Monday, August 11, 2008

The House of Cops

If you're in the backseat (without a badge) and you enter this portal, the world as you've known it is at an end. You have entered the Cave of No Return.

The light in here is the same 24/7/52. It doesn't really matter if your world came to an end at 2 pm or 2 am. It will never look the same again.

You are now in the system, and your life is screwed. Get used to it.

Now would be a good time to tell you how grateful I am that this was all new information for me. I have never run much in the way of legal risk. I'm boring. Dull. Blah, blah, and more blah. I can think of a few stories to tell about my youth, but trust me, I'm the only one who would care. As a Good Girl, the Other Side has always held a certain intrigue. Know what I mean?

It would also be a good time to tell you I have two warring viewpoints about this whole front-line arrest thing.

The first and most innate viewpoint says that if there's smoke, there's fire. If someone is inside the cave, they must have done something wrong, even if it's not the thing they're in there for. Sorry, but that's a script that goes back to my early days. It's also probably why I've been excused by defense attorneys on every jury for which I've ever been seated. It's an ingrained-can't-get-over-it core belief. Of course, I could have been excused because I used to work in what was once considered to be a very conservative industry. Now, many of that industry's honchos are going on trial. Full circle or something, I'm here and they're there. The Good Girl reigns.

The second viewpoint is that I've learned sometimes a person is targeted because they fit a certain profile. Profiles exist because well . . . they seem to be right more than wrong. But still, they can be wrong. If a person in power is seeking a quick closure over the truth, justice sometimes doesn't get a second look. Expediency prevails.

I'm a writer. And being a writer makes it hard to admit that what I just said is irrelevant, but it is. All viewpoints aside, guilty or innocent, if you go through this portal, your life will never be the same.

This is the holding cell. There's a drain in the floor so they can clean it periodically. When I was there it didn't smell. I imagine it gets pretty rank. Come to think of it, I imagine the back seats of patrol cars can also get pretty rank.

Take a close look. On the shelf area in front of each stool is an eye, and that is where handcuffs are attached. (You can click on the picture to enlarge.) When a bad guy is arrested, they come into a very secure area. Potential for an "incident" is minimized, and for the safety of everyone, this is a very good idea. You can't really tell from the picture, but there is a heavy pane of plastic between where the arrested person sits and the booking officer. At a salad bar, this would be a "sneeze-guard." At the holding cell? Think spit. An officer enters data into a computer obtaining information via a microphone in the plastic pane.

The ink and paper days of fingerprinting are history. I remember doing this with my girl scout troop. They rolled my fingers through this black ink, rolled them again onto some paper, and then handed me a tissue. Even though I was innocent (I was a girl scout after all) I felt like I must've done something wrong. Now, fingerprints are scanned, including palms. And something else called the lateral palm print, which is the side of your hand that touches the paper when you write. I'd never heard of that before, but I can sure see where it could corroborate testimony from a handwriting expert.

Here's where I come clean. One of my all-time favorite television shows growing up was the Andy Griffith Show. I loved Mayberry and Sheriff Andy Taylor. Take a look at the siren on this car. I can see Barney and Gomer getting into so much trouble . . . This patrol car is stored, covered, in a garage for the department and used for special occasions like parades.

I was also shown the armory. Cars and special weapons are signed out from a carefully controlled checkpoint.

Communication: Patrol cars are not only equipped with radios I can understand (they used to sound like nothing but static-squawk to me) but computer screens where they can be assigned calls as well as run license plates, etc. Cops select their favorite car and plug in their personal ID key to retrieve the car keys. Easy to see who's in what vehicle.

The detectives use a dry-erase board to sign in and out. I thought at fist that was kind of odd until I realized their time and commitments are much more fluid.

Random Thoughts:

From the time an arrest is made until the suspect is handed off to someone else, the tension must be high. There's always a chance something could go wrong. As a cop, you're not only responsible for making sure you follow the rules to facilitate the legal aspects, but you're responsible for the safety of someone who is probably not on your Most Favored list.

Humor would become a cover. A way to cope. A way to get through dealing with the dark side without swinging at someone or going completely numb. And your best friends would become the people you worked with. People who would know what you felt without having to explain.

The word "cop." When I was a kid it was "policeman" or nothing. "Cop" was a disparaging term. My parents would have seriously grounded me if I dissed a policeman by calling him a cop. Times have changed. The attitude behind the word has changed. At least for me. There's a tough kind of respect behind those three little letters.

Currently reading: Deadly Beautiful It's not moving at nearly as quick a pace as I'd hoped. In fact, it's kind of bogged down. Drat.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Excellent post, Peg. I agree. Where there's smoke there's usually fire.

    I would like to point out that not all police departments are fortunate enough to have the LiveScan fingerprint equipment. Those that don't still have to print crooks by hand using the old ten-print cars.

  2. Excellent comment, Lee. I should've noted that even with the scanner, the old stand-by was sitting right there . . . just in case.

    If you happen to see this . . . can they do the lateral palm print with the old ink and paper?

  3. Sure, they can do palm prints. Even footprints, and ear prints have been taken the old fashioned way.

    By the way, I liked the Andy Griffith comment. You know I'm a huge fan o that show, too.

  4. If I didn't know better, I'd say we were siblings.

    But then, hmmm . . . I don't know about your family, but mine has produced more than one surprise. (A different post altogether.)

    Your possible something-or-other,

  5. Great post, Peg. Thanks for putting it up. I love the shot that shows where they hook up the handcuffs-- what a cool detail.

  6. Enjoyed your post, Peg. BTW, I put a link to your blog--and Lee's blog too, on my new writing blog at
    Hope that's okay!

  7. Neil and Melanie, thanks. I hope you might even find something you can use.

    And Melanie, I'll be by to check out your blog. Thanks for the support.