As a police officer, what is the strangest thing a suspect ever did?
We were called to a home, where an escapee from a secure group home for the insane had holed up with a butcher knife, which he was using to keep his handlers at bay. The Sheriff, who’s jurisdiction this falls under refused to respond as his last dealing with this fellow had put him in hospital, so it was up to myself and my partner to get him out of that hole beneath the old house where he grew up, it was now owned by folks who had never even heard of this guy. Well we talked to the guy for about an hour when he said he was thirsty, so we went to get him a glass of “water” The Doctor who had been standing by put some strange looking liquid in the water, and we put it where the fellow could get it. One drink of that liquid and he was out cold. So we got the knife and returned it to the home owner, then carried the fellow out to the squad car. I wanted to put a straight jacket on him but the doctor nixed the idea saying that it would be cruel since the fellow should be out for at least six hours, long enough for us to haul him some 300 miles to the State Hospital. Well we got about 10 miles North of town when the fellow came to and began kicking at the doors and windows in the back seat of our Ford LTD squad car. Try as he might though he could not kick out the windows, God Bless Ford Motor for using STRONG glass in their police packages. So it was for the next 300 miles, he would scream and kick for about ten minutes, then fall asleep for about 15 minutes, the masturbate till he made a mess in the back seat, then return to kicking and screaming till again he passed out. Longest damn drive I ever made, we turned up the AM Radio in the car to try and out blast the fellow but it didn’t do much good. Ah but that drive home was such a relief. The County paid for the damage to the squad because of the Sheriff refusing to do his duty and it was extensive, needed a new headliner, back seat, the doors were bowed out and it leaked wind and rain till the body shop got it in and fixed it. I think we would have been in a lot more trouble had the fellow not been wearing crepe shoes.
Do law enforcement officers have "a code" or a culture where they overlook the transgressions of other cops or retired cops? How does it work and how far does it go?
Yes, although how it is administered and what sort of transgressions are tolerated vary in different parts of the country, and even with individuals. The term within the industry is "professional courtesy," (PC) and everybody tries to get it. One of the more common questions on police discussion forums is whether officers would extend professional courtesy to firefighters, dispatchers, criminal justice students, members of the military, medical personnel, friends, family, wives, sons and daughters, etc. People buy "thin blue line" stickers for their cars, associate and "friend of" memberships in the Fraternal Order of Police, state troopers' association, sheriff's posse, etc. all in the hopes of currying favor when they're pulled over for a traffic violation. Do these things work? Sometimes, but not often. The most common scenario for a professional courtesy request is a common traffic violation. The more brazen police violators stick their badge in the enforcement officer's face as soon as he reaches the car (I know of a few instances where the violator held his badge out the window and then sped off before the officer reached the car). A more subtle approach is to open the wallet and let the badge inside show, hand the officer a police ID card along with the driver's license, drop some police jargon into the conversation ("my 10-27 will show valid class 3"), or say "I have to get my registration and insurance out of my glove box. It's in there with my duty weapon." If the violation is a low-grade speeding offense or something similarly trivial, and the violator isn't too much of a jerk about it, there's a good chance that PC will be extended. I don't know too many cops that take any pleasure in busting another cop, and most will go out of their way to avoid it. We all commit minor traffic offenses, and there is a "there but for the grace of God" sentiment operating. In many cases, the same PC will be offered to one or more of the occupational and special interest groups listed above. When the violation involves reckless driving or, God forbid, DUI, things get stickier. In some parts of the country, the cop will still get a pass if there is any possible way to pull it off. This can involve anything from driving the violator home to delaying breath/blood tests or other processing for so long that any prosecution is impossible. Now and again, one of these operations becomes known to the press, and there is a scandal. The public is intolerant of cops who drive drunk, and even more intolerant of cops who permit them to do so without consequences. [text added] A PC incident that made national news took place shortly after Hurricane Katrina. A contingent of deputies from a New Jersey sheriff's office had gone to New Orleans to assist with peacekeeping duties in the aftermath, and were returning home to NJ in a convoy of marked patrol cars. There wasn't any special urgency, other than they wanted to get home. The convoy was moving in the left lane of the highway at speeds in excess of 90 mph, with their overhead emergency lights on. A Virginia sheriff's deputy, with some effort, pulled the convoy over and advised them that emergency vehicles were allowed to use their lights and sirens only when responding to an actual emergency, convoys had to obey the speed limit for trucks, and convoys were restricted to the right lane. The NJ cops were not especially receptive to this, and went back on their way, returning to the same mode of travel as before. When the NJ cops got home and reported the incident to their sheriff, the sheriff called the Virginia agency and told the deputy he was a disgrace to the badge for delaying and lecturing his deputies, and he urged the deputy's sheriff to fire him. The Virginia sheriff declined. In some agencies, particularly some in the northeast U.S., recruits about to finish the academy meet with a representative of the Patrolmans' Benevolent Association (PBA--the officers' labor union), who briefs them on benefits and procedures. During this meeting, he gives each new officer a fixed number of "associate" cards. Everybody gets the same number, and no more. The cards say that the bearer is a close associate of Officer _______ of the XYZ Police Department, and every due courtesy should be extended to them. The new officer can give them to anyone he chooses--siblings, parents, spouse, boy/girlfriends, etc. When the "associate" is stopped by another officer, he presents the card. The officer who is presented with one of these cards will normally tell the violator to be more careful, give the card back, and send them on their way. However, the officer has two other options. He can take the card from the violator and send him on his way, then find the officer who issued it and give him a report on what his buddy has been up to. If the buddy was