In the Police Academy they told us over and over again to be ready for anything when we show up on a scene. As I am driving around in my patrol car a citizen calls 911 to report an issue in my city. The dispatcher takes the call, talks with the caller, and translates the conversation into a call type and a sentence or two that comes across my computer screen on what I need to respond to and where.
The dispatcher looks and sees the address is in my area and comes over the air to let me know I have a call holding. I acknowledge to her that I am en route to whatever call she has put in my que. She assigns the amount of officers depending on the call type. A fight situation might need 4 officers where as a vandalism report usually only needs one officer. The dispatchers have to use their best discretion on translating what is told to them over the phone into how many officers will go to the call. There are about 20 different call types that include traffic accidents, lost kids, property checks, drunk drivers, and welfare checks just to name a few. The dispatchers are awesome and they really watch out for our safety and do a great job.
En route to the call I always think through the scenarios of what might possibly happening so that I can formulate a plan of action. Sometimes a call comes across where it seems there will be a battle and it turns out to be nothing. Some times a call comes across that seems very small and it turns into a huge deal.
Last night I was dispatched as a single responder to a traffic hazard call.
The caller told dispatch there was a dead dog in the road that was causing a traffic issue. Fortunately it was 11pm on a smaller street and I knew there couldn’t be too much of a traffic issue so I was in no hurry. While driving to the call I didn’t even give it a second though. My plan was to get to the scene, move the dog to the side of the road, and let animal control know they needed to pick it up in the morning. I was already finished with the call before I got there and did not even contemplate there could possibly be more to the story.
As I approached the area I turned on my spotlight and easily found the dog as it was a large retriever dog and was right in the middle of a two lane road. I turned on my overheads (blue and red flashing lights) so no one would run me over as I was moving the dog. One truck approached and went around me pausing briefly to look at the dog on the roadway. I was putting on rubber gloves to move the dog when a smaller passenger car approached and came to a stop right next to the dog. As I looked inside I saw a woman in her late 40’s open the window and lean out to look at the dog. I was about to tell her to move on as she was blocking the only route around my patrol car. As I approached her she put her head back into her seat, covered her face with her hands, and started uncontrollably sobbing. I was not sure if she really loved dogs or if this was her dog that had been hit. I approached her window and asked her if it was her dog that was on the road. She could only slightly nod her head yes through her tears. I asked her to move over to the side of the road so that other traffic could pass and I would be right there to talk to her.
I moved the dog to the opposite side of the road from where the lady had parked and turned my car around and parked directly behind the lady. I approached the vehicle and gave her a moment to calm down because I couldn’t understand anything she was saying through her sobs. Once she could talk she explained that her son was in the military and had been killed last month. She explained this was his dog, “Charlie” and that it was the best reminder she had of her dead son. She broke down sobbing again as she tried to explain to me that she didn’t know how she would tell her two grandchildren that Charlie had been killed such a short time after their father had been killed. At this time I had to take a step back and compose myself and try and be as strong as I could for this poor lady. In the end all I could do was put a hand on her shoulder and tell her I was sorry for her loss.
The lady had a 15 year old son in the car with her. The 15 year old was being very brave himself and trying to comfort his mom as best he could. I asked her if she had any family close by she would like me to call for her and she said she just moved here recently to be by the grand-kids and didn’t have family here. The 15 year old did not have a license and could not drive her home like I would have liked. I told her I would follow her home to make sure she got home safe as I was very concerned for her.
Before we left the scene she asked if I would take the collar off Charlie so that she could bury it and remember him. I told her of course I would get the collar for her. I took Charlie’s collar off him and placed it in a small brown paper evidence bag. I went to the opposite side of the car and gave the bag to the 15 year old who was quietly sitting in the passenger seat. I explained to the 15 year old as I gave him the bag that he would have to be the man of the house tonight and take extra good care of his mother. He bravely took the bag and placed it under his seat where his mom could not see it and said he would do his best to take care of her.
I followed her to her house which was very close and made sure she made it home safe. I waved goodbye and cleared my call so that I would be available for the next call to come across my computer screen.
A short while later I ended up transporting a young lady to jail for a probation violation. It is about a 15 minute drive time to the jail from any place in the city and I often talk with my passengers. This young lady began to tell me how rough her month and year had been. I told her the story about the dog in the road that I had just come from and her attitude quickly changed. While still upset she was going to jail she decided some people have much tougher problems.
I signed up for this job because of the adventure and the excitement. You never know what will be at the address you are going to and I love every bit of it.
It will be a while before I go to a traffic hazard call without thinking of Charlie the dog who was a much bigger story than could fit onto two lines of my computer screen.