Friday, June 25, 2010

Really??? By Lt. Pata

No, I’m not kidding…...All of this is true.

I have been doing this now for 25 years. It’s a great job. I tell the new kids coming out of the academy that there is a reason they have TV shows about this job and to not mess it up by doing dumb things. I used to never believe the stuff I saw on TV until now. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Don’t believe me? How about the time two of our officers went to talk to a person about his loud birds. The officers get there on what should have been a simple call. The officer’s knocked on the door and were greeted by “Hello, who’s there?” One of the guys said “San Rafael PD.” Nothing happened. No one came to the door. The other officer knocked. A voice called out “Hello, who’s there?” The other officer said “San Rafael Police can you come to the door?” Nothing. The officers became agitated and thought perhaps the person inside could not hear them or were trying to avoid contact. So, they knocked again. “Hello, who’s there?” This time the officers responded loudly “San Rafael PD come to the door!” Nothing. The officers were beside themselves. This time one of the officers pounded on the door with his fist and shouted at the occupant. The other officer looked through a window and saw the subject inside. When the officer pounded on the door, the parrot inside replied “Hello, who’s there?”

Right after the horrible 9-11 attack, our dispatch center started to get calls that were not typical. My brother, Nick took one call from a concerned citizen about their purchased drink. The call went something like this: “San Rafael 9-1-1 what’s your emergency?” ‘Hi, for years I have been going to this juice place in town…they always get my order wrong. Always! Today, they got it right. I think you should check it out because they never get it right, something is funny about this…’ really.

Or how about this one; “San Rafael 9-1-1 what is your emergency?” ‘There is a plane way up in the sky that is spraying white stuff…there are four trails of white stuff coming from the plane.” Of course it was the vapor trail from a plane at 33,000 feet. Desperate times caused for some suspicious calls. Sometimes it’s a balancing act to educate our callers. We don’t want them to feel bad for calling, but it’s not so easy at times to keep your mouth shut and not editorialize or maybe even chuckle. Our dispatchers and records people are saints.

From time to time we get some interesting customers that walk into the PD for assistance. One such call was an older couple who came to the police department. Actually, if I knew better, I’d say the husband dragged his wife in the station…” He proclaimed loudly in our front lobby “I want my wife arrested for adultery!” He had a pretty heavy Italian accent. I met with him outside and recommended a priest or counselor, because we don’t arrest people for that kind of stuff. He was amazed that it was not a crime in America.

I remember when Officer Blair Auld and I responded to a “fight in progress” in the Terra Linda part of our city. Both of us were downtown at shift change, so we were the closest cars to respond. We drove with our lights and siren’s on, risking our lives to get to this call. I remember pulling up to the home, our brakes glowing from the heavy braking; we dove out of our cars to rescue the person in need. Like all good cops, you always “look before you leap” so we stopped and listened before knocking on the door. We heard nothing, then knocked and announced ourselves “San Rafael Police.”

An occupant came to door but he did not look like he was in a fight. We walked in and asked, “Where’s the fight?” The man was the father of his 13 and 17 year old boys. He said the fight was over, but asked us to counsel his children. Apparently the frantic call for help was to mediate an argument over who had more Frosted Flakes cereal in their bowl…

Finally, how about the woman who called 9-1-1 for an unspecified emergency in the middle of the night at her apartment complex? I drove their quickly and ran up two flights of stairs with my partner – not an easy task when you have a Mediterranean body like mine. When the woman opened the door she said “Oh hi, thank you for coming, my smoke detector needs the battery changed and I can’t reach it.” I asked her if she called 9-1-1 and hung up. She told me she did because she knew we would come fast and she wanted to get back to sleep.

You can’t make it up, and never forget them. There are hundreds of these stories. This little walk down memory lane is one of the reasons I take blood pressure pills.

Before you call for us to change the oil in your car or maybe bring you a shake, please remember -We are the police. We come to bad things and make them better. Now we do lots of jobs, like quality of life stuff. It is not always a gun battle, like on TV or the movies – and we have had those. We like to solve problems, but changing smoke detector batteries, when there is a chair nearby or an apartment manager…may not be what you want your officers to do. Of course, it if is a person who really can’t get to it or is bed-ridden, well, then of course, we will be there for you. But make cookies.

More later. Stay safe. Raffaello