3-10-2005 Police work is best left to the police

The suspects were getting away until I smashed into them.

Somebody had to put a stop to it before somebody got hurt, and that's exactly what I did.--Bob Kadluboski on WILK discussing his having rammed a car fleeing from police last night.

I was bored stiff last night and watching some sickening movie on Cinemax XYZ. Or was it Cinemax ABC? Or HBO Latino West? I don't remember, nor do I care. Typical, though. 400,000 television digital channels and nothing on again. It gets me to hankering for a "Creature Feature" on Channel 5, circa 1968 or so. Or maybe just one episode of Wonderama. Lance Link-Super Chimp?

Then, suddenly and without warning at 9:18 PM: "County! We've got a shooting at the White House!" And the policia adrenaline games were definately on. I turned the volume up on the desktop scanner.

I hate these sorts of car chases, the ones FOX television continually plays for us in all of their exciting splendor frought with extreme danger for the good guys. When three people get shot in a bar that should be shuttered, and the guys doing the shooting are trying to elude one of our police cars in hot pursuit, I am always painfully aware that said police chase could result in a very bad ending for the good guys doing the relentless pursuing. It's not that I don't trust in the dedication or the professionalism of our city cops; it's just that I realize how quickly and how violently these sorts of escapades can come to a conclusion that we might not especially like. I don't normally pray, but during these all too often high-speed undertakings, I come really, really close to making the signs of the cross.

Wilkes-Barre's lawless drug dealers may not be as violent as some of the gangs that lay claim to Los Angeles', or New York City's streets, but I imagine they'd shoot at a Wilkes-Barre cop if the circumstances were ripe for it. In all likelihood, they'll shoot each other before they get around to the rest of us, but our cops do engage them when they get to shooting at anyone. The way I figure it, they probably won't shoot at a Wilkes-Barre cop, but "probably" really isn't good enough. So, if all bets happen to be off on some dark night while the cops are in hot pursuit of some brazen gunmen, do we really want the average folks jumping into the middle of the fray as if this is all some sort of Deputy Dog video game? Do we really want the Joe Six-Packs of the city armed with nothing more than a police scanner and a loose screw out there running amok ramming any alleged fleeing car that fits the witnesses descriptions that are so often subject to change?

People who frantically call 911 are often under duress after just having witnessed something that seems more at home on a television screen. And their description of minutes-old violent events are often confusing and contradictory to the police officers who are charging to the scene. The tan sedan, after a wee bit of boots-on-the-ground interviewing, often turns out to be a red Ram that side-swiped a parked sedan. And if Joe Six-Pack takes it upon himself to ram the first thing that looks like what was descibed in the very first reports from the scene still ruled by pandemonium; I'd say he has a bit of a problem on his hands. Hero turned idiot, if you will. I realize that these hypotheticals do not accurately describe exactly what transpired last night, but then again, somebody took it upon themselves to actively engage in a police car chase, and that's much more dangerous than just engaging one completely by happenstance.

And what becomes of Deputy Dog after the big collision he initiated if the alleged assailants bail out, run away and leave no evidence in the vehicle tying them to the original crime? Maybe a weapon is found nearby, maybe it isn't. Maybe an unspent shotgun shell is found in the vehicle, maybe it isn't. Maybe some fingerprints can be lifted by the State Police forensic boys, maybe they can't. Maybe it's a good idea to crash your life-sized Hotwheel truck into another vehicle based solely on the initial and quite often inaccurate reports from a just-happened crime scene, maybe it isn't.

Maybe it's an especially bright idea to be beside the police cruiser when the now pumped-up cop levels his gun and starts hollering for someone to keep their hands in plain sight, maybe it's not such a bright idea. Maybe you just rammed a vehicle and the folks within it are not provably associated with the crime they've initially been connected to, maybe you didn't. Maybe the folks in the vehicle are gun-toting idiots that just popped a few caps into someone, maybe they're not. If they are idiots, maybe the authority of the badge produces instant compliance from the idiots and their hands are held skyward, maybe it doesn't. Maybe the cop is somewhat distracted by the presence of Deputy Dog, maybe he isn't. Maybe ten more cops arrive before anything else of note goes down, maybe they don't. Maybe the residents of the city shouldn't be playing Death Race 2000, maybe they should.

