Saturday, 6 September 2014


I've always been brought up with the attitude that the law enforcement community is to be respected; to be looked up to. The police and sheriff's departments are in place to keep the peace, thus often given the title: Peace Officer. For most of my life, I've done my best to remain on the right side of the law, even if I thought that the law enforcement officers weren't doing their best job. Fortunately, the vast majority of them were good dedicated officers who performed their duties to the best of their abilities and thus had the respect of the community and the county. I was able to befriend a few of them as they passed through our region, even to travelling down to pistol shooting practices and events together. But there were some who didn't seem to measure up and consequently weren't all that welcome.

Enforcers, they were often referred to as, usually male, single, usually fresh out of boot camp (or the police academy), and usually with an attitude. They weren't assigned to a post for long as their arrogant, hard-nosed approach quickly created hard feelings that could result in some form of retaliation.

There is a story about an officer who was going to restore law and order, and in doing so, riled up a truck driver to the point where the trucker, obviously a lot tougher and a better experienced fighter, got the upper hand, beat up on the officer then stuffed him into the back seat of the patrol car, and when a safe distance away, put in an anonymous phone call to tell the base that an officer needed help. There was one where the officer was female, whom most of us would still normally respect as a qualified law enforcement officer, but in this case, all attitude, especially toward the male of the species. She got ambushed and ended up handcuffed with her own cuffs and forced to stand outside the car with her head thrust through the window, the glass cranked up enough to trap her head. As an added message, her pants were pulled down.

Of course the latter has turned up on several different chat sites and has been heard all over the United States and Canada so one would almost have to call it an Urban Legend. But on the other hand, the story had to start somewhere. At any rate, the so-called bad officers are usually transferred to another post long before things get to this point.

In this case, the new officer was fresh out of the academy, full of attitude but also lacked some basic intelligence which included reasoning.

The boy was an avid off-road enthusiast. His personal vehicle was a four-by-four pickup that had been jacked up, and fancy wheels with oversized tires installed. It was one of those vehicles that stood so high in the air that the driveshaft of which would go through a 24 pack of universal joints in less than a thousand miles. He subscribed to all the Off-Road magazines and attended all the mud-bogging, rock-climbing, cross-country competitions, and truck shows that he could take in while off-duty. A simple visit in the coffee shop found you listening to him rattle off all the latest off-road equipment and tell you all about hill-climbs and how his truck wasn't just for show; it was mostly go.


Just east of my hometown was the local junk collector. Dick, as he was known to everyone, had a farm with several hundred derelicts on it. On the south side of his place, between his farm and the neighbors, was a drainage ditch that had been dug to hopefully collect excessive runoff water and route it back to the river further to the south. The ditch, about six feet deep at one time, had been dug in the twenties and thirties but didn't see much use because--especially during the thirties--about the only runoff was dust. The banks of the ditch slowly eroded away and the natural grass grew in. As time went on, one could actually drive a vehicle through it in some places; a four wheel drive truck had no trouble negotiating it.

This young officer was cruising through town one Saturday night and spotted a familiar four-by-four pickup parked in front of JB's Lounge. Mostly innocent except for the fact that the truck had been parked there for several hours, which meant that the owner (driver) was likely several sheets to the wind and would no doubt try to sneak home without getting caught driving under the influence. The officer kept up his patrol but concentrating on that particular truck. As luck would have it, he was several blocks away when he saw the taillights come up and the truck back out of its stall. Police lights flashing and the smell of blood in his nostrils, the officer floored the accelerator and took up the chase.

Larry, the driver who shouldn't have been driving, wasn't so drunk that he didn't notice the police lights come on. As a matter of fact, he had been gazing out the window of the bar for some time watching the officer make too many passes down this side of town. He had to make this chase worthwhile so he pushed hard on the gas and headed down the street.

One thing that was in Larry's favor was that, when the chase began, there were several blocks between them making it impossible for the officer to make a positive ID of Larry's truck. Determined to keep it that way, Larry shot down a couple of alleys, emerging out a block from the easternmost extremity of town and headed for the park. Two and a half miles east, he switched off his headlights then turned and headed south down the graveled road toward the river. Just to the south of Dick's place he swung off the road and onto the trail between Dick's and Gerry's farms.

The young officer followed the dusty trail, and spotted Larry's truck by its brake lights. Seeing an approach, the officer turned off the road and onto Dick's hayfield. Being no stranger to off-roading he drove at high speed across the hayfield in an attempt to cut the fugitive off. Keeping an eye on the approaching truck in the moonlit field, he sped off at an angle to cut him off. The shadow of the truck grew larger. He was almost to the place--

Well, he didn't know about the drainage ditch. And he definitely didn't know about the places one could drive through it without damaging the car's undercarriage. That full-sized Dodge sedan shot over the edge of that ditch like something from Dukes of Hazzard. Engine racing and tires clawing vainly for traction, the patrol car almost floated through the air, coming to an abrupt halt after encountering the bank on the opposite side.

In a perfect world he might have made it but the heavy car's front suspension caught the edge of the bank, the crossmember shaving at least a foot of dirt off the top of the opposite bank. The car was going fast enough to continue forward for several feet and come to a stop with the rear wheels dangling over the edge of the ditch. The chase over, Larry continued across the ditch--in a safe place to cross--and headed over to Dick's place where he had Dick phone it in.

When the smoke was cleared, the officer suffered some whiplash, and needed some dental work when the abrupt halt in forward motion caused him to take a large bite out of the steering wheel. He also suffered a few bruises which cleared up in no time at all. I guess you could say that the most damage was to his pride; after all he was a qualified off-road racer in his own mind. It wasn't long before he was packed up and on his way to another post to resume his duties as an officer of the law, maybe just a little less gung-ho now. The patrol car, less than two weeks old at the time of the crash was bent like a giant pretzel. When sitting on the ground, one rear wheel was completely in the air. Larry was charged with DUI, attempting to flee, and dangerous driving, none of which stuck because, as was mentioned before, they couldn't prove that it was Larry's truck, let alone that it was he who was driving.

The only lesson that could come out of it was maybe know the terrain before heading off into the darkness. And always understand that the local residents just might know more about the country than you do.