Working in law enforcement brings you up close and personal with death. My first dead body came about six months into my career. I was working alone, on the day shift, when I was dispatched to a welfare check for an elderly man who had been out of contact with his relatives for several days.
I drove to the house and knocked on the door. No one answered even after heavy pounding. The front windows were completely blocked by heavy drapes but I could hear the faint murmur of voices. It sounded like a television or radio. I decided to walk around the house and try and see inside.
The front bedroom window was cracked open about two inches and my nose gave me the first clue that I would not interrupt Mr. Roberts’ afternoon siesta. I had never smelled a dead body but was told it was an odor I would identify immediately. Truer words were never spoken.
I did what every rookie officer should do in this situation, I called my supervisor. Sgt. Spears told me he was about two hours from town and explained what I needed to do before he hung up.
I walked around the house, looking for a way to enter. I tried all the doors but they were locked. I went back to the slightly opened window, removed the screen and slid the glass pane wide open. I hoisted myself onto the window’s ledge and squeezed inside.
I found Mr. Roberts in the living room, on the couch, slumped against the cushions. His fixed eyes were staring at the television. I was scientifically examining his remains when the body moved. Air was expelled and bubbles came out his nose. I jumped back about five feet. I had no idea what was happening and quickly called my boss again.
Sgt. Spears patiently explained that gases were leaving the body and this was normal. He told me to look around for Mr. Roberts’ identification. I hung up the phone and removed my eyes from the activity on the couch. I noticed a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade on the floor next to the body. I love Mike’s Hard Lemonade and even with Mr. Roberts’ odor, I couldn’t believe the waste. Three of the bottles were empty and three were open and half full.
I shook my head and radioed dispatch requesting that they notify the coroner and mortuary of the death. I found the wallet in the master bedroom and was grateful it was not in Mr. Roberts’ back pocket. I wrote down his date of birth and other information. I was notified by dispatch that the coroner was on hold so I called in and was phone patched with Dr. Thomas. I gave him a list of medications I had found on the kitchen counter and the prescribing doctor’s name.
Dr. Thomas gave me a time of death for my report and then our short conversation ended. I took pictures of the scene and retrieved a death form and body tag from my vehicle. I began filling them out while waiting for the mortuary personnel to arrive.
The mortician arrived alone and I was asked to help straightened Mr. Roberts’ body from his sitting position and then assist in rolling him into a white zippered bag. We moved the coffee table and I picked up the six-pack with yellow filled liquid, bringing it up to my face. I examined it closely, again wondering why he only drank half the bottles contents. I saw the mortician give me an odd look so I placed the bottles out of our way. We moved the gurney next to the couch and hoisted the body up, strapped it in and then covered it with a blue velvet drape. The mortician wheeled Mr. Roberts out the front door.
I fixed the window screen and made sure the house was locked tight. As I was pulling the front door closed, Sgt. Spears arrived. He walked back inside with me and I told him about my conversations with the coroner and mortician as he looked around the scene.
We finally made our way back toward the front door. I picked the Mike’s up from the floor and said, “I can’t believe he left these three bottles half filled. What a waste.”
Sgt. Spears started laughing. There were tears running down his face as he looked at me holding the six-pack. I could barely understand him when he said, “Officer Ivy, you drink the alcohol and then piss in the bottles.”
I guess this is a guy thing. Thank goodness Mike’s has progressed to other flavors in their product line. I no longer drink the hard lemonade. It’s a Suzie Ivy thing.
I’ve always been proud of my patience and ability to hold my temper in check. Rarely do I cross the line and let emotion overrule my better judgment. I do have a breaking point but most people don’t see it. A “drunk” by the name of Mark Michaels is one of the unlucky few.
Mark came to Small Town for a disorderly conduct court appearance due to shenanigans he committed outside our city limits. He calls himself a drunk. He’s proud of it and will happily tell you so. I soon learned to call him a pain in my ass. In my opinion, the only redeeming quality Mark had was his best friend Chip, a smart mutt with absolute love for his owner.
Our winters in Small Town can be downright frigid. Mark arrived with a tent, thinking to camp in our RV park until he was through with the court system. After one night, he realized his plan was flawed. During his court appearance, he begged the judge to place him in jail. The judge refused.
My first encounter with Mark was later that same day. He decided if the judge would not help his cause, he would take matters into his own hands. He went to a small convenience store, bought and drank two forty ounce beers, and then proceeded to cause a scene.
I was filling in for patrol while two of our officers were at a week-long training. When I arrived, Mark asked what it took to get arrested in Small Town. I told him it was his lucky day.
A kind-hearted citizen said she would take Chip while Mark was in jail. Mark went willingly and I was thankful his alcohol level did not keep him from being accepted by detention (we don’t have a drink tank).
Mark was let out the next day. His pleas for “three hots and a cot” were again ignored by the judge. Mark retrieved Chip and then found another store to sell him alcohol. After drinking enough to sink a ship, he walked to our local library. Mark became unruly when politely told he could not take Chip inside. He decided the library was being uncooperative so he sat in the doorway and refused to let anyone pass.
I arrived and took Mark into custody. I notified animal control and had Chip transported to our city kennel. Mark kicked and yelled because I did not try to locate our tender hearted citizen to take custody of his dog. I ignored his death threats, trying to explain Chip would be fine and nothing would happen to him while in our care. Mark was not pacified.
At the jail, he refused to get out of my car. With my patience at an end, I told him I would pull him out by his legs if he didn’t cooperate. He got out, took two steps and dropped to his knees, saying he was not going with me. I had to drag him to the secondary entry doors.
