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—Joseph Wambaugh, author of The Onion Field and Fire Lover
By Scott Harmon
Police Officer, Galena PD and Kankakee PD, Illinois, twelve years.
It was an early afternoon and I was pulling a double shift because I was ordered over. It was a beautiful July day, not too hot, about seventy-five degrees with a perfect breeze. I remember thinking how nice it would be to take the bike out for a cruise, but I was stuck working.
Then my reverie was over and I found myself thinking about an incident that happened the night before, where a guy had gotten shot in the chest when he was holding a gun by the barrel while approaching me. I was contemplating how I could have made the situation better, while at the same time thinking about how I got called into the office for a “beef” I had received from a citizen. It just seemed like this was not my month. The week prior, a guy had jumped off a train bridge into a shallow river embedded with rocks. His family was blaming the police department and my name was at the top of the list.
I was thinking all this as I was patrolling up Evergreen Street and saw a little boy sitting on the curb and crying. He had blond hair and was wearing a white-and-blue-striped shirt and blue jeans. Normally, since the kid was obviously not in any danger, I would have just driven away without asking what the problem was, but for some reason I was curious as to why this little boy was sitting all alone and sobbing his heart out on such a beautiful summer’s day.
“Hey kid, what’s the matter?” I asked before I had considered that this might be opening a can of worms.
The boy pointed to the sewer drain at the corner and said, “My G.I. Joe fell in the drain!”
I could see the tears streaming like tiny rivers on his cheeks as he relived this horrible occurrence. “Oh, that’s not good,” I said.
Hey, what can you say in response to something so trivial? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not heartless, I was just in one of those moods. But I radioed dispatch, “City K-13.”
“K-13?” dispatch replied.
“I’ll be out at Evergreen and Oak with a juvenile,” I said and exited my squad.
I walked with the boy over to the drain and looked down. “Don’t worry kid, we’ll get him out.”
He sniffled and wiped his eyes and then looked up at me with absolute confidence. “Okay, you’re a policeman, you’ll be able to help him!”
Hey, no pressure kid, I was thinking. Then I wondered how the hell I was gonna get down there. You know how your mind starts racing with different thoughts? I was thinking, I really don’t wanna get dirty and “un-tucked.” Stupid, huh? Yeah, I know. But I looked again at the boy’s trusting face and something happened—it was as if something cracked open inside me and I too felt the urgency and gravity of the G.I. Joe-in-the-drain situation. Suddenly all the things I’d been thinking about earlier seemed trivial. I knelt down and first put my hand, then my whole arm, all the way into the drain. I had maneuvered myself so that I was just barely able to touch G.I. Joe’s crewcut head when my sergeant drove up. He rolled down the window in his squad, looked at the two of us for a moment, and said, “Hey! What the hell are you doing?”
The boy and I, excitement evident in our voices, responded in unison, “Getting G.I. Joe out!”
I could hear Sergeant McCabe mumbling as he exited his squad, “You gotta be shittin’ me.”
But I said, “Hey Sarge, your arm’s longer than mine, give it a try!”
McCabe just stood there for a second staring at me, unamused. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he considered various stinging retorts, but then he looked in the drain and at the boy who was now standing next to me. “Oh, man!” McCabe said as he knelt down on the pavement.
We discovered that McCabe’s arm was longer than mine, but apparently not quite long enough. As McCabe tried to reach our American Hero in the drain, my sister beat car pulled up. Officer Brian Coash is not only my partner but also my best friend, and when he saw the three of us alongside the drain he just started to laugh. But he got out of his squad and assessed the situation, laughing the whole time, and then said, “Let’s just pull the drain grate out!”
Why didn’t I think of that, I was muttering in my head.
“There’s no way we can pull that thing out, we’d need a crowbar,” McCabe said, appraising the grate.
Without hesitation I reached for my radio’s lapel mike. “City, K-13!”
“K-13?” dispatch replied.
“City, will you contact the city crew and have them twenty-five my location with a crowbar.”
“Nice!” McCabe said, smiling.
Then another squad pulled up and then another just to find out what we had going on. Moments later the city crew arrived. I grabbed the crowbar from them and went over to the drain and started prying. But it was a lot harder than I thought.
“Get on this!” I said to no one in particular. Brian leapt forward, grabbed the end and started prying.
“It’s moving!” the boy cried.
“Yeah! Keep it up!” McCabe was as excited as the little boy.
Finally the grate slowly lifted up and gave a low suction noise. As I knelt down to reach into the drain, I bumped heads with Brian and Sergeant McCabe.
“I got it, I got it, spread out!” I cried, realizing that we were experiencing a Three Stooges moment. I felt the soft cotton fabric of G.I. Joe’s uniform and grabbed him in a tight fist.
“I got him!” I shouted with joyous triumph. And at that moment I saw myself as someone I hope I’ll always be. I looked over at the boy and his face was almost angelic and his smile simply brightened my existence and warmed my heart. I stood up, dusted myself off, walked over to the boy and presented him with G.I. Joe, no worse for his experience in the drain.
“Here you go, sir,” I said.
