As a former officer of the law, as well as the son and grandson of three courageous and selfless men who have devoted their entire working life to public safety, I have the utmost respect for police officers. While most people curse law enforcement officials (until they need one), I have always tried to obey the law, report incidents when I witness them, and always tell the truth whenever I am stopped or questioned by public safety officers. After all, honesty is the best policy, isn’t it?
For eight years, I promised that I’d “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
For eight years, it was me that was responsible for the safety and well-being of hundreds upon thousands of people who lived and worked on the military installations I promised I’d protect to the best of my ability. For eight years, I promised myself to be the best law enforcement official that I could be and not pass judgement or allow my personal biases, thoughts, feelings, or beliefs interfere with my duties as a military police officer.
As the individual behind the lights and sirens, I had one philosophy; if you tell me the truth as to why I stopped you, the chances of me not issuing you a citation increased exponentially. Of course, external environmental influences did impact my decision. For example, were you speeding in a school zone? What were the weather and road conditions? Were there pedestrians in the vicinity? Based on these environmental factors and the truthfulness of your response to the question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”, I’d make my decision on whether or not it was in the best interest of public safety to punish you for your actions.
A couple of years removed from the military and the law enforcement life, I am no longer the one behind the lights and sirens, however, my philosophy remains the same; I always tell the truth when I am stopped or questioned by police officers.
One thing people need to understand is that police officers, by their very nature, have a built-in bullshit sensor deeply embedded within their DNA. The stuttering, changes in the pitch of your voice, shaking hands, and the inability to maintain eye contact while speaking with the officer, will cause said police officers’ bullshit sensor to go off. At that point, you can just accept the fact you’re likely going to get a citation.
In the last couple years I’ve been merely a civilian, I have been pulled over twice. The first time was approximately a year ago while traveling on Interstate 70 in Indiana. I just clocked out and was traveling to my children’s daycare to pick them up. It was a summer day if I recall correctly and I had left the office later than usual. In an effort to make up some time I was going a little faster than I should have. As my speed increased, I scanned back and forth, behind and in front, for any police vehicles that might be lurking. Just as I felt comfortable and relaxed my guard, I spotted an unmarked baby blue Crown Victoria in the median nestled behind a bridge support. Unfortunately, he spotted me first.
Unlike the mind-blowing majority of people who slam on their brakes as soon as they see a law enforcement vehicle, I calmly looked at my speedometer and kept my pace as I sped past the officer’s vehicle. 83 it read; speed limit, 70. I knew I was busted. In fact, I knew I was busted before I even passed him. And because I have the utmost respect for law enforcement personnel, I gently and evenly applied the brakes and engaged my turn signal to pull to the side of the road. I chuckled silently as I was already pulling over before the police officer engaged his overhead lights. Considering he had already pulled out, I knew he had one mission, and it was to stop me.
As I waited for him to catch up, I had already retrieved my license, registration, and insurance information to speed up the process so I could be on my way. As he pulled in behind me and exited his vehicle, I presented to him my documentation.
“I was going to ask you why I pulled you over, but I guess you already know?”, the officer asked.
“Yes sir, I was doing 83 in a 70. Nice hiding spot by the way.”, I complimented him. Honestly, it was a great hiding spot though. One I was jealous of in fact. Military cops such as myself, were supposed to remain in plain sight and could not “black out” during the hours of darkness, as we play the role of deterrents more so than enforcers.
Upon my compliment, we both shared a laugh and he returned to his vehicle, my information in hand. After a few moments, the officer returned with my documentation, but free of a ticket. He gave me the obligatory warning and thanked me for my honesty. In return, I thanked him for his service, as I do with all law enforcement and military personnel I come across, and was off to gather my children.
Fast forward to December 22, 2011…
It was 6 pm this Thursday evening. I volunteered for an additional two hours of work and was clocking out. After a busy day on the phones, I was ready to get on the road and get home to my wife and children. As I was leaving the parking lot, I looked at my gas gauge and noticed it was near empty.
My office is smack dab in the middle of two filling stations. Two blocks west of my office is a Speedway and two blocks east (on my way) is a Gas America. Considering I am a frequent Speedway visitor due to their convenient locations (we’re on your way, the convenient stores of Speedway) and their kick ass rewards program, I chose to go a few blocks out of my way to fill up there.
As I turned westbound upon my light turning green, I shifted from 1st gear, to 2nd gear, 3rd gear, and finally 4th, before I started going in the reverse order to make my left hand turn into the filling station. I was oblivious to my surroundings, which is very rare for me. As a law enforcement officer it is very important you know very minute details about your surroundings at all times. This is a something that sticks with me today. But this night, I’d slipped and it caught up to me.
As I pulled into the filling station, I couldn’t help but to notice the purplish flashing glow that was emitting from the steel and aluminum fuel pumps. I had just opened my door when out of the corner of my eye, I saw an unmarked black Dodge Charger sitting behind me. It didn’t take me long to figure out where the purplish flashing glow was coming from; it was coming from the mixture of the Charger’s red and blue lights.
To show the officer I wasn’t a threat, I returned to my driver’s seat and patiently awaited his arrival. Something didn’t feel right though. Perhaps it was the twenty pair of eyes glued to me and my vehicle that made me uneasy. It’s one thing to get pulled over in a secluded place, or even on the highway, but it’s another thing when you get pulled over in the middle of a crowded, public place. After all, I know I’m not the only one that makes fun of people for getting pulled over. Now it was me, being put on display for all to see and chatter about my stupidity.