I pressed the intercom button and asked for the portable breath testing unit (PBT). Mark refused to take the test. With the help of detention officers, Mark was held down and the test was administered. As luck would have it, his breath alcohol level was too high to be admitted to jail without medical clearance. Being the only officer on duty and the closest hospital thirty miles away, I wrote Mark a citation and told him he could pick up Chip when he was sober.
I had the guard open the main door, removed the handcuffs and told Mark to start walking. He continued to yell and threaten me as he resisted going through the door. I had to bodily shove him out. I was hoping he would walk the booze off and that I would be off duty when he sobered up.
Mark staggered away and came up with a grand solution to his problems, deciding to take his complaints to the judge. Due to threatening the courthouse guards, his demands were ignored.
I was behind on paperwork and had just sat down at my desk when I was dispatched to the courthouse for a disorderly male subject. Being a detective, I put two and two together and then practiced slow breathing during my drive to pick up Mark.
My breathing technique did little good and when I deposited Mark in our interview room, I gave him the option of sitting on a chair or the floor. I also told him to vomit in the garbage can if he felt the need. I slammed the door as I left the room.
I entered my office and monitored Mark on a viewing screen. I was hoping to get at least a small amount of paperwork completed. I tried to ignore the yelling.
“I’m a veteran, don’t I deserve honor for serving this country? How dare you treat me this way! You’re nothing but a dog killing un-American bitch.”
On it went.
My Chief heard the commotion and came to my office to check things out. We watched as Mark fell off the chair and began screaming because he managed to get one cuff under a leg and now had the cuffs pressuring his crotch when he tried to stand. Shaking his head, the Chief left the room. Mark was my problem.
I forced myself to go back to the interview room to keep Mark from castrating himself. Once I walked in, his yelling stopped. He agreed to be nice if I placed the handcuffs in front of him and then begged me not to leave him alone in the small room.
Those were the words that got to me. “Please don’t leave me alone.” My anger completely deflated. I called animal control and asked to have Chip brought over.
I made some more phone calls and found someone willing to drive Mark back to his house, forty miles from town, where he eagerly told me he lived. I contributed $20 for gas.
Before his ride arrived, I took him out of handcuffs and we went outside so he could smoke a cigarette and play with Chip. As we stood there, Mark reminisced about being in the military and the first Gulf War. He then spoke of his thirty year old daughter who couldn’t handle his drinking. He hadn’t seen her in many years though he remembered her as the sweetest and prettiest baby in the world. He told me about finding Chip as a puppy and their years together.
I asked about his next court date and made it clear I was requesting vacation during that time. Laughing, Mark said he wouldn’t be alive much longer due to hepatitis C and I didn’t need to worry. Mark’s ride came and I waved as he and Chip drove away.
Six days later, on Thanksgiving morning, I went and picked up coffee and donuts for our dispatchers (they are way underappreciated for the job they do). I sat with them and listened as they performed their duties.
A detective called from the next county asking if we had any dealings with a Mark Michaels. The dispatcher asked if he was drunk again. The detective said, “No, he’s dead and we’re trying to locate family.”
The phone was handed to me. A well-meaning couple found Mark in a homeless shelter and wanted to share their thanks by giving him a bed for the night. They took him to their house but first gave him money for a six pack of beer. Mark drank his last taste of alcohol in a warm room, lying on a soft bed.
The next morning they found Mark’s body. He was fifty-one years old. Chip was not with him. The homeless shelter does not take dogs and they never saw a sign of Mark’s loyal friend. I searched and checked local pounds and animal shelters for months but Chip was never located.
I learn so many life lessons while doing my job. They are not all sweet and cuddly or have happy endings. I sometimes need to be reminded that we are human beings. I’ve grown angry since Mark died but I count to ten and think of a cold lonely soldier with nowhere to go and his only friend, a dog named Chip.
Detective Ivy signing off.
When I install someone into county jail, the booking sheet asks me to identify scars, marks and tattoos. I’ve often wondered why criminals mark themselves with identifying tattoos. This isn’t a complaint; it takes some of the guess-work out of my job.
We have a dirt bag (sorry he earned the title) in town that had the great idea to tattoo an ace of spades on his cheek many years ago. I’m sure you can understand why we call him Spade.
He’s known for petty crime throughout Small Town. I love when I arrive at the call and an ace of spades tattoo can be seen on the surveillance video as well as identified by every person present at the time of the crime.
I drive to Spade’s latest crash pad and pick him up. He always denies any involvement.
This has become our routine:
“Hi Spade, you know why I’m here.”
“No man, what you want?”
“I want the bottle of Jim Beam that you just lifted from Quick Stop.”
“No man, I didn’t finger nothing.”(The smell of whiskey permeates the air every time he opens his mouth).
“Look Spade, you know what’s going to happen now.”
“Yeah, I’m going to jail for somethin I didn’t do.”
“Yep, it must have been the other guy with an ace of spades on his face.”
“Yeah man, I think there’s peoples impersonatin me.”
He could be right. If I was going to commit crime in Small Town, the first thing I would do is place a temporary tattoo of the ace of spades on my cheek.
One day while escorting Spade to his new crash pad with bars, I asked about his tattoo. He told me his brother did the art for him and then Spade tattooed an ace of hearts on his brother’s cheek. He then told me his brother lived about thirty miles from us in Small Town #2.
As soon as Spade was booked into jail, I called the detective of Small Town #2 to see if he interacted with a guy marked with an ace of hearts.
“Yeah, Sweet Heart’