My agency would offer a police academy occasionally for recruits of our department as well as other agencies. I was often asked to teach a section which I entitled “Misconceptions of Police and Police Work in the Media.”

It was very rewarding and refreshing to see these young men and women shaking their heads from side-to-side when I showed excerpts from various films and television shows. The clips showed police procedures, police behavior and police investigations which my recruits knew were absolutely wrong.

Unfortunately, the public sees these shows and they formulate their own opinions and knowledge of police work. Most of that is generally wrong.

I was sent on a criminal mischief complaint for a wrecked mailbox. I was met by the kind of irate homeowner who sometimes blame the police – rather than the culprit who did the damage.  This guy approached my patrol car and said “I’ve got something for YOU!!!”  I thought to myself “Oh boy, this is going to be good!”

I exited the patrol car and followed him to the remains of a crushed mailbox.  He then explained, “My son just broke up with his girlfriend, a blonde. Here is a hairbrush I found right next to my mailbox with blonde hair strands on it.  I am pretty sure her new boyfriend did this. So, if you do a DNA test on this hair, it’ll come back to her and solve this crime.”

Obviously, this resident had spent a little too much time watching the various CSI television programs.

I looked at him and said “First of all, DNA testing is very expensive – probably in the thousands of dollars.  Your mailbox has a retail value of $25 and approximately $65 for the post and installation. Is that correct?”

I continued, “How old is your son’s former girlfriend?  Maybe 15 years of age?  Her parents will likely not permit a sample of her DNA for the test.  Finally, we would have to ask the state to perform a test and I am almost certain they will refuse to engage in such an investigation.”

The homeowner then glared at me and shouted “So, you won’t do it?” I calmly replied, “I will call my supervisor but I expect that he will also say ‘NO.’ ” The homeowner’s terse response,  “I’m calling the State Police.”

I was tempted to tell him that all he will get from them is a dial tone but I said nothing.  I thought to myself, once again:  NO MORE TELEVISION FOR YOU.

One July 4th holiday we were riding double (a two-man unit). We were busy from when we called “in service” at 8:00 A.M. until noon.  Deciding to take a quick fifteen minute lunch break, we went into a local pizzeria for a quick slice and a soda.

Much to our surprise, a civilian came and sat down and started asking us questions.  (I thought he was my partner’s friend; he thought he was MY friend.)  The conversation then changed to firearms with him asking what we were carrying.  At that time we were carrying Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolvers, soon to be traded in for the S&W Model 6906 9mm.

His comment was “Oh, Magnums.”  I quickly corrected him that we did not use magnum loads as they are too difficult to handle. We use a +P .38 special load.  He dismissed that load saying “If you’re wearing a heavy coat, that load doesn’t even go through.”

Now, I don’t want to be shot with a B-B gun much less a +P round.  I have used the +P round several times to dispatch deer hit by motor vehicles and seldom needed more than one round to accomplish the task.

I made matters worse when I suggested he go home and put a heavy coat on so we could test his theory (my attempt at humor), to which he simply got up and walked away.  Once again:  NO MORE TELEVISION FOR YOU.

(Note:  he later called my lieutenant telling him that one of his deputies threatened to shoot him.  Along with their lack of knowledge of ballistics, the general public also has no sense of humor).

On a beautiful Saturday summer afternoon, I was at our headquarters when a gentleman came in asking to be fingerprinted.  For residents, we performed this service free of charge. He was a resident of a neighboring state, Connecticut, so I asked him what papers he had.

Generally, if you will be working with stocks & bonds, working with precious metals or with children, a background check is required and fingerprints must be taken, but this gentleman had no such directive from employment.  He just wanted his fingerprints “ON FILE”, as he stated.

He was adamant about it almost to the point of screaming at me.  I attempted to explain that we had no banks of information with thousands of fingerprints on file, but (and here it comes) he saw on television that the police had these fingerprint files.  He also insisted that WE had the forms.

I responded that we do have files, but to be used only if a crime was committed.  I explained further, “If you go across the street and throw a rock through the beautiful stained glass window of the Episcopalian Church, THEN I can fingerprint you. I will also take you in front of a Judge and possibly to the County Jail.”

He stormed out, slamming the door behind him.  Once again: NO MORE TELEVISION FOR YOU.

At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.




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