As for me, I'd love to be able to rub elbows with the good folks from Channel 16 and spout off about how I might have saved some Wilkes-Barre cop's life with just a bit of Scanner Land prognosticating and some needles machismo gone awry on my part. But alas, my puny efforts at supporting our local cops pales in comparison to having played demolition derby on city streets without permission, or training of any sort. My meager efforts include throwing a few pizzas their way, and doing a couple of police ride-alongs for the expressed intent of internet publication so as to highlight that they are all that stands between us and the lawless vermin.

I participated in a ride-along with the Plains Township P.D. in 2003, and I did the same with the Wilkes-Barre P.D. in early 2004. The latter of which was published on this here internet in this blow-by-blow account: Cruisin' with the "Anti-Crime Unit" Oh, and I did publish a piece titled simply Cops, which judging by my e-mail, many of our local cops seemed to appreciate. I'm a Scanner Land junkie, which is an education in policing unto itself to some degree. And I have picked the brain of many a Wilkes-Barre cop when given to occasion to. I like to think that I know the nature of the job much better than your garden varity resident. Scratch that humble nonsense. I know damn well that my knowledge of local policing far outweighs that of probably any other average Joe Blow resident. But that doesn't make me a cop. And that doesn't mean I should feel free to inject myself into the middle of anything I happen to be listening to on the scanner. You'll probably never see me being given the key to the city for saving, or protecting the lives of any Wilkes-Barre city cops, because I've managed to learn that police work is best left to the police.

Check this snippet from that "Cruisin' with the Anti-Crime Unit" posting of mine:

After about 6, or 7 minutes we rolled and patrolled some more. We ended up back at the hole and sat for a spell. Things were suddenly quiet in this area. I wonder why. After a few minutes we went south on Welles and noticed a white SUV rolling behind us. It turned and parked. We went around the block and came back around behind it. It was moving away and rather quickly. Here we go!

In an instant, our Intrepid was moving even faster. The SUV turned and sped away north on Hill St. toward Park Ave. When we arrived at the corner, it was nowhere to be seen. Now the Intrepid was roaring as we sped towards Park Ave. We stopped at Park, and the guy had turned right towards Hazel Ave. and he was hauling ass away from us. After Ralph turned and had gotten us up to speed, for the first time, I wondered where the hell my seatbelt was. I was sitting on it. Too late. We caught the SUV at the light, waited for it to change, and followed him a ways up Hazel before firing up the lights. He pulled over by Ellis' beer store. It was pouring down rain at this point. It was 2:35.

The driver was a young dude and he was very courteous and very, very cooperative. Almost too much so. Even this non-cop was beginning to suspect something fishy was afoot. Looky here! Another suspended drivers license. He was instructed to park it in the lot. Then he was quizzed about drugs and gave all of the right answers in his mind, while unknowingly telegraphing all of the wrong answers. He was asked if he would object to a search of the vehicle and again, he was very cooperative. Looky here! A nightstick. He forgot about that. Whoa! What's this white powder in these Zip-lock bags? Um..baking powder for his seizures. And these bags of pot? Then he started babbling away. He forgot. His girlfriend. He mentioned having just started a new job. He has two kids, aged 4 and 7. Yessir, I do smoke pot, but nothin' else. I could barely follow the now meandering saga. Time for him to be searched. Looky here! A rock of crack cocaine in his pack of smokes. Time for the handcuffs again. Time for a cage again. Time for Truck 51 again.

Now, I do have to ask you. As we were doing our very best Dupont Rainbow Warrior (#24 for you NASCAR pretenders) impersonation with the side streets passing us by faster than Tom McGroarty could waste money, do you think we wanted anyone ramming anything in front of us, or anywhere else remotely near us, for that matter? I can't speak for the guys packing the heat, but after living through a violent car accident of late, if I were a cop, I would prefer it if the folks not packing the taxpayer-subsidized heat would stay well out of the way when police type matters escalate to the point of being life and death situations.

"Time for Truck 51 again" meant that we wanted a tow truck to haul away the perp's vehicle as we were waiting for a caged unit to haul him away to police headquarters. Trust me, we were not requesting the overzealous, self-deputized citizen militia heading towards us at ramming speeds previously unachieved in these parts. Tow trucks are supposed to tow away stopped vehicles, not ram and destroy fleeing vehicles. If the misadventures of a lone loose cannon is somehow acceptable only because his reckless actions did not result in an unacceptable catastrophe, are we not inviting even more Road Warrior wannabes to deputize themselves on the spur of the moment? If so, that could eventually prove to be a lose-lose proposition for almost everyone involved.

