner of that car had a suspended licence. We pulled the car over, and it turns out the lady driving the car is not the owner. It's just not her lucky night though, when Joe and Jim discover that she has her own skeletons in the closet; unpaid warrants for traffic violations and a felony warrant for passing bad cheques. We wait for the tow truck and the unfortunate lady gets to ride to jail in the back seat with me.
After the arrest, the boys seemed to be occupied with paperwork for almost an hour. Dozens of different forms had to be completed and filed. As we left the jail there was a radio call of 'suspicious persons'; three young black males in an alley, one with a crowbar. Now why would that be suspicious at eleven o'clock at night? We cruised the area around the alley looking for a stray group of three men. It was me who spotted the one man walking alone, but carrying a small crowbar. He seemed relaxed and confident when we pulled alongside. He was even genuinely surprised when Joe ordered him to drop the crowbar as he approached the vehicle. The guy came up with some lame excuse as to why he had a pair of black gloves, a crowbar, a hacksaw and a roll of duct tape in the middle of the night. There was no evidence that he'd been doing anything illegal, so we'd have to let him go...except for the fact that he also had outstanding warrants! He had the privilege of riding in the back with me as well... to the courthouse.
No sooner were we back on patrol than we spotted our own suspicious person. He was sitting on the front steps of a house, but the house looked like a quite respectable home and this guy kind of looked out of place. By the look on his face, he was nicely wasted. Joe and Jim debated whether or not it was worth our time, but decided to turn around and check the guy's story. We pulled alongside and Jim asked him where he lived.
"You live right here?" Jim asked again.
"Yeah man, in this house."
"What's your name?"
"I live right here."
"What's your name?"
"I'm fine, man."
It was obvious the guy was dodging the questions, so Joe went to step out of the vehicle. At that split second when he opened the car door, my world went into slow motion. The guy on the porch threw his can of beer towards the police car, launched off the stairs and took off like a jackrabbit. Joe, who had just a second earlier been sitting in the passenger seat, was already just several steps behind. They disappeared around the corner within seconds. At the time it seemed like a minute. Jim threw the car into drive and roared around the corner. The suspect bolted up between two houses. Joe was close behind. With me silent and motionless in the back seat, Jim sped to the next intersection and lurched to the left. We passed a small alley that runs behind the row of houses, and I saw the suspect running away from us down the alley.
"In the alley! In the alley!" I shouted. I'm sure Jim saw him as well, but I like to think I did my part. We reversed and pointed the big police cruiser down the narrow alley. Ahead in the light of our headlights I saw the guy stumble, then correct himself and disappear down between the houses again. Joe appeared suddenly and continued his pursuit on foot. Jim and I had no option but to race to the end of the block- back to where we had first seen the guy- and circle back, leaving Joe to check through people's backyards.
Within minutes, more police units arrived on the scene. We all slowly cruised a two block area, confident of having contained our man in that region. In all there were seven police vehicles involved in the search, as well as seven police officers on the ground, the beams of their flashlights waving eerily through the sleeping neighbourhood. Also, the police helicopter had joined the party, swaying its strong searchlight across the homes and tree lined streets. All the police ended up converging on a nearby house, where we'd seen four young black kids hanging out on the front porch. It seemed as though the search had been fruitless, and the mood felt like one of defeat. Joe and a couple of the other cops were questioning the boys on the porch, when suddenly Joe recognized one of them. He was a black male, six foot tall and two hundred pounds- the same dimensions as the guy we'd been chasing. But that guy had been wearing a hat and coat. This guy was wearing a white tshirt. Guess what a little further investigation revealed on the floor of the porch? That's right; he'd shed the coat and hat that he'd been wearing a little earlier, and here he was sitting on a porch just a few hundred feet from where we'd given chase. That's pretty bold.
So his sorry ass got dragged off to jail, amidst his constant protests of innocence and claims of trumped up charges. He didn't realize that his 'friends' on the porch had given him up once he was safely handcuffed in the police car. At one stage, he slipped up and told us that the only reason he ran was because he was scared. After that, he returned to his story that he wasn't even the right guy. He insisted that he'd never been arrested before, but when he was checked through the couthouse computer, his mugshots came up. Strangely enough, it turned out that he didn't have any current warrants, so the only reason we could come up with for his attempted escape was that he'd had drugs on him. As we walked out after depositing him at the jail, I heard Jim mumble under his breath "Run away from us, will ya?"
Joe and Jim were both obviously tired. I know I was. It was two in the morning and that would be it for the night. We returned to the police station. Just across the road from the station there's a small fast food restaurant, and the boys spotted a squad car in the car park, its doors still wide open. We did a u turn to investigate. There were two officers in action, a male officer controlling two men sitting against the wall of the restaurant, and a female officer struggling to contain a huge black lady who was obviously under the influence of some pretty serious narcotics. The female officer had a tazer. She was waving it at the woman, trying to get her under control, yelling at her to get down on the ground and open her hands. Just as we pulled up next to the fracas, the fat woman made a sudden movement with her fists still clenched. She was twice the size of the officer, but she went down like a rock with a little help from Joe and Jim. Even on the ground, she was struggling to get her hand to her mouth, obviously to swallow the evidence. It appeared that she did get one piece of crack to her mouth before the officers twisted her arms behind her back and pried her fingers open. Three more rocks fell out of her hand onto the ashphalt and a crack pipe was found in her bra. Looking at her sprawled out on the hard bitumen of the carpark, with the neon light from the restaurant washing over her face, I really felt sorry for her. The fear and confusion in her eyes, and the indignity of being pinned to the ground, not to mention the further indignity of having her stomach pumped when the ambulance arrived to take her to hospital. How could she have ever let her life slip so far down the toilet, and how will she ever find a way out of the life she's made for herself? It had been an exciting night for me, and a great experience, but when I finally went to bed that night I couldn't help but feel a real sadness.