One of the many challenges law enforcement officers in our great nation have is dealing with the elements. I’m not talking about the periodic table — I’m talking about the weather. Obviously, the part of the country you work in dictates that challenge. Thankfully, police officers are outfitted with the finest equipment, uniforms, and outerwear that taxpayers’ money can buy!
One of the elements police officers in Houston, Texas deal with is the extremely high humidity. Going from an air-conditioned police interceptor to 95 percent humidity and a dew point of a million has a tendency to make your eye wear fog up to the point they are rendered completely useless. It’s so humid along the Gulf Coast of Texas sometimes it’s hard to figure out if it’s raining or the sky is just dripping. Stepping out of your patrol car in the summer is like stepping into a sauna at a 24-Hour Fitness!
Making Your Suspect Sweat
“Summer” in Houston normally runs from mid-March to the end of November. However, June, July, and August are fondly referred to as “The Trimester in Hell.” During those months, the heat index is so high that if you stand in the roadway too long during a traffic stop, the bottom of your tactical duty boots will melt right where you stand! You have to keep moving. Your traffic violator and rubberneckers may think you’re doing the peepee dance, but your boots won’t stick to the roadway!
High-speed pursuits during those really hot months of June, July, and August can be extremely hazardous, especially for the idiot running from you. When the suspect is eventually proned out and cuffed on that 750-degree asphalt — with 3rd degree burns all over his body! — he’ll sure think twice about running from the police next time He’s at least wish he’d crashed beneath a shade tree and was tossed from the wreck onto freshly-cut Bermuda grass would be nice, but that doesn’t always happen.
It’s always a good idea to make sure your air-conditioning is on and in good working order when you have a suspect in the back seat of your patrol car. One time an officer placed a suspect in the back seat of my patrol unit while I was two blocks away, on foot, running after a second suspect. The officer watching over him didn’t realize the engine wasn’t running and the overheated perp passed out within minutes. When he came to, he immediately confessed to every crime he had ever committed! And they say waterboarding is a bitch!
Singin’ (and Workin’) in the Rain!
I’m always amazed at the way violators drive when it has just rained, or there is just a light drizzle coming down. Every last moron in town comes out of the woodwork, each one driving like their favorite restaurant is giving away ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ deserts!
I’m not one to don a uniform hat because heaven forbid my hair should get messed up. On one particular rainy day, I put on a little extra ‘liquid helmet’ courtesy of a can of Aqua Net I kept in my war bag (for those extra windy days) and proceeded to run a little radar in my favorite fishing hole. Rainy days were the only time my duck count was higher than others on my shift. The hurricane-proof Aqua Net provides a high performance hold for the law enforcement hairstyle and the lavender, bergamot, and palmarosa scents always emit a calming aroma.
Occasionally a tropical depression will stall and dump 15 to 20 inches of rain onto the city in just a few short hours. Street flooding turns the whole city into an amusement park complete with floating bumper cars driving the wrong way down one way streets. Nobody ever gets hurt because nobody’s driving/floating more than five miles an hour! I did an accident report during one such flood involving a PT Cruiser and a canoe! The PT Cruiser failed to yield the right of way!
Flood waters bring everybody outside to splash in the chaos. I drove by a nursing home once during a downpour and saw a dozen blue haired grandmas wearing brightly colored Polynesian motifs in what appeared to be a wet muumuu contest! There had to be a law against that but I couldn’t find it.
Plenty of help is always nearby if a vehicle stalls in high water. The biggest danger isn’t the metro-gators swimming out of the overflowing bayous, it’s the fire ants! Billions of them floating around... and they’re PISSED! All the fire ants can think about is finding Good Samaritans pushing cars out of high water with exposed butt cracks to bite!
Stay Cool, Fool
Ice storms are a little different challenge for law enforcement depending on your patrol area. For those officers, sliding around on the backstreets admiring the beauty of the ice, tree branches are the biggest danger. Heavy ice coated limbs are falling out of the sky like beads from a Bourbon Street balcony! Tree limbs are falling and you wish you could trade your Crown Vic in for an Army MRAP. During one particularly bad ice storm, I rolled up on a brand new, fresh-off-the-showroom-floor Jaguar XJS sports coup that had been completely cut in half. Seems it got in the way of a 200-year-old oak tree that fell across the road. The Jag had all of 30 miles on the odometer! That calculates to about $2,300 per mile!
Snow in the South is an interesting phenomenon because if it snows between a half inch and two inches it’s called a snow storm. Anything over two inches is called a snow emergency! First of all, it only snows once every 10 years in Houston. Houston is flat so you would think vehicle mishaps wouldn’t be a big problem, right? Wrong! I was dispatched to one minor accident after another for a solid eight hours. Twenty-one accident reports later and my watch is finally over. I called in sick the next day with writer’s cramp!
When I became a police officer and filled my closet with all those uniform shirts and pants, rain gear and jackets, the one thing that I was most excited about was that big beautiful winter police bomber jacket. You know the one I’m talking about — the police bomber jacket that every cop in the 50s, 60s, and 70s wore. Fake fur — er, uh, ah, excuse me, “faux” fur — removable collar with the zip out hoodie. I was lucky. I received a brand new bomber jacket and not a hand-me-down. When I turned that bomber jacket in 20 years later, it still looked brand-spanking-new! I figured out I wore it for a total of 53 days, and for each and every one of those 53 days it didn’t matter how cold the temperature got, I knew in a couple of days the Gulf winds would shift and it was going to be back to 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!