Sometimes the cops get their man and sometimes, through no fault of their own, they don't. Sometimes the bad guys get away only to find themselves being arrested another day and perhaps, in another place. In these respects, police work is often a marathon, while most of us common folk would prefer it to be a highly successful sprint. And I don't care what any tow truck operator has to say about policing, let alone most other things. Police work is best left to the police.

During the past eight troubling years here in Wilkes-Barre, very many of us have wondered aloud about who it was that was in charge of our streets. The criminals or the cops? Despite all of the painful black eyes we suffered in the local newspapers, I knew all along that if our highly motivated, highly trained and professional cops had some real leadership, and an increase in numbers; they would once again control our streets. And while they await the overdue reinforcements soon to hit our streets, the last thing they need is some Scanner Land insider taking it upon himself to deliver some Starsky & Hutch justice whenever he sees fit.

While this unfathomable incident may have had a happy, albeit, a very curious ending, I think it serves as an example to all of us of what not to do when the Wilkes-Barre police get to doing what they've been trained to do.

Police work is best left to the police.

Every once in a while, I manage to turn on this 'puter thingie and pen something that makes me feel really good about having bothered in the first place. My dated "Cops" posting was one of those painfully honest postings I was especially happy about after giving it a quick proof read. Why not? Let's do it again, shall we?



As far as I can tell, generally speaking, nobody likes the cops until they desperately need one. Cops are kinda like chemotherapy. It's comforting to know they're available if need be, but the greater majority of us hayseeds never want to actually need their services. And statistically speaking, chances are that most us will never need the services of a cop for anything more threatening to our well-being than removing an illegally parked car from in front of our driveways, or forcing the delinquent kid down the block to admit throwing a ball through the front window. Odds are, you'll never come face-to-face with a burglar, a loaded handgun, or even a thoroughly deranged lunatic unless you're extremely unlucky, or not one who pays close attention to one's immediate environs.

To hear the folks that never suffered through a life-threatening emergency tell it; cops are lazy, overpaid, overweight, donut-eating, arrogant assholes.

To hear the cops tell it; the average, taxpaying resident is usually ungodly impatient, constantly sweating the really small stuff, and wouldn't know police work if it lurched forward and latched onto their gonads. Or gonad.

In these matters, I tend to side with the cops.

The subject of policing recently came up, and I was telling a friend of mine that whenever a few extra pennies come my way I send a few unannounced large pizzas down to police headquarters. He looked at me like I was on my third joint and said, "Why?" I told him that I wanted those folks to know that their tireless and under-appreciated efforts were noticed. In my mind, whether it be 1 person, 1% of the populace, or whatever percentage; the only folks standing between us and the worst that humanity has to offer deserve to be recognized. He responded with the usual "they get paid" gobbletygook. Yeah, I get paid for my job too. But I don't have to deal with murderers, gangbangers, elderly women pissing in alleys, smart alec hookers, hopper dwellars, charred bodies exploded by intense heat, hysterical rape victims, the car acident victims with compound fractures, intense public, internal, and media scrutiny and the ever present reality that even the law-abiding folks don't really want to be held responsible for their own actions.

And I don't need a 9 millimeter to do my every day job. They do, if not something even more lethal.

If you get a speeding ticket, it's simply because the cop was a dick. If you're car gets towed, it's because the cop involved was a prick. If a cop cuts you a break, but insists that you immediately move your illegally parked car; he is a bastard for sure. And if you need a cop for something trivial at best, and it takes longer than three minutes for one to arrive on scene, well, that's offered up as proof that he was sleeping behind the local mini-mart. Forget the fact that he may have been up to his red eyeballs in silly calls, or trying to catch up on the always piling paperwork; they are just never there when you need one.

That completely uninformed mindset always makes me want to wallop someone upside their head, but I really don't feel like getting arrested.

Due to the doctors frickin' orders, my exercise routine has been limited to walking about the city as of late. That sucks, and it's frustrating as all heck, but it is what it is. I was downtown the other day and I encountered one of the chamber honchos humping all sorts of materials across the Square's epicenter that gave me the impression that he was on his way back from some sort of important presentation. I also ran across another chamber dude who was busily pointing to and fro, while in the company of a couple of important looking suits. It seemed to me as if these suits were interested in investing in our downtown. Nothing gets me any stiffer, any faster than that sort of thing, but I'm a strange bird.

While enjoying my big workout, I noticed that all three of our police horses and their menacing-looking jockeys were out in the middle of the Square. Within an instant, one of the pistol-packing jockeys took a keen interest into making life miserable for one of our regular downtown indigents. With Charlie Weiss seemingly going the way of Yasser Arafat, this particular indigent seems to be the heir apparent to Public Square for the foreseeable future.