I was completely embarrassed. I do not, have not, and never will, like being the center of attention, especially for any wrong-doings. You know that embarrassing feeling you have when you wake up from a dream that placed you in your 5th grade classroom in nothing but your underwear? Yeah, that’s the same feeling I had. I hunched down in my seat, hoping somehow, someway, the blinding lights that could be seen for blocks away were a figment of my imagination. In essence, I had been put on a stage, only it didn’t include the bright spot light and 40,000 fans wanting my autograph.
For the embarrassment this officer caused me, I decided I was going to tell him how I felt when he finally approached me. I quickly planned this in my head as I gathered my license, registration, and insurance information, I timed my comment perfectly. Just as he was opening his mouth to introduce himself, I looked at him and with as straight as a face as I could stated to him, “Well isn’t this embarrassing?” For whatever reason, and nothing immediately and even as I type this comes to mind, I burst out in laughter.
As a professional, the officer maintained his demeanor, although I think I did see a slight smile on his face. As I handed over my documentation, he asked the question I knew was coming as I asked the same question to hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout my eight year military career. But this time, I really did not know how fast I was going. I had no idea what gear I hit (until later), which generally gives me a pretty good indication of how fast I was going.
“How fast was I going?”, I asked.
“40.”, he returned.
“It’s 30 through here, isn’t it?”, I asked with a slightly sheepish voice.
He agreed and took my information back to his vehicle. I replayed the events that just took place in my head. “What a jack ass! Why would you laugh?”, I questioned myself. Then I was quickly reminded, it was no laughing matter. The eyes were still watching me.
A few short moments later, the officer approached me again. He handed me my information and too much my surprise, did not ask me to sign here, initial there, and check this box. “Yes!!“, I shouted internally.
Again, I received the obligatory warning but this time it included a “Merry Christmas” from the middle-aged officer. I apologized for the trouble, thanked him for the warning and his service, and against my better judgement, offered him a handshake.
I love handshakes, but I know as a former officer, I became very uneasy when people invaded my personal bubble, let alone touch me while I was on duty. If there was any touching going on, it was me applying a painful arm bar or some other restraining technique. After all, my lifelines were attached to my gun belt and heaven forbid someone successfully get a hold of my baton, pepper spray, radio, or worse, my handgun.
As the officer retreated to his vehicle, I exited my car to start pumping my gas. As I watched the officer regress, I heard someone call out to him. The words were inaudible but he turned around and by their greeting, it was apparent they knew each other. I turned my attention back to my fuel and stood there, eyes still tugging at my very being.
As the seconds turned to minutes, the officer was still shooting the bull with this gentleman. And to my dismay, the purplish glow was still emitting from his police car, meaning my embarrassment had yet to cease. “For God sakes officer, turn off your lights if you’re going to bullshit and move your car away from mine!“, I shouted at him in my mind. Of course, he did not hear me and my embarrassment grew with every ticking second.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was through pumping my fuel and was ready to ride off into the night. But amidst the brain clouding, my embarrassment, and my internal frustration, I forgot to swipe my credit card prior to pumping my gas. This meant I’m now going to have to make the shameful walk from my car to the store and physically pay for my gas.
I took a deep breath. The eyes were tearing me apart, mocking me with their internal laughter and fun making. I felt like some type of exotic zoo animal being paraded around the circus ring. Better yet, I felt like a dead man walking the green mile. What was only about 20 yards or so, really did feel like a mile. Hell, even the store clerks were watching out of their glass front facility.
To avoid direct questioning or odd stares, I entered the filling station and immediately headed towards the back of the store. “Maybe they won’t remember me if I hang out here for a while“, I kidded myself, but really wishing it were true. I grabbed a Full Throttle (energy drink) and slowly approached the counter as if nothing happened. Both clerks looked at me, although the clerk not waiting on me tried to hide it.
I hurriedly purchased my fuel and Full Throttle and made a beeline to my vehicle. It was then I noticed the police officer had parted ways with his acquaintance and was nowhere to be seen. “Oh now you leave! After you’ve already embarrassed me long enough with your flashing lights and grab assing! I figured you’d want to escort me out-of-town like the circus freak you made me feel like!” I took another deep breath, satisfied that my ordeal was over.
Or was it…
After securing my seat belt, releasing my emergency brake, and adjusting my radio, I began my journey home. I wondered to myself two things. First, how could I have reached 4th gear in such a short time but not notice I was speeding? The second and more attention-getting question was, where in the world has the police officer been sitting and how did he position his car in such a fashion to “clock me” without me noticing? My answers were not far behind…
As I left the filling station, I looked hard for the cop, knowing he’d likely set back up in the same position to catch another victim. I practiced this as well. I’d sit in one location for ten minutes or so and wait for an unsuspecting victim to come speeding through my area. If I got one, I’d go right back to where I sat and the cat and mouse game continued. If I came up empty, I’d move and repeat the process.
As a former insider, I know most cops do this. “He had to be in the same spot”, I thought to myself. And sure enough, I found it.
At 6 pm in the winter, it’s pitch dark. I scanned the street thoroughly with the help of some dimly lit street lights and my eyes came across not one, but two black in color Dodge Chargers just a few hundred feet away from the Speedway. Both cars were on the north side of the street, facing west, the same direction I had just traveled prior to me getting stopped. One was empty, likely the vehicle of one of the home owners the Charger rested in front of. The other, not empty. A middle-aged man with a shiny badge on the left side of his chest occupied the driver’s seat. A faint white glow was emitting from his vehicle, likely the light from his computer screen. Was he using an identical vehicle as a smoke screen? Perhaps so, but in the end, I found him. I successfully hunted the hunter.