the toughest jobs for any police officer is the issuance of traffic tickets for
minor violations. It's one thing to stop someone traveling several miles per
hour over the limit and remind him of the dangers of speeding as you cite him
with a costly document that will reinforce the advice. But the idea of stopping
some guy on his way to or from work, to hit him with a summons for not using
his turn signal or for an expired inspection tag, makes the officer appear
petty toward someone who is not exactly a menace to society. Yes, even minor
laws must be enforced, but it's not the best public relations opportunity for
generally have a better image because whenever you see them, they're carrying a
child out of a burning building or posing with local kids on a fire truck and
letting the little tykes wear some of the uniform equipment. Although both jobs
are public service-oriented and exist for the safety of the people, most
drivers recoil at the sight of a police cruiser, but experience no such
trepidation when that red engine is spotted heading back to the firehouse.
have you spied one of those marked units in your rearview mirror and not
quickly glanced at your speed? If you notice that you're a bit lead-footed,
you're reluctant to step on the brakes because the officer will notice the red
warning lights in the rear. However, if you're casually driving along and
suddenly notice a unit coming your way or parked on the side of the road, you
might have a sudden impulse to tap the brakes a little just in case you had
been a bit heavy on the gas pedal. Then your eyes keep a close watch on the
actions of the uniformed driver as you anticipate your possible fate. Will
those roof lights go on, signaling for you to pull over?
It's a mental image that could ruin anyone's day. Over the course of
twenty years as a cop in New York City, I don't remember ever making a driver
happy about getting a ticket. In fact, sometimes the motorist felt motivated to
tell me what he thought about a public servant who has nothing better to do
than to annoy decent, hardworking taxpayers when he could be locking up drug
dealers. Well, most cops would rather lock up felons than chase after drivers
who might have an inoperable taillight, but if that's all they did, how long
would it take before every car on the road looked like a reject from the
demolition derby? How safe would you feel on the roadways if hot-footed
speedsters had no fear of those public sentinels with their radar equipment?
It's axiomatic in police work that nobody wants us around until they need us.
And Heaven help us if we're not around when they do. The guy whose home was
burglarized while he was away on vacation is likely to wonder why the
interlopers weren't arrested. "I got five speeding tickets last year from
you guys, but when my house was broken into, you cops were nowhere to be
found," he might say with biting sarcasm. Perhaps that's because cops are
kept busy with jerks that refuse to observe speed limits. I spent most of my
police career doing detective work, but during those early days in uniform, I
used a lot of time chasing the bad guys.
day in Brooklyn, my partner and I were alerted to the sounds of a woman
screaming about a block away. We pulled up to the scene of a bare-chested man
holding a machete and moving stealthily toward the frightened young woman, who
was lying on the sidewalk with her hands raised to ward off an imminent attack.
While my partner got on the radio, I pointed my gun at the would-be butcher and
gave him a warning.
His attention turned toward me and he took a few steps in my direction. I
cocked my weapon, warned him again, and told him that his future didn't include
a third warning. After acknowledging that my weapon was more formidable than
his, he sneeringly put the long-bladed instrument on the ground. As was common
in such close encounters with homicide, the guy had discovered that his
girlfriend was less than faithful, so he had decided to dismember her. He was
arrested, and she was grateful to us for keeping her from going all to pieces
over the guy.
Later that same day, I stopped a driver for zooming past a red light. As I
wrote out the ticket, he exclaimed, "Why don't you guys do some real
police work instead of always harassing people?"
is a veteran of 20 years with the New York Police Dept. (NYPD),
ten of which were performed in plainclothes undercover assignments. Bob began a
writing career about 12 years ago and had his first book published in 1999.
Bob went on to write and publish a total of seven novels, “Murder in Black
and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to
Love,” “Short Stories of Life
and “Out of Sight.” He also became a syndicated columnist under the title “Weir