Saturday, July 26, 2008

Child custody dispute.

The young woman wanted a police officer to accompany her to her mother's house and retrieve her child. The grandmother had been keeping the child and now would not return him to his mother. I asked the young mother for her name and her mother's name. She gave them to me and I immediately recalled the grandmother.

Grandma had come into the Police Department a month or two earlier. She explained to me that her daughter had left her grandson in her care and had taken off with no explanation as to where she was going, how to contact her, or when she would return. Grandma wanted to know what to do to be able to keep the child. I told her to immediately contact an attorney and inquire about getting custody. From what I had heard about her daughter and was now observing with her and the little boy, he was better off with Grandma. I stooped to talk to the little guy, about the age of my own son. I then wished Grandma luck on getting custody. She thanked me and left. Now I was on my way to her apartment with her daughter and hoping she had gotten the paperwork done, or at least started.

As soon as Mom and I started up the walk, Grandma came out of the apartment. She didn't want us on the premises. I asked her if the woman with me was Mom. She admitted that she was. I then asked her for any paperwork giving her legal custody of her grandson. She had none. I would have settled for anything to muddy the water a little and allow me to leave the boy with Grandma. There was nothing. She hadn't even called a lawyer. I was incredulous and out of options. I told her she would need to turn the lad over to his mother. She protested, pointing out rightfully that she was the better guardian. I explained that I had no choice without some kind of legal paperwork to back me up. We entered the apartment.

Mom gathered up the boy and some of his clothes and started out the door. The child began to cry and call for Grandma. Mom carried him out the door as I looked at the floor. It wasn't right, Mom taking this child, but it was legal and I had no options. Right at my feet was a toy hammer identical to the one that my own little boy would be playing with when I returned home. Mom carried the young one to the car, buckled him in, and drove away without a backward glance. She hadn't even told Grandma goodbye or how to contact her.

I had Mom's contact information and decided to pass it on to Grandma. She would need it if she decided to pursue custody. I cleared my throat and began to speak. Grandma cut me off. She began to yell at me that I shouldn't have let her daughter take her grandson. I tried to explain that I had no choice. Unheeding, she got louder. I didn't care about children at all, she explained. I was probably corrupt anyway on top of it all. If the child died or was injured as a result of her daughter's lack of care she would be sure to let me know since it would be my fault and should rest on my conscience. Of course I probably didn't have one. I could leave now that I had put her grandson in danger, probably had donuts to eat or bribes to collect anyway.

That was enough. After five minutes of the tirade I cut Grandma off. My turn I told her. Shut up and listen. She had been told previously to get the paperwork in order to avoid just such a situation as this. She didn't do it. Not my problem. Having a boy of my own of the same age I understood her frustration and did care.

That seemed to catch her by surprise but she quickly rallied. What she had or hadn't done didn't matter. I had no right to let the boy's mother take him. Having my own lad didn't insure my sensitivity, my boy was undoubtedly white and her grandson was black. I just hated black children and it didn't matter to me if they lived or died. I was a racist and didn't value her grandson as much as I would have a white child in the same circumstances. Had the boy been white I would have acted differently.

I turned, walked back to my car, and left. As I pulled away from the curb I called dispatch and advised them that I was done with the call.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Paul Revere where are you?

I have come to the conclusion that we need a modern day Paul Revere. Someone to sound the alarm. To wake a sleeping populace to the danger that marches on them.

Paul warned the colonists of the danger of the British troops approaching. It was the middle of the night and the Redcoats were on the move in secret. The sleeping colonists were sitting ducks. We're in the same situation. Obama polls higher all the time. He is on the move. Christians and conservatives are sleeping. Some are considering voting for him. Where is the alarm?

Obama is proposing some of the most massive and invasive government expansion since the New Deal. Notwithstanding his recent nods to the unborn, he is not pro-life. Any judges he appoints will be liberal. He plans to lose the war in Iraq as well as put us in increased danger from radical Islamists. All of this is on the record. We as Americans should be terrified. We aren't. Why?

Some say that a McCain administration would not be what we are looking for. I for one agree. Remember this though, only about ten years after Revere's ride the Americans scrapped their new government and started over. The system of government that the colonists tumbled out of bed to fight for was not what they were looking for. It was easier though for them to fix a government they controlled rather than an oppressive one that would consolidate its' power and increase its' grip on the daily lives of the people. Perhaps we are in the same situation.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Book review - They Called Him Stonewall

Finished up They Called Him Stonewall last night. This biography of Thomas Jonathan Jackson was written by Burke Davis and published for the first time in 1954.

The book focuses on Jackson's wartime career and is a good read. Davis does a good job of balancing the personal life and professional accomplishments of Jackson. Using primary sources, eyewitness accounts, and Jackson's own reports; he covers Stonewall's initial Confederate commissioning, his subsequent rise to the upper levels of command, and his fatal wounding at a critical junction in the war.

Davis clearly thinks highly of Jackson but he does not attempt to whitewash the General's failings. While praise is included there are also some critiques when needed. Jackson is portrayed as a devout man who possessed a great military mind.

While an electrifying commander, Jackson did clash with his subordinates on occasion. Davis admits that the clashes were not all one-sided and that Jackson contributed. One notable incident involved General A.P. Hill. General Lee had just assigned Hill to Jackson's command and wrote him a note with advice on the best way to handle Hill. Lee urged Jackson to inform Hill of his plans. He stated that, should Jackson do so, he would would find Hill to be a superior officer. Old Jack ignored Lee's counsel and stuck with his habitual secrecy. The officers used to him played along but not Hill. The spark was struck and only death would end the feud.