“Thank you so very much!” the boy said with utter joy and gratitude. I realized at that moment what this job is all about. It’s not about the contract negotiations, or how much comp-time you have accrued, or how you get called into the office for pointing your finger into some guy’s chest. It’s not about the fact that your favorite food hangout rang up full price and now you gotta bum five bucks from your partner, or that your uniform got a little ragged from a long tour of duty.
I realized right then and there, you do it for the little ones.
TRUE BLUE: POLICE STORIES BY THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED THEM Copyright © 2004 by Randy Sutton.
"In Valor There Is Hope"
A Senseless Act Randy Sutton Sutton, Randy 1
Nothing Is Ever Routine Stephen "Steve" Berg Berg, Stephen "Steve" 9
Nicky and the Mustard Gas Caper; or, How Two ATF Agents Saved South Central Los Angeles Ken Cates Cates, Ken 11
Mr. Martinez's Christmas Michael Hahn Hahn, Michael 18
Pigeons and Monkeys and Snakes, Oh My! Thomas J. Cline Cline, Thomas J. 24
Little Johnny on the Front Porch Clint W. McKean McKean, Clint W. 30
Let Me Tell You a True Story Robert V. Trevino Trevino, Robert V. 34
Just So You Know Matt Walz Walz, Matt 39
Part of the Job Michael J. Warden Warden, Michael J. 43
Just Another Car Stop David R. DeKay DeKay, David R. 49
Jesse: A Case Study in Sexual Assault Trinka Porrata Porrata, Trinka 53
The Men Who Never Leave Your Side Jerry D. Wolsey Wolsey, Jerry D. 61
It Was Just Business Philip V. Bulone Bulone, Philip V. 67
I Hear Ya, Rick Mike "Mama" Martinez Martinez, Mike "Mama" 78
How Do I Find the Words? Pat Jenkins Jenkins, Pat 82
Heroes Thomas E. Schulte Jr. Schulte, Thomas E., Jr. 87
Heartbreaker Jack M. Comeaux Comeaux, Jack M. 92
Almost There Joseph Loughlin Loughlin, Joseph 95
The Recidivists Dick Kirby Kirby, Dick 98
The Ride of a Lifetime Rick Jamison Jamison, Rick 103
The Road Race and the Fly Jim Archuletta Archuletta, Jim 108
The Sadness of It All Brent Larson Larson, Brent 116
The Shooting Cory Hatch Hatch, Cory 119
Suicide by Cop Robert Mladinich Mladinich, Robert 124
Trapped While Wearing the Badge Artie Rodriguez Rodriguez, Artie 128
Unwanted Male Jeremy M. Williams Williams, Jeremy M. 132
Walking Among the Dead Michael J. East East, Michael J. 135
Wayne Kevin White White,Kevin 140
What the Public Doesn't See Bryan Muth Muth, Bryan 144
What's in the Shop Above the Garage? Pamela Monson Monson, Pamela 147
You Don't Understand! You're the Enemy! Rocky Warren Warren, Rocky 154
A Dark, Cold Night Scott Barthelmass Barthelmass, Scott 156
A Katrina Story Stacey Pearson Pearson, Stacey 161
A Lasting Impression Kevin J. Byrne Byrne, Kevin J. 165
Angel on the Table Don Whitehead Whitehead, Don 168
Another Beautiful Day Greg Brown Brown, Greg 173
Brown Eyes J. R. Davis Davis, J. R. 177
A Christmas Story Ponzio Oliverio Oliverio, Ponzio 182
Close Encounters of the "Cop" Kind Ron Corbin Corbin, Ron 186
Heaven's Little Policeman Keith Bettinger Bettinger, Keith 190
The Enemy Among Us John Milotzky Milotzky, John 195
Final Goodbye Paul Nanfito Nanfito, Paul 200
Happy Thanksgiving Randy Sutton Sutton, Randy 205
Terry Rich Forsey Forsey, Rich 213
Thank You Nathan Jacobs Jacobs, Nathan 217
Thank You For Protecting Me Scott Walker Walker, Scott 219
The King of Heroes Michael Summers Summers, Michael 222
Friday the Thirteenth John Wills Wills, John 226
Friday, I Cried Stan Talton Talton, Stan 231
Ride-Along Tim Dees Dees, Tim 234
10-13 Mos Edward V. Burmeister III Burmeister, Edward V., III 240
Suicide Ken Ramsey Ramsey, Ken 243
Talk to the Hand John W. Howsden Howsden, John W. 247
The Longest Day John Nordman Nordman, John 251
The Memorial Charles R. Martel Martel, Charles R. 259
The Loss of Innocence Jesse Roybal Roybal, Jesse 261
The Man in White Dan Simon Simon, Dan 266
The Mild Spring Morn Angelo L. Florio Florio, Angelo L. 271
Morale Booster Charles R. Martel Martel, Charles R. 274
Life Is Precious, Life Is Fragile Chuck Springer Springer, Chuck 276
I Believe Randy Sutton Sutton, Randy 281
Posted February 21, 2013
Read this book and could not put it down. From an officer's standpoint, it had stories that hit home and remind me that what I do every day is worth while. Highly recommend this one!!!
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Posted April 21, 2012
Posted June 12, 2011
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