As I sit to write this, the colors of fall are in full bloom and Thanksgiving is on the near horizon. I have recently taken a call to a new parish and as with every ‘new start’ I can sometimes feel like a rookie all over again. But, I also think of all the folks who have been my back up over the years and those who continue to be that much needed back up in my life.
I am also thankful for all the peace officers I have met and the so many I have not who work to keep us safe and sound, who come into the midst of the muck and mire of people’s lives – sometimes to the detriment of their own physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.
In short, I want you to know that you have the back-up you need as you deal with the vagaries of human interactions and the aftermath of the foolishness in which people find themselves.
And so, as I shake this feeling of being a rookie all over again, I offer to you a brief ‘war story’ of a night I had as a rookie peace officer and the all important lesson about the importance of ‘back-up’ both as I needed it and as sometimes, I needed to be it for others.
“Radio ... I Need a 10-78”
He snatched his large travel coffee mug, got out of the cruiser and after slamming the door with disgust he lumbered into the 7-11 convenience store to get the mug filled. Several minutes later, I got out from the driver’s side closed the door and followed him into the 7-11. I went to the coffee station, grabbed a cup and sheepishly signaled to my training officer that I’d like a cup when he was done filling up his. The several minutes were not quite enough. He was still not a happy camper.
The night started off innocently enough as the radio crackled and we heard, “King Four, I’m out on traffic …” I didn’t quite hear where he was and so I hesitated before heading to his location. A few minutes later the radio crackled again, “King Four, can I get a 10-78?” My training officer grabbed the mike and said, “King Nine, we’re on our way.” Then he looked at me like I better get going and get going now.
I started to drive and he said to me, “You don’t know where King Four is do you?” A bit dejected I said, “No, I didn’t catch what he said.” “He is covering the beat right next to ours, you need to know where he and the rest of the squad are at all times! He should never have to ask for a 10-78 [request for back up]!” My training officer said it calmly but it was evident that he was not pleased. Strike one! He told me where King Four was and I headed to his location. The traffic stop went off without a hitch and we were soon off to the next call.
Later that night we saw a motorist with a broken headlight and driving way under the speed limit. “King Nine, traffic.” Just being on the police radio was exciting. I activated the blue and red lights and the siren. The driver pulled his car over and I informed dispatch where we were. I turned on my bright headlights and used the spotlight in the rear-view mirror of the vehicle. I cautiously approached the car, just like they taught us in the academy - touching the trunk, peering into the backseat, standing just behind the driver’s door - and always observing the driver’s hands and the interior of the vehicle.
“Driver’s license and registration, please,” I said with more confidence than I actually had. While the driver fumbled with his wallet, I noticed my field training officer, out of the corner of my eye, on the other side of the vehicle just behind the trunk. He was not only watching how I handled myself; he was also keeping an eye on what was going on inside the vehicle. He was my “10-78.” I didn’t need to call for back up.
Suddenly, he started yelling at me. “Let’s go, give him back his stuff; Let’s go!” “Let’s go?” I thought. “What?” “Where?” I gave the driver his license and registration back and mumbled something about “be careful” and “you can go.” I hurried back into the driver’s seat of the cruiser.