There’s a lot of detail left out of some of this. Sorry, but I can’t give but so much information about this and not violate my oath and certain laws.
Everybody says that their job sucks. It’s part of the working life. Anytime someone says that their job sucks, you pretty much know what’s coming. They’re going to tell you about the bad boss, the money, the guy that does nothing but gets ahead anyhow, etc.
But my job sucks for different reasons. Oh, sure there’s all of that other stuff, but there’s stuff that makes that look as trivial as it really is. In the last two weeks, I’ve had two of those nights.
I’ll start with the “little” one first. It also happens to have been the first of the two anyhow. Friday about two weeks ago, another officer and I got a call to check some people out late in the shift. When we got there, we found a group of ten waiting for a chartered limo van to pick them up and take them home.
Quick talk to the group and we find out that it’s a big party for the birthday girl. She turned 21 that day. Nice kid.
Two of the ten had been acting a bit stupid though and had a complaint called in on them by a security guard. We pulled the two of them aside and started talking to them about what was going on. We explained that we were going to give them a “warning” since what they did wasn’t all that, but we did have to run their information to document the contact with them. The guy handed me his ID. The girl said she didn’t have any on her.
Although, she said that while swaying slightly back and forth in that “I may have had one too many” way.
I told her that I knew she had ID since she’d been club hopping. No ID, no service. She’d been drinking so she had ID. She looks at me with an “oh, shit” look and slowly pulls her ID out of her pocket. ID that said that she was not 21. She’d been hitting off of everyone’s drinks all night and got a little more tipsy than I think she intended.
Long story short on this one. She seemed like a good kid. My gut was telling me not to jam her up and run her in. The fact that she was so scared that she was about to wet herself and didn’t get crappy with us helped in that department as well.
But this is where I was stuck. My only two choices were to run her in or let her go. If I ran her in, then I was giving a permanent criminal record to someone who was just being a dumb kid doing a stupid thing. And something that I did once or twice at that age.
We opted to scare the crap out of her to the point that she was crying and then tell her that we were cutting her and the birthday girl a break. We made it clear that we had her name on file and that if any of us came across her drunk again before 21 that it was a fast trip to lock up. The group got on the limo van and went on their way. I’m still not sure that she didn’t pee herself before she left.
Now, you’re asking what sucks about that, aren’t you. What sucks, is that there used to be a better option. Back in the day, back in my father’s day as an officer, we could have sent everybody else on their merry way and held onto her. She wouldn’t have been under arrest mind you. Nooooo. We would have called her parents and told them that they could come pick up their drunk under age daughter from the station.
You get a scared spitless kid who then gets a really ticked off parent picking them up after a long drive and making it an even longer drive home for the kid. The kid catches hell, gets punished by mom and dad and maybe they don’t make this particular mistake again.
But we can’t do that now. Laws written to protect us from liability and the public from abuses of power have kinda stepped in the way. Yeah, those laws do some good, but they sometimes hamper our ability to actually do something that might help keep someone from being a repeat screw up and getting into even worse trouble later.
See, we sent her off into the night scared. That might do some good. But it might not as well. Her friends could have been going down the road telling her that she really pulled one off and that we were being kill joys. She could later think that she got one over on the system once, so she can do it again next time. And, somehow, I don’t see her or her friends mentioning to mom and dad that she just missed getting arrested for drunk in public under age.
You hope you did the right thing. You hope that it’s not going to bite you later when you hear about them doing something like it again and hurting themselves or someone else. But if you’ve only got the two options, you have to choose one and hope for the best.
But, like I said above, that was the “little” suck. Here’s the big one.
Four days later I got a call that presented to me a man who has literally fallen through the cracks of the system. I was confronted with a man that will either cripple or kill himself, cause someone else to be crippled or killed or really mess up someones life in a serious way. And there’s not a God damned thing that we can do about it.
This man (we’ll call him John after John Q. Public) is a mental case. He’s not violent and he’s not immediately noticeable as a mental case. Well, unless he’s crossing the street.
That’s what we got called about. See, John tends to cross the street in a rather… unusual manner. If john wants to cross the street at 7th and Broad Street, he starts crossing the street at 11th and Broad Street and walks a long diagonal path through the traffic. And in the case of my little get together with him, he was walking through the rush hour traffic.
And he has no clue that the cars are even there while he does it. He looks straight ahead like a robot, never acknowledges the traffic and strolls on about his merry way. We gave him a warning, his third, and sent him on his way to the shelter that he stays at. I stopped him again three hours later walking straight into the cars on Broad Street again.
This is where the problem comes into it. In those three hours, we called the magistrates, we called Crisis (they deal with mental subjects) and we spoke with some of the city guys who have dealt with him since he showed up in the city a few months back. The long and short of all of that is that there’s nothing we can do with him.
We can’t really charge him with a crime beyond, basically, jaywalking. That will get him a date in traffic court, but it won’t get him off of the streets. Crisis won’t take him. They’ve taken him before, evaluated him and stated that he no longer qualifies for detainment and treatment. They said that the rules that govern them have been rewritten several times over the last few years with too much focus on money and not enough on helping people. Now, they cut loose people that would have been treated only a few years ago. And the city has been running into dead ends with him for two plus months.
I wrote him for basically crossing outside of the designated areas, gave him his court date and let him go. and a few hours later, he was reported for doing the same thing again.
I’ve spent over a week looking stuff up to try and find a way to get this guy off of the streets. I’ve made calls, looked up codes, looked up obscure references in the law codes, looked up court rulings and generally fried my brain over this. The end results? Just what I said above. We can’t do a thing.
If it hasn’t already sunk in as to why this really sucks, here’s why.
John is so mentally incapable of looking out for his own health, welfare and well being that he’s going to get himself hurt, injured, crippled for life or killed. And we can’t do anything about it. And, believe it or not, it’s worse than even that.
If John causes a driver to swerve to avoid him, then the results could be that car hitting a pedestrian, someone on a bike or another car. John’s mental state and street walking could then actually cause the injury or death of someone else. And we can’t do anything about it. And, believe it or not, it gets worse yet again.
Think about the driver. Imagine if you were the driver. You’re zooming down the street, your heading home after a long day at the office and then, seemingly out of nowhere, John steps right into the front of your car. You cripple him. Hell, you kill him. How many times will people have to tell you it wasn’t your fault? How long until you stop seeing him bouncing off of your hood? How long before you get over the feelings created by, your fault or not, you killing a man?
And we can’t do a damned thing.
So, yeah, one week of working at this to finally be told that John has officially fallen through the cracks. The law is restricted in what it can do to him and the mental health agencies have been crippled by the penny pincher crowd to the point that they can’t do anything for him.
Well, there’s one thing we can do. We can wait until the inevitable finally happens. And, thanks to the area he now frequents every day, I’ll either be on hand to hear about it the day it happens or I’ll be here to see it happen.
And THAT is why my job SUCKS.