Naked on the Westside: Part I

As with all bloggers, we have peaks and valleys. My time for blogging the past few weeks has been very limited. I also have missed regularly reading the works of the many talented individual writers.

Part of the lack of time is that I am leaving my current job to pursue a terminal degree in criminal justice. It is will not be an easy task, but I welcome the challenge--especially when the institution offered me a job and to pay for the schooling.

Related to my new "career", I recently spent a day in Big City observing police officers for a crime research project.

The following post is part one of that experience.


"Take a deep breath. Connect the Velcro straps and ensure a snug fit. Exhale." I thought to myself.

It had been nine years since I had done this--wear a ballistic vest. No thick trauma plate in the front with this body armor, but still as uncomfortable as I remember.

After tucking in my shirts to conceal the vest, I instinctively reached to check my belt. Nothing was there. No Glock pistol. No portable radio. No Freeze-Plus-P chemical spray.

My right forearm wanted to rest on an invisible expandable baton on the right of my belt. With my uniform arrangement I always placed the leather baton holder on the right-front, but it was not there either. My arm kept dropping down.

I felt naked. Naked on the Westside of Big City.

When I arranged for the police observation, I was shocked. Why do I need body armor for this?

My thoughts were interrupted by fellow student and a former Adjacent Big City officer Edward's concerned voice:

"I have had trouble getting in here. The officers are mistrustful of riders after a bad experience with a student observer. Hopefully, our policing experience will put them ease."

We enter the precinct doors and speak to a desk sergeant. "The Lieutenant will be with you guys in a little while," she directs and moves over to a man standing next to us wanting to file an assault report.

After 40 minutes, the sergeant takes us through the secured door to the Lt.'s office. He is a man of average height and weight. On the walls are the usual cop items for commanders--certificates, awards, and pictures of Big City Department's chief and other brass.

On the wall next to a desktop computer (that does not look heavily used) is the picture of the Lt.--as a younger man smiling and sitting on a police motorcycle.

"You know the veteran officers would never agree to this," the Lt. states to Edward after a brief introduction. "The Captain had a talk with the new guys and we hope they will cooperate, but there is no guarantee."

Edward nods and thanks the Lt.for his efforts.

It is an odd situation since the chief of the department is the one who wanted this study conducted; yet, Edward and his student cohorts are made to feel like the bad guys.

With the observers placed with me back in the day, I had no choice in the matter. A supervisor would say this is "Citizen John" and he is with you tonight. Different times--more professional research I guess.

The Lt. assigns an officer to drive us to the zones that we will be observing.

That officer, named Jordan, sports a spotless uniform. He is polite, but does not say much to us as we exit the precinct parking lot. He later mentions that he recently returned from a tour in Iraq.

A blast of hot air hits me in the face as the driver accelerates--reminding me that there will be little relief for vest wearers today in the scorching summer heat.


I'll finish this post next time.


angelcel said...

What fantastic news and a great new direction for you. Well done...I hope it all goes well (as I'm sure it will) and I hope too that you'll still have time to at least keep us posted on your progress. :)

J. J. in Phila said...

It looks good.

In my youth, I had a few chances to ride as an observer in a very small town. It was interesting.

CK Lunchbox said...

I kind of know what you're saying. I strapped on my old LBE equipment from my time in the Army. Suddenly, I found myself tucking in straps and checking pockets and pouches--mentally going over the my pre-patrol checklist. I miss that.

Congrats on the going after the degree.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Wow! Congrats on your new venture! That's awesome...and scary, I am sure.

In my younger years, I had a strange, sordid experience with a ride-along, the details of which I will omit because...why re-live it? The real point is: the experience contributed to my distrust of police, which I have mostly succeeded in overcoming in recent years. This is a good thing since I respect officers and their willingness to put their lives on the line. But the experience also made me realize there ARE bad cops out there, just like there are bad people in every profession. I would prefer not to meet any more bad cops, however.

Some day, perhaps I will be able to go for a "normal" ride-along and learn what I wanted to learn those many years ago.

mrs. fuzz said...

Very cool and exciting opportunity you have here! I'm anxious to hear much more through the days, weeks, and months! You'll do well I'm sure. And that's awesome having school paid for.

Natalie said...

This story actually reminds me of the misc stories from True Blue organized by Sgt. Randy Sutton. Good luck with your new career choice!

The very few times my husband has been off-duty and NOT packing have been very uncomfortable for him because he's out of his element. The belt and gun are a part of him now (even if the belt off-duty is just a regular one), so I can't imagine how weird it is to go back "halfway" with just a vest and not the whole sha-bang. I look forward to the rest of the story!

Christopher said...

Congrats on your new direction.

I don't like giving ride alongs to people I don't know, but mostly because I feel so far removed from civilian life that I no longer remember what that side is like. So to me, this all seems routine, and I feel silly explaining what is to me mundane, to them, often exciting. Plus, you have to worry about someone else's safety, and that, in fact, impedes your own.

For some reason, though, the guys never complain when it's a female student...

torn blazer said...

Good luck with the degree

Stephanie Faris said...

Incredible writing. And what a great experience. I've always been fascinated by criminal justice workers...but it takes a special kind of person to work in that field. What an exciting adventure you're about to undertake!

J. J. in Phila said...

Congratulations on going after the degree. In your case, that would make it number four. :)

Sandra G. said...

Congrats on the new career change and the schooling.

It will be very interesting to hear about your observations given you have experience as an officer. I'm looking forward to your future posts.

mappchik said...

Wow - big changes afoot.

Congrats on the new endeavor. I'm looking forward to reading about your new (and deja vu) experiences, when you have time to write.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks all for the kind words.

Christopher: My legs are def not up to par.

JJ: Yes, a collection that either means lifelong learner or extreme money waster.