All in all a good book. Written before the current trend of historical revision, the book manages to humanize Jackson without trivializing him. Whether a Civil War buff or a newcomer to the field, you will enjoy it and find it interesting.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Damp around the edges.

The radio crackled at me. It was about 0500 in the morning and dispatch wanted me to respond to a report of a water leak. No problem. I'll go check it out, call the city crew, and keep anyone from driving over the broken main.

It didn't take me long to find a problem. There was no broken water main, no water coming up through cracks in the street. I wondered what was going on. Dispatch provided me with the address of the reporting party and I knocked on the door.

The woman who answered appeared to be in her 80's. She was grateful I had come. Didn't know who else to call so she called the police. I asked her what exactly the problem was. Down a narrow hall she opened the door to her utility room. Water was showering everywhere. Apparently the rubber hose coming from the faucet to her washing machine had split. The effect was like turning on a high volume sprinkler in the small room.

With a sigh I turned up the collar on my coat. Did I mention there was snow on the ground? I splashed across the room through the two or so inches of water on the floor. Five or six feet later I got to the washer and turned the faucet off. The water was dripping from the ceiling and off my nose.

I advised the lady, who had watched the show from the safety of the hall, to call her plumber sometime after 0800. She thanked me for coming. Don't mention it I said as I sloshed out of the house. On the way to the car I tried to brush off as much of the water as I could. No success. As soon as I got in the car the windows fogged up. Apparently car heaters and soaked officers don't mix.

By shift change I was mostly dried out. My replacement was amused at my appearance and laughed heartily at my tale. He was less amused when I hopped out of the driver's seat and he jumped in. I hadn't gotten out of the car since I left the call.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I was on duty and stopped by the local Stop-n-Rob to refuel the car and get a drink. It was evening, maybe 2130 or so. After pumping the gas I went inside to sign the charge ticket.

At one of the tables was a young mother and her daughter. The girl appeared to be about three years old and was apparently eating dinner. Why you would take your child to a gas station for dinner is beyond me. It also seemed to be beyond the little one as she wasn't eating. Mom was trying to talk her into it when she saw me. She pointed, "See that policeman? If you don't eat your dinner he will take you to jail."

That kind of comment gets under my skin a little. Great way to get your young one to thinking that the police are the bad guys. Misbehave a little and they are just looking for a reason to take you away from Mom and Dad and throw you in a cold cell. These are often the same parents who will wonder is several years why their kids think the police are bad and won't trust officers. I normally just shrug and ignore those types of comments. I tried that tact on this particular evening.

Mom was persistent. "You had better eat or he is going to take you away." The girl looked at me and then at Mom. "Ask him if you don't believe me." The child looked my way questioningly. I was caught. I spoke to the girl, "If you don't eat I won't arrest you. Your mother will probably give you a spanking though." Mom was shocked. She stared at me as the girl turned back to her. She stammered and then told the little girl that nobody was going to spank her but that she still needed to eat. Sorry to void your abdication of responsibility lady.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Ever been someplace and been asked, "So, what do you do for a living?" Yeah, me too. I generally try to avoid that question. When it comes up I give vague answers. "Well, I work for the city." Occasionally that ends the exchange, other times not. "Really, what do you do for them?" Depending on the setting and questioner I will sometimes equivocate. "A little of everything I suppose." Most times I just shrug and give in to the inevitable, "I am a cop."

That draws a wide variety of responses. I have heard all of these. "Really? I would never have guessed, you seem so normal." "Awesome! So you get to shoot a lot of people?" "I got pulled over once and the cop was a real jerk. He told me..." "How can you be a police officer and a Christian too?" These are just a small sampling. Sometimes I wish I had written down all the ones I have heard. My mother-in-law used to introduce me as, "A police officer in a small town, like Mayberry." She meant no disrespect, the town is only about 2,200 people. As dangerous as being an officer in L.A. or New York? No. As interesting? Sometimes. As hard? Yes.

Maybe some background is in order. The city is small (see above). The Police Department (PD) consists of five full-time officers including the Chief. We have one part-time officer who mostly works weekends. We provide 24-hour coverage seven days a week. All the full-time officers are required to become state certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs). This is because the Chief is also in charge of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS). The service started out all volunteer but got four full-time positions several years ago. They kept the volunteers though and so we are a mixed service of full-time EMTs and volunteers. Two of the positions are currently filled and one of the techs is cross-trained as a part-time police officer. The goal is to eventually have all four positions cross-trained. We have to do EMS, they have to do PD. While the PD covers only the city limits the EMS crew covers three quarters of the county. We drive for them on emergency runs and so often end up outside our jurisdiction. We are more than willing to backup and deputies or state troopers who need us and are also expected to help as volunteer EMTs in our off-time.

All dispatch and jail facilities are provided by the Sheriff's Office (under contract of course). The S.O. has five full-time road officers counting the Sheriff himself. For the sake of unity we'll say they provide 24-hour coverage. There are four full-time and one part-time dispatchers and several corrections officers. The total county population (including the city) is maybe pushing 6,000.

There is one other PD in the county that consists of one part-time position. Currently it is being filled by one of our officers during his time off. All the fire departments and the EMS crew responsible for the other quarter of the county are volunteer. State Troopers zip by on the highway and once in awhile drift into town. Sometimes they even wave. Once or twice a week a State Wildlife and Parks officer makes an appearance on the radio, we are lucky to see him once a month.

So that's my workplace.