He's a scummy looking thing. He has long hair that is so filthy and so matted, you'd think he just got off the boat from Jamaica. The cop and he were doing a bit of verbal back and forth, and it was obvious that someone was headed for a bruising if they didn't shut their yap and vacate the premises. While this bit of fun was going on, I was waiting for the light to change and a twenty-something looking girl was standing right next to me and she was also intently watching the skirmish in waiting. The usual scumball eventually wandered away as he was forcefully instructed to do so and those little birdies that live inside of our streetlights started to chirp away. The girl turned towards me, our eyes met, and she realized that we had both been watching the proceedings. She said, "That's awful. He wasn't doing anything to anyone." I crossed the street without uttering a word in response. It was obvious to me that she would not appreciate my opinion of the most recent goings-on. I was off to that new buy-sell-trade video store.

Sorry, but I view these persistent indigents much the same way most folks view grafitti. If we're not proactive in our approach to such problems, it's almost admitting that we don't care about them. And when we send that troubling signal, it will always be recieved. I'm no civil liberties weenie, and if all three of our horse cops had dismounted and proceeded to pummel that scumball; even more large pizzas would have been on their way to headquarters, right quick.

What exactly do we want here, kiddies? Do we want the rights of our usual panhandlers respected, or do we want our long-suffering downtown area to be perceived as being clean and safe well before that gazillion screen theater project of ours comes to fruition? The twenty-something saw that situation as being upsetting, so I'm assuming she hasn't been in close proximity to, or cornered alone with those scumballs that we've tolerated for well too long.

Do we want the Square to be the place where the folks that never bothered to read play checkers, beg for spare change and cigarettes, while cursing at our cops? Do we want the folks that never owned an alarm clock and congregate at the soup kitchen like clockwork to dominate our downtown landscape? Or should we support our cops for trying to be proactive and make Wilkes-Barre a better place in the process?

Nobody knows what these guys have to deal with. Nobody understands their frustrations. When one gangbanger shoots the other gangbanger, everyone involved has ten names, if not more. When the cops need to question Latinos at the scene of a violent incident, all of a sudden, those very same Latinos have trouble speaking English. They tend to do that when being asked direct questions by cops. After boyfriend beats the snot out of girlfriend and needs to go to jail, girlfriend suddenly rediscovers her love for him and won't testify against him. And when some obvious bum needs to get his head cracked open, the twenty-something passersby are outraged by the actions of the cops.

This internet post of mine will obviously not be printed out and used as a recruiting tool for our police department. Heyna?

I mean, is this a totally thankless job frought with danger, or what? Who are these thick-skinned people and why do they gravitate towards this particular field of endeavour? They could earn more money than they currently do by driving a forklift. Why put up with what they have to put with? They're damned if they do. They're damned if they don't. They're damned if they will. And they're damned if they won't. They're damned by people that generally wouldn't know whether to sh*t or go blind if ever directly confronted by a real, live criminal with criminal intent written all over them.

We keep bemoaning the fact that the federal govmint won't buy us more cops and make our streets safe. But when the under-staffed cops that we do have start talking baton to the people that need one the most, we're real quick to criticize their needed actions as being overly aggressive. It seems to me that we, the unwashed hoi polloi, need to make a decision once and for all. We either want safe streets, or we want the rights of the troublemakers respected. We either want a bit of chit chat with a bored beat cop, or we want to fend for ourselves when the indigents won't take no for an answer after practically demanding one of our cigarettes. Which is it already? Are we going to support the folks protecting us from all sorts of peril, or are we going to verbally stab them in the back when they do what it takes to reclaim our streets?

Do you want the cops beating the bejesus out of the bad guys, or do you want the bad guys beating the bejesus out of you?

In the massively damaged inner space where my deranged thoughts are usually processed, there should be a waiting line of pizza delivery guys impatiently clamoring to get into our police headquarters on most nights. But, alas, small town folks that unequivically support their police departments don't exactly pop up quite as fast as genital warts on your average prostitute. And that's a very sad and very upsetting state of affairs for this lover of quiet, small town America.

If you don't, or can't support your own local police department, who exactly will you support? 'Splain it to me, 'cause I don't get it.

Who ya gonna call when they come for you?

P.S.--If I get drunk and way too stupid in public, please be reminded that it's not my fault. My childhood made me do it.





Bad boys, bad boys. Watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the recently banished tow truck driver comes for you?