Any rookie who’s embarked on a career in law enforcement knows that he or she is likely in for it. The old timers know when there’s fresh meat in the house. It’s as instinctive as the senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing, or smell. When a new cop walks into the precinct, the district or station house for the first time, he might as well just try to grin and bear it because anything is likely to happen. Cops get very creative when it comes to pounding the piss out of new recruits.
There’s the call from the Mounted Unit inquiring if there are enough oats and hay in the precinct garage for the horses. As Vic Ferrari writes in his excellent book ‘NYPD/Through the Looking Glass’, “I once saw a rookie get filthy climbing all over crap in the precinct garage, looking for a bale of hay.” Or, that call from the commissioner’s office saying the commissioner is on his way to the precinct via helicopter. And to immediately turn on the landing lights atop the precinct roof! It’s quite a sight to see a 20 something rookie running up to the roof of the precinct, like a chicken without a head, frantically asking anyone who will listen to show him where the landing lights are.
Ferrari writes: “I fell for it myself once as a rookie cop, after I transported a prisoner back to the precinct in my cruiser. NYPD policy mandates searching the backseat of your cruiser for contraband at the beginning and end of your tour. And, after you’ve had anyone in the back seat for that matter.
“Brand new and excited about my collar, I marched him up to the desk and threw the keys to an old timer who was just coming on duty, and would be using my radio car for the midnight tour.”
“Hey kid, did you toss the backseat?”– he asked with a smirk on his face.
“Oh, shit, no, I didn’t…could you?” I said.
“No problem, kid”, he replied as he and his partner headed out to the parking lot. But then, a couple minutes later…they both returned with grim faces.
“Hey kid, come here.” he said, sounding very annoyed. They led me into a room with one of them carrying a plastic bag, and I wondered what the hell was going on.” Kid, you really should have tossed that car yourself,” the old timer said. He then proceeded to open the bag and moving it toward me he lifted out a Glock and several glassines of heroin. “What do you think we should be doing with these?” he asked.
“I…I don’t know,” I stammered as visions of my very short career with the NYPD being flushed down the stool danced in my head once my supervisor, or worse, Internal Affairs got wind of my fuck-up. I was just out of field training and still on probation.
“Uh, I’m so sorry. I should have…” I started…just as they both burst out laughing.
“Kid, it’s my gun,” the old timer said–as I glanced at his empty holster.
“But the drugs!” I pleaded. His partner then balled up all the ‘heroin’—put it in his mouth, made a giant spit ball…and directed it to the waste basket. The alleged drugs were small pieces of paper cut to the same size as glassine envelopes of heroin. I was so fixated on the pistol, I’d never given the glassine a good look.
“Kid, let this be a lesson to you to take the time and toss your car—before you toss your keys to someone on the next shift”, the old timer said. As relieved as I was, it did teach me a lesson the instructors in the police academy never had…and, I made it a point to search my radio car thoroughly, for the rest of my career.
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Thanks for the visit as we continue to offer up Stuff You Never Ever Learned at the Academy from In the Line of Duty, I’m Ron Barber.