disrespectful, excessively reckless, or did something else to distinguish himself, the enforcement officer may request his colleague to tell his friend how the world turns (e.g. dispense an ass-chewing or ass-kicking, as may be appropriate). The other option is potentially more perilous. The enforcement officer can issue the ticket or make the arrest in spite of the courtesy card. This is called "writing over the card." There is a chance that the officer who issued the card will understand why the enforcement officer did what he did, and nothing will come of it. However, it is equally possible that the enforcement officer's zeal will not be appreciated, and the enforcement officer will come to work one day to find his locker has been moved to the parking lot and filled with dog excrement. As I said before, the custom varies regionally. I've found that Oregon and Washington are especially intolerant of officer misconduct. Those states will de-certify (revoke his training certificate, ending his career) an officer for a serious traffic offense, or for allowing another officer to get away with one. In other parts of the country, whatever you can get away with is common and expected. [added after some comments were posted]As Roger Curtiss observed, state troopers can be less forgiving than members of local agencies with regard to PC. One agency that I have heard condemned time and again by local cops is the Wisconsin State Patrol. Wisconsin has always done things a bit differently with regard to traffic enforcement. Before wireless data communications were so commonplace, out-of-state drivers receiving citations from the WSP were required to post bail or see a magistrate immediately. If they didn't have the cash on them, the trooper would escort them to a convenience store or other business where they could purchase a money order. The citation and money order would then go into a lockbox in the trunk of the patrol car. Out of state cops violating traffic laws in Wisconsin are reportedly shown no mercy from the state patrol, and I have heard more than one cop threaten to arrest and/or make life miserable for any WSP trooper they encountered in their own jurisdiction. This is one of the paradoxical aspects of PC. The ethos behind it is supposedly fraternal, brotherhood of the badge and all that, but any cop who ignores the PC custom is condemned and shunned. This is not always the case, and not every cop feels this way, but the more vocal proponents of PC might make you think it was that way. State police/patrols often hold themselves as a rung above local law enforcement in quality and in other respects, and the status is often justified. State patrols tend to have higher standards for recruitment and tougher police academies. Even in states where every local cop attends the same state-level academy, the state patrol almost always has their own. Their appearance standards are generally tougher, as are their organizational cultures with regard to physical fitness. This is all generalized, there are exceptions to these rules. My personal experience is that state patrols, including Wisconsin's, are as professional and amiable as any other cops I've run into, and they have always treated me with courtesy (the common kind, not the professional kind). They didn't know who I was or what I did for a living unless they asked directly. Some "made" me instantly as a cop, and the others didn't say anything about it if they did. None of them gave me a ticket since I became a cop in 1979, but I should also point out that the violations in question were pretty mild (window tint from Nevada the first day the car was registered in Wisconsin, 7 mph above the speed limit). I've had many, many conversations with other cops about this, and my sentiments on the topic are definitely the minority opinion. I personally believe that police officers should be held to a higher standard than the public at large, and that officers who break the law should be subject to the same consequences as anyone else. That doesn't mean that I've cited or arrested every cop I've ever stopped. In the early part of my career, I stopped many cops who were driving recklessly, and a couple who were drunk. My fear of ostracism by my peers outweighed my sense of justice. Later on, I got over this. (http://nv.findacase.com/research...)One officer I worked with, and for whom I have a great deal of respect, characterized PC as "when you work at the bakery, the bread is free." I was never able to persuade him of the difference between a private business that a customer can patronize or not, as they choose, and a public agency that is funded and authorized by the people, has authority over them, and is still responsible to them. [more text added] Concealment or ignorance of on-duty misconduct is related to PC, but is more commonly labeled the "Blue Curtain" or "Wall of Silence." The mantra here is that you never rat out another cop, even under pressure from internal affairs or some other authority. In practice, this works about as well as the tradition of omerta in organized crime. A few hard core types will never rat, but most, threatened with the loss of their jobs or even arrest, will usually roll over. Stepping up to volunteer information is another thing. I think most cops have a moral boundary here. There is a line of misconduct beyond which they will not keep silent. It's not unlike seeing a fellow student in school cheating or playing a prank on the teacher, or a fellow employee violating some workplace rule. Do you raise your hand and blow the whistle on him or her? Most wouldn't, although there is again a moral boundary beyond which you'll make the report. Of course, the public expects cops to not tolerate misconduct, because the misconduct often results in injury to a citizen's well-being, freedom or civil rights. The nature of the cop's job makes episodes of misconduct pretty grave events. The other side of that coin is that the cop's very survival depends on the support of his fellow officers. If a cop gets into a bind on the street--and everyone does, sooner or later--and calls for help, he is hanging out a mile if help is not in the offering. I've known cops who put other cops on their personal list for transgressions as small as taking an unpopular overtime assignment other cops didn't want to staff, and would either refuse to cover them on calls, and/or would obscure their radio traffic by clicking their mics when the offending officer was transmitting. My personal rule was that a cop in need is a friend indeed, no matter how I felt about them personally. I might refuse to shake their hand and even spit on their shoes when the incident was over, but in my world, refusing assistance to a fellow officer was the worst kind of sin. You might have a different standard for reporting misconduct in your own workplace, but you probably don't depend on your fellow employees to save your life on a regular basis. This is one of my "hot button" issues. I could write a book on it, and someday I might. If this answer is unclear or needs amplification, please indicate so much in a comment, and I'll edit/supplement the answer.