By Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL (ret.)
“Man that guy’s haulin!”
I can’t remember what type of car it was. I can’t remember the year, though it had to be in the 80s. I don’t remember what day of the week and I don’t remember how fast the driver was going.
I do remember two things about this speeding violation:
1. it occurred on a Halloween
2. the driver was Bozo the Clown
No, not the real Bozo, but a guy who paid well over $100.00 to have this incredibly professional makeup job that made him look exactly like the real Bozo the Clown. To this day, I remember how remarkable the artistry was. It was amazing. What was even more amazing was his reaction when I told him he had to wipe the makeup off.
“What?!” he exclaimed. “Are you serious?!”
“Why yes, I am sir,” I replied. “Wipe it off.”
“But I just paid a (expletive commonly used to describe a large sum) of money to have this done! Why do I have to wipe it off?”
“Because I have to be able to identify you in court.”
“I won’t go to court. I swear to God I’ll pay the fine by mail.”
I responded, “I can’t trust you sir. I have to be prepared. Wipe it off.”
Upon hearing the order again his pointed blue hair pieces started shaking, his bulbous red nose drooped, and his happy clown face turned to a sad clown frown as tears began to smear his professional clown make-up.
“I’m just screwing with ya. I can’t give a ticket to Bozo. Slow down. Have fun at your party.”
With that, a real smile augmented his fake clown smile and he waived happily as he drove off.
Ah, Halloween! Fun time to be a cop.
I used to drive around in my squad with a Frankenstein mask on. I loved to see the faces of people I pulled up next to. Everyone — and I mean everyone who looked at me — would break out laughing after a second or two of trying to comprehend the reality of what they were seeing.
Like many of the cops, I also enjoyed driving around with candy so I could hand it out to the kids. The costumed children would go crazy as they realized a police officer was participating in the candy giveaway ritual.
Driving up slowly behind trick-or-treaters and yelling “BOO!” over the PA system was also quite enjoyable.
Halloween is an opportunity to be a part of the community — to extend a hand if you will. It’s a chance to bond with your beat and show the kids that you are human — someone with a sense of humor, someone they can trust.
There is a serious downside also however. Some of these costumes can be... troublesome. In California several years ago the police responded to a loud party call. It was a Halloween party. A guest was dressed as a gangster I believe, though I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that the partygoer had a prop handgun.
When the police arrived he assumed they were in costume too and pointed his pretend pistol at the officers. The officers, not realizing the gun was fake, pulled their real ones. Shots were fired and the pretend gangster really died.
Halloween is both an opportunity and a snake pit for police officers.
Alcohol flows as much as it does on New Year’s Eve and St. Pat’s. Just ask any of the campus cops around the country. Dave Smith and I were just teaching a Street Survival Class in Champaign, the home of the University of Illinois. Champaign cops were in attendance as well as U of I campus police officers. We also had Bloomington officers and officers from Illinois State University.
Those two major campuses are only 45 minutes apart. On the breaks several of those officers talked about this weekend — about Halloween — and they weren’t looking forward to it.
My son Brian and my daughter Melanie both go to ISU. They’re each going to three parties three consecutive nights starting last night. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I believe these parties will include the consumption of alcohol.
Patrolling on Halloween can be fun but it also presents some very real dilemmas. Patience is needed but vigilance must be kept.
Bring some candy. Wear a silly mask. But remember your vest and your tactics.
Stay safe out there for all of you brothers and sisters in blue who will be on duty. Happy Halloween.