Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail. Sometimes the fox eats the chicken, but when the chicken escapes, the fox only gets feathers. I can’t imagine eating feathers. That would suck.
One of the things I learned during my law enforcement career was that persistent courage and strength of character were great attributes, but the one quality that really paid off was patience. Patience under difficult circumstances means persevering in the face of danger or anger or negativity.
As cops we want to catch the bad guy and put him in jail. Sometimes it just doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, feathers...
The Flying Cow
After an uneventful day shift — on a Sunday no less — and heading to the gas pumps to top off my patrol unit, I was flagged down by an employee of a large grocery store. In not so many words he tells me a shoplifter walked out the door without paying for several large brown paper sacks overflowing with Rib-Eyes, T-bones, Tenderloin Fillet Mignons, Porterhouse, New York Strip and a handful of seasoned Skirt Steaks for making fajitas.
I get a description a direction of travel for my ambitious chef and begin my hunt.
In a matter of minutes I spotted a smiling perp cool walking down the street dreaming of pan searing a T-Bone over medium to high heat with two tablespoons of olive oil approximately five to six minutes on each side…
When I pulled up in my patrol car to interview my sirloin suspect he was off and running faster than Gordon Ramsey could say “Beef Wellington!” By the time I had bailed out of my patrol car all I could see was hundreds of dollars worth of USDA bovine flying through the air.
A foot pursuit was initiated but that was short lived as my suspect, who easily could have qualified for the U.S. Olympic track team, sprinted up the opposite direction of a freeway ramp and crossed over five lanes of northbound and five lanes of southbound interstate highway. I know this because when I got to the top of the ramp I could see the suspect waving bye to me from the other side of the freeway. I like steak as much as the next guy but I wouldn’t put myself in harm’s way over $300 worth of prime red meat.
I figured he must have had an unpaid parking ticket or a small quantity of Mary Jane in his pocket.
I limped back to the patrol car — having pulled a groin muscle — retrieved the meat, brought it back to the store and then quietly limped away with chicken feathers blowing in the wind.
Yea, he got away — but he got away hungry!
Zero Visibility Run
Low-speed high-stress vehicle pursuits are dangerous even in the best of conditions but try doing it in fog so dense that you can barely see the car that’s directly in front of you. It’s 0400 hours, with fog so thick you can cut it with the blade of your hand. Patrolling in this environment is a moot issue — it was actually more dangerous to patrol than not to patrol.
I’m heading to the station because it’s the smart, safe thing to do. I roll up to a red light where a car was patiently waiting for the light to turn green. I could barely make out the make and model of this vehicle but I could see the license plate and out of sheer boredom — or maybe because it was the only vehicle I had seen since midnight — I ran the plate.
About the time the light turned green, the license plate return comes back as a stolen vehicle and a very low speed high stress pursuit begins.
Speeds of between 10 to 12 miles per hour were reached! The fog made everything seem very two dimensional. The next time you’re in a high-speed chase, close one eye. That’s about the same effect.
At one point in the chase, I saw top speeds of 15 miles per hour. Any collision at that pace and the suspect might have damaged the bumper.
The chase lasted about 10 minutes and we may have covered three or four miles. There were two, maybe three suspects in the car but again, I was just guessing. That’s how many doors were open when I saw the stolen vehicle along the freeway feeder road after everybody bailed out. They ran into the nearby housing area where all I could hear was the rattling of cyclone fences being jumped and pit bulls barking. This was a neighborhood where everybody had vicious dog in their back yard.
Needless to say, there was no foot pursuit, there was no perimeter to set up, no helicopter, and no dragnet of brothers in blue helping to locate where these suspects went. Heck, it took me 20 minutes to figure out where I was and another 15 minutes to find my way back to my patrol car.
My only hope was one or all of the suspects would be eaten by a pack of backyard pit bulls, never to be seen or heard from again, lost forever in the fog — just wishful thinking on my part.
I had a stolen vehicle but no suspects, no suspect description, no information whatsoever. Just a stolen car to tow to an impound lot, a report to write, and of course I had to deliver the notification to the owner of the vehicle.
At least I had their ride.
Some days, chickens — some days, feathers. As long as everybody on your shift goes home safe and sound, it’s all good.