The day we caught the bad guy for a dollar

A fleet-of-foot subject named ‘William’ had vexed us for a week — here’s how we finally nabbed him


In the late 1970s I worked a two-man patrol car with John H. — a great partner. Four days a week we worked alongside John N. and Kenny M. They too were fantastic cops. Kenny was one of those unique cops who had a mind like a computer. He could not only remember who the bad guys were, he could put a name with the face, and also recall their associates and where they hung out.

In between calls for service and making arrests, Kenny M. and John N. had spent the entire week chasing ‘William’ around town while he ran and hid in the homes of his friends.

It was now Friday afternoon. Kenny M. and John N. were off duty and John H. and I were on patrol. As we were patrolling our sector, John N. came by in his personal car — he lived in our sector. He had observed and was chasing his nemesis. William was once again running through backyards and disappearing from sight.

Perimeter Set, Search Goes On
We called for other patrol cars to set up a perimeter in the area in an effort to capture the fleet-of-foot subject. As might happen anyplace, people came out of the woodwork to gawk when the extra patrol cars arrived.

A couple of young gentlemen — each about ten years old — asked me, “What’s going on?”

I informed them we were looking for William, and asked, “Do you know where he’s hiding?”

“Yeah, I know, but I ain’t telling the police,” one replied.

Then in the distance, I heard a distinct noise — a sweet, sweet sound. It was almost as if John Wayne — in full cavalry uniform — had ordered the bugler to sound the charge so our hero could lead his troops to save all those beleaguered soldiers from being overrun.

It was actually the ice cream man sounding the charge with his rendition of “It’s a Small World, After All.”

Keeping Your Informant’s Trust
Suddenly I knew how to bring William’s crime spree to a sudden end. I looked at my two new acquaintances and quickly negotiated a deal.

“The first one to tell me where William’s hiding gets a dollar for ice cream.”

Without blinking an eye, the young gentleman to my right said, “William’s in that house, hiding in the bedroom.”

I informed my partner — he and John N. went into the house, and when they came out, so did “William.”

Wearing handcuffs.

I upheld my part of the negotiation and handed over the dollar to the tough young negotiator. The boy quickly departed to pay a visit to the ice cream man — his former partner in crime looked at me and asked, “Where’s my dollar?”

“You don’t get one,” I replied. “You didn’t tell me where William was hiding.”

John N. was happy. He finally caught William. At least one kid in the neighborhood was happy with his ice cream, while his friend learned a lesson in negotiations.

I would say it was a dollar well spent. 

About the author

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 18 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents.

Keith has written two books, Fighting Crime With “Some” Day and Lenny, and End of Watch. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.

Contact Keith Bettinger

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