Thursday, December 22, 2011

Of Three Legged Dogs and Non Existent Pigeons

Station House Security is probably one of the most boring posts one can receive as a cop. It's your job to make sure that unauthorized individuals aren't allowed to walk right up to the desk officer. It's kinda like being a Walmart Greeter, but with a gun and without the shopping cart.

I've done my fair share of station house security.  Most were monotonous and boring.  There are moments, however, that do stick out.

I was killing time at my post talking to one of the squad detectives. He was an old timer, complete with chewed up cigar, and punctuated many of his sentences with "back in the day." Still, he was a good guy, a rarity if you will, as he enjoyed passing on his knowledge to the new kids in the precinct, and it was worthwhile knowledge to receive. In any case, every couple of minutes as we are talking, grit would fall from above us, off of the station house. I didn't think much of it right away, but by the third time I remarked: "It must be annoying having pigeons by the squad room windows all the time."

"Kid, this house ain't got pigeons. Are you referring to the crap that keeps falling?"

"Yeah, what else would be knocking dirt off of the window ledges?"

"Alright. Look straight ahead, then turn to 1 oclock. Ya' see the housing projects about 1/2 mile or so away? Ya do?   Good.   Move your gaze to the roof.  What do you see?"

"I see someone playing with a lighter I think. Yeah, the flash of a lighter."

"Nah kid, that's the muzzle flash of a 22. They're shootin' at the house. At this range, they're lucky to hit the building at all. That's where your grit comes from, rounds hitting above us. Heck, the rounds don't even nick the window glass. Pretty harmless. It's what some folks do for nightly entertainment around here."

"Okay... Uhm, lets move our conversation inside if you don't mind." And we did.

Another time I had the duty, the precinct dog was hanging out with me. He was a three legged mutt, and spent the day usually running around with his harem of female strays, but when the sun went down, he came back to the precinct for food, water and warmth (he would often sleep in the vestibule).

He knew cops. I mean, really knew them. He also knew those that didn't belong in the precinct - everyone but cops. If he was by the door, and you worked in the precinct, even in civilian attire, he would approach for a head scratch. Same for a cop in uniform, even outside commands. A civilian making a complaint or reporting a loss? Teeth would be bared and his viscous growl was something to behold. Many a report was taken outside on the hood of a patrol car when he was on post.

On the night in question, I was on post when the Duty Captain came by to inspect the station house, which pretty much entails scratching the book at the desk and leaving just as fast. He was in a suit and overcoat. In other words, he looked like a civilian.

I gave him a nod as he approached and the precinct mutt went right into action. He got up on all 3 legs and did that watchdog growl.

"Officer, tell your dog to stand down!"

Was he kidding? Did he really think it was my dog?

"Boss, show him your shield. He likes cops. Everyone else he doesn't let in."

The captain gave me the 'you must think I'm an easy mark to try that' kinda look, but with the dog not standing down, and the Captain obviously not going anywhere, he finally relented and took his shield out of his pocket. He actually thrusted it forward for the dog to see.

The mutt turned his head to the side slightly, then moved forward to sniff the shield. Once he was satisfied, he lowered his head for the Captain to pet him (which he did) after which he went back to sitting across from me.

The Captain entered the station house without saying another word. When he left 2 minutes later, he paused to to scratch the mutt's head again before driving off to the next command.  I doubt the next command had a 3 legged dog doing station house security.

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