It wasn't long ago that I, along with most cops, thought that Force Vehicle Crashes (where a police officer smacks up his cruiser) were a source of amusement. Contrary to what you see on TV, most of these don't occur in the middle of high-speed pursuits but typically during normal driving and parking...especially backing up. Most cops drive a lot, and they mutli-task while doing so, so the chance of a fender-bender is always there. It used to be fun to come into the station parking lot and see a freshly-crumpled cruiser because you knew there was going to be a funny story circulating inside about how it happened.
That changes when you get to be a patrol sergeant. Now it's more along the lines of: "Dammit! How could you not see that post?! It was sticking right up out of the ground in the same place where it's been since you came on this job. Now I've got to write a report, take pictures, get the damned thing to a couple of local garages for repair estimates, explain it to the white shirts, and somehow make street coverage without that car for the next week or two...DAMMIT!"
So the enjoyment that I used to secretly--or openly--take from other people's car mishaps has come back on me in the form of a baseball bat gripped in the hands of the karma fairy. Now no matter who on my squad wrecks a car, it's MY problem, and in the eyes of a couple of our white shirts, somehow MY fault. ("You aren't supervising them right, Sergeant Krupke...")
And if anyone in the station wrecks one, I still have to do without as I work out my daily beat coverage assignments every day. Again, unlike in the movies where every cop gets a nice, shiny car and just goes out wherever they want, I have to make sure that each little zone or area in our jurisdiction has a police car in it, plus I have to make specific coverage of certain locations with dedicated cars assigned strictly to those areas, and I have to cover a few road construction sites with permanently-placed cars that are required by municipal contract. The construction contractors pay for the officer--usually at overtime rates--but the cars that the officers use get drawn out of the existing pool fleet and usually they're gone before I even get in to start my day. Bottom line: Ever since I came on board, there have been more cars needed each morning than are available and I have to juggle assignments and scare up nonexistent spares or hand out cars that are being saved for some special use by somebody higher up the food chain and are therefore technically off-limits to me.
So along comes my perfect storm: Not only does one of my rookies wreck a car the other day, but he totals one of the brand-new ones that had (naturally) been set aside for another unit's exclusive use. Short on cars, I made a decision and snatched the keys to that car out of someone's desk drawer where they had been poorly hidden. (I keep reminding the white shirts that they gave me the power to make decisions...) Not twenty minutes goes by and the radio explodes into screams of "10-50! 10-50! Officer involved! My rookie is in his first wreck (with that cruiser, naturally) and it's hit the fan.
I can't post specifics about the incident yet, but the rook smacked someone else who was both totally at fault and politically connected. As a result, my report (and my finding of fault) is on the best-seller list around here--everyone wants a copy. It's also been "suggested" that I revise it a couple of times and take some of the sting off of the guilty party. I may be a new (and still probationary) sergeant but I'm not changing the report, especially not in a way that opens my rook up to even a part of the responsibility. I'm standing by my findings, but I can't help noticing that there's a chill in the air every time I have to go into white-shirt country, and it's not just because they've got killer air conditioning.
Ah well...this too shall pass.
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