Editor's Note: David Hunter's new columns are usually posted on Mondays. Since the PoliceOne.com newsroom will not be staffed on Monday Dec. 26th. we are presenting his column as an early Christmas present for our members.
"Ten minutes and the shift will be over," I said.
"Yep, looks like we made it through Christmas Eve without puttin' anybody in jail," Mike Upchurch drawled.
"Son, when you've been in this business as long as I have, you'll know that 10 minutes can be a lifetime," Lt. Jim Bracket said on that Christmas Eve of 1984. Jim usually called the officers under his command "son," though he was only a few years older than most of us and was younger than a couple.
We all three had our cruisers parked at a closed and darkened service station, running out the clock on second shift, which ended at 10 PM. Not making a second shift arrest on the North Knox County, Tennessee beat that Upchurch and I shared was quite an achievement. There were seven taverns -- locally called "beer joints" -- on a single two mile stretch of highway that intersected the zone we patrolled. It had taken patience and skill to avoid putting anyone in jail but we were full of the Christmas spirit.
As if on cue, however, the dispatcher gave Upchurch a domestic disturbance call not far from where we sat. Five minutes later, the three of us entered a small, well-kept frame house in a working-class neighborhood and found one young woman sitting atop of and attempting to pound another young woman's head into the living room floor. Luckily the room was lushly carpeted.
A man with a superficial gash on his forehead was trying to separate the two of them. Numerous people, presumably family members, stood around the room watching. It was apparent that Christmas spirits from a bottle had been flowing freely.
We separated the two sobbing women and our lieutenant took the aggressor into the next room. Upchurch looked at the surrounding people and asked in an accent as slow as molasses on a cold morning, with obvious hope for a negative answer, despite the obvious situation, "Do ya'll have some kind of problem here."
"Do we have a problem? My sister has wrecked my mother's house, hit me with a bottle and tried to beat my wife's brains out!" the man with the gash in the forehead almost shouted.
"Other than that, do ya'll have a problem?" Upchurch tried again, against all reason for a different response, one that would prevent a Christmas Eve arrest and overtime at the station.
"I want my sister arrested, right now!" The angry man said. "I'll press charges."
"Let's all talk about this," I intervened. "Somebody tell us what started it."
There was a chorus of voices at first but an older woman, obviously the family matriarch-in-charge, told us a familiar tale. A once-a-year family gathering with lots of spiked punch had caused old resentments to flare up. In particular, the woman whose head had been pounded and whose husband's forehead had been banged with a bottle, had come home from Michigan driving a brand new Buick and had boasted about it and all her other material possessions until her less fortunate sister-in-law had become violent.
"Look," I finally said to the irate man with the slightly bleeding head, "you don't really want to put a family member in jail on Christmas Eve. Why don't you let us escort your sister and her husband to a motel and the rest of you can enjoy what's left of Christmas Eve. That way nobody will have to go downtown and bail her out in the morning."
Calmer heads prevailed and moments later we were leading the still angry and sobbing assailant and her husband out the front door. And we almost made it. Unfortunately, when the woman stepped out on the porch and saw her brother's brand new car parked in the driveway, she was once more overcome by rage.
Grabbing a ceramic flowerpot with a single dead plant in it from the porch railing, she turned and hurled it in the direction of the door, nearly hitting me in the head.
Almost before the pot shattered on the floor, scattering dirt in all directions, my partner had closed his Peerless handcuffs around the woman's wrists, obviously put out by the turn of events.
"Some people just won't let you help them out," Mike said in resignation. He was right. And the lieutenant had been right. In the cop business, 10 minutes can be a lifetime.
David Hunter's column, "The Beat Goes On," appears exclusively on the Internet at PoliceOne.com. For information on purchasing Hunter's latest novels, "A Whiff of Garlic," and "The Dancing Savior," or where to obtain Hunter's other works visit his Web page: hometown.aol.com/tnbard/index.html. You can contact David Hunter directly by writing him at P.O. Box 1124, Powell, Tenn. 37849. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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