All right, you're sitting in cruiser one night, blue lights flashing, blocking a two lane secondary road because a bridge has washed out or terrorists have barricaded themselves in a house and are threatening to detonate a thermonuclear device. The county or city department of streets has erected a large detour sign with flashing amber lights and an arrow pointing straight to the only available exit road.
Oh yeah. It's also raining cats and dogs, a regular monsoon, the kind that makes you wonder if it's going to last 40 days and 40 nights. And miraculously, you have managed to stay dry for the first hour of your shift.
Thirty cars put on their turn signals and go down the detour street with no problem because there's nowhere else to go. Then, vehicle number 31 pulls right up to the detour sign, stops and peers through the rain at the flashing blue lights on your cruiser.
You wave your arms, point at the detour sign to no avail. The driver can't see you because it's raining too hard, which is why you have all your blue lights flashing and why there are amber lights on the detour sign.
Traffic begins to back up behind the driver who is sitting there staring through the rain. You realize that in a couple of minutes, traffic will back up until the previous exit road and the one before that are also blocked. In resignation, you get out of your cruiser and are soaked to the skin during the first 10 seconds, fully aware that you will spend the next seven hours soaking wet.
Still, as a public servant, you calmly approach the vehicle that is blocking the road and motion for him or her to roll the window down. It's still tightly closed because the driver doesn't want to get wet. Finally, the window opens a crack and you tell the driver to turn down the exit road because there's nowhere else to go.
"But I'm not going that way," the driver says. That's when you lose your cool and tell the driver in no uncertain terms, maybe with a few salty words tossed in for emphasis, to immediately move the vehicle or you are going to toss him or her into a jail cell for public stupidity, failing to obey a
lawful order -- or whatever they call the crime in your jurisdiction.
Now you are wet and chilled, you know that you will be that way for hours, and that the next day you will be explaining to your supervisor, who had to take time from his shift to listen to a complaint from an offended citizen who didn't have enough smarts to follow a detour sign.
And civilians wonder why cops aren't always as cheerful as those nice
officers who used to appear in the old Adam 12 series. Geez!
In addition to situations similar to the one recounted above, there are always the people who pull into a zone that has huge signs that say, "NO PARKING, VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT AND THEIR CHILDREN SOLD INTO SLAVERY," and then sweetly ask a nearby police officer if it's OK for them to park there just a minute while they run in for a manicure or whatever.
The urge in such situations is for an officer to say, "Yeah, go ahead. I don't mind," is almost overwhelming sometimes. But we're trained professionals, aren't we? And we're always a lot more courteous than people who can't follow simple directions, don't believe posted signs and
probably feed the bears when they visit national parks.
David Hunter is a retired detective and the author of several books. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org