Sunday, March 29, 2009

The story behind the picture on the wall

My squad sergeant called me into his office one day several years ago. When I arrived and--per his instructions--closed the door (gulp!), he threw a photograph onto the desk.

It was a photograph taken by one of those infernal speed cameras on a highway not too far from our station.

It shows a car. It's a police car. It's clearly visible as one of ours.
It also shows the date, the time, and the vehicle's speed: 123mph.

The speed limit on that section of highway was 50mph, so I was summoned one fine day to explain to the sergeant how it came to pass that a cruiser signed out to me on that date and time was photographed traveling 73mph over the posted speed limit.

Oh--and a speed limit sign was clearly visible in that picture, just to make it all the more farcical.

"Well you see, Sarge..." I began. It didn't help that I was a relative newbie and still on probation. I paused, reflecting on the fact that my career might well be hanging in the balance.

"Go on," he said. "I've been waiting for you to come in and explain it all day, and I expect that this is going to be good."

And for a moment, I was at a loss. Why the hell would I have been going 123 mph? The date was over a month ago and this was the first I was hearing about it. I couldn't remember that day. What was going on that would have made me drive like that? The only reason I'd ever do it was if...

And then I remembered. A call had come out for an officer in trouble in our neighboring precinct. Our dispatcher had put it out and as luck would have it, I was the only one not already on a call or a traffic stop of my own. So I pulled onto the highway just before 2AM and punched the gas to the floor. I'd forgotten all about the presence of those stupid cameras and wouldn't have cared in any case. One of our own needed help and I was the only one available.

That night I'd made the scene in pretty good time, arriving just after our guy had finished kicking the ass of a punk who'd swung on him during a frisk and then knocked out that punk's cousin after he'd decided to dip in and jump our guy. Hood rats tend to be cowardly when there's just one of them, but when they have numbers on you they get brave, and they'll jump you if they think they can outnumber you. well that had happened here, and it was still simmering when I arrived in a cloud of brake smoke and burnt transmission fluid. A couple of other local mooks were crossing the street to join in, but on my arrival they changed their minds and took off. I didn't even get to hit anybody so I just helped our original guy secure the two that he'd cleaned up and I watched his back while he searched punk #1's car and recovered a small quantity of dope to augment the stash that he'd already taken out of that knucklehead's pocket. I transported one of the two to our lock-up for him and had forgotten all about that wild ride until the sergeant threw the speed cam picture on his desk and demanded an accounting.

So I told him where I'd been going any why, and as soon as he confirmed it with a call to Dispatch, he looked at me, smiled, and said "Good job". Then he proceeded to have the picture framed and it hung on his wall until he retired. I don't know what happened to it--I sure would have liked it--but it appears that he decided to take it out to pasture with him. But he was old school and a real cop's cop, so I won't begrudge him that photo. Hell, I'd even have autographed it if he'd asked. Step off, Jeff Gordon. You and that NASCAR crowd ain't got nothing on a cop on a mission to back another cop. Because that's how we roll.


The Happy Medic said...

Can't think of a better reason to click that fast.

But remember, Jeff Gordon doesn't have to work the siren and the radio while driving that fast!

Stay safe,

Beat And Release said...

We have those new-fangled digital cameras in our patrol units that record everything from your speed to how many times you've thought about the funbags you saw on that last traffic stop. I recently had a member of the brass express to me her desire to have me put paper on two officers that hit 107 mph on an eight lane highway while responding to assist other units involved in a vehicle pursuit. I informed this "cop" that setting speed limits on officers responding to assist other officers would only result in me owning her house the first time I got hurt. Needless to say, I never heard another word about it.

David Woycechowsky said...

That was too fast. You could have killed an innocent person. Did the picture show your flashers on at least?

Officer Krupke said...

Dave, you just played this game on Roanoke Cop's blog re; HIS tale of high-speed driving.

But in my case, it wasn't too fast based on MY assessment, which took in the weather (clear) road conditions (an empty highway) my vehicle (fairly new pursuit-model Crown Vic) and my abilities (recently recertified in high-speed driving). Additionally, I was there and you were not, so how can YOU say that it was "too fast"? Maybe it was too fast for a lawyer to drive, but it was not too fast for someone with my training and equipment. Now I wouldn't presume to tell you how to coach witnesses so why are you going from cop blog to cop blog telling trained professionals that they're doing their jobs wrong?

David Woycechowsky said...

I am not a doctor, but some medical misjudgements are so bad that I can recognize them as malpractice.

Ditto egregious accounting mistakes, baseball errors, IT issues, cooking disasters, you name it. If the mistake is big enough and bad enough, then even a layperson will catch it.

123 mph is too fast, especially if you didn't have your flashing lights on. I am not going to tell you not to speed, but 123 mph is just too fast because of the risks to innocent people that you might hit and kill at that speed.

Also: this is not a "game"

Officer Krupke said...

OK, David, since you consider yourself an expert in the area of emergency vehicle operation, please answer the following questions:

1. What is the level of my relevant training and how current is it?
2. How is my car different from a normal car, specifically, how is it enhanced for high-speed operations?
3. This highway--this limited-access highway that's down in a ditch and only has on/off ramps every mile--who else was on it at the time in question?

Clearly these are important questions that are central to the issue of whether or not I was driving
"too fast" and you can't answer them. So how do you assert that I was driving too fast?

Bonus question: Would it still have been "too fast" if I was responding to YOUR call for help instead of one of my own people?

It's can say it. I think everyone already knows.

And you're right--it's not a game. When someone--anyone really, but especially one of my own--is facing the very real possibility of not making it home because some scumbags are trying to kill him, I'm going to get there.

Tara said...

...I'm not here to question the extent of your training, or the kind of car that you were driving. However, I'd just like to add my opinion; However late it is after you posted this.

Even with proper training and equipment, cops have found themselves in fatal crashes with motorists because they were speeding. I know that I'm stating the obvious, and I'm not trying to be cocky or an expert, here. I'm just saying that you could have ended someone's life. Why would you risk it?

I'd also like to add that if it was me who called you, of course I'd like for you to help me. I'd appreciate any help that I could get from you if I were in a bad situation. However, I'd feel guilty if someone had to bury a loved one because you struck their vehicle going 123 MPH. I know that we're strangers, but I'm sure that the people who are close to you would be heartbroken if you were killed.

Officer Krupke said...

Tara, it's a judgment call that you've got to make. When it's one of my people who needs help--and when I know that he's out in a bad area and that he doesn't call for help unless he's in trouble--I'll do what I have to do to get there. And 123mph isn't really that fast on a highway in the middle of the night. It's not as if I'm going through neighborhoods or city streets with intersections and pedestrians. This highway is in a concrete ditch and has lights and I can see a long ways ahead of me.

But again, when it's one of my people in a fight and he needs help, he's going to get it and he's going to get it fast, just like I know that I'm going to get it when I put an emergency call out. It's what we do.

And while there may be a risk to me driving fast, it's outweighed by the very real risk facing a fellow officer who may be getting stomped or fighting for his weapon while I'm enroute.

Anonymous said...

i love this story :]

if you werent driving that fast one of your guys could have died..