The grossest thing you've had to deal with while on duty

Police work is often one gross-out waiting to be topped by the next


A question posted on Quora asked, “As a cop, what's the grossest thing you've had to deal with while on duty?” Retired officer and PoliceOne Columnist Tim Dees gave his opinion on the topic, below. Think you can top these? Share your gross-out stories in the comments.

I have to break mine up into sensory categories:

Smell: I’ve never been especially sensitive to body odor, but as a police officer, I encountered some people who were profoundly hygenically challenged. One guy had been living in his car. He got out of the car, and six feet away, my eyes began to water. This was the most potent thing I had encountered, short of pepper spray. I finished my field interview card with him and told him he had to relocate, as the lot wasn’t authorized as a campground. I was very happy I didn’t have to put him in my car.

Seattle Police officer Aaron Stoltz searches garbage and recycling bins, Friday, April 15, 2016, after human remains were found in a nearby container in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Police officer Aaron Stoltz searches garbage and recycling bins, Friday, April 15, 2016, after human remains were found in a nearby container in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A close runner-up was the step van that a guy had been living in with at least ten cats. I was the cover officer on this one. The first responders had found the van parked on the street, with liquified cat urine and feces (and who knows what else) draining under the door and onto the pavement. The occupant was reluctant to open the door, but when he did, the smell was unbelievable.

The guy who was the real hero here was the animal control officer who responded to go into the van and bring out the cats.

Sight: I was patrolling down an alley downtown when I came upon a homeless man, scooping some kind of gelatinous material out of a dumpster and eating it out of his hand. I don’t know what it was, only what it looked like.

Tactile: I was a rookie, working downtown with a training officer. I was searching another homeless man (lots of those in downtown Reno) subsequent to arresting him. I reached into one of his pockets and grabbed whatever he had saved from his last meal or maybe a couple of meals before that. I don’t remember what it was, only what I was really hoping it wasn’t.

Hearing: I walked into a bar fight, just as one of the participants was being thrown into a table. He hit it wrong (or maybe just right) and I heard his femur snap. Ow.

Taste: I’m so thankful I don’t have an entry here.

Police work is often one gross-out waiting to be topped by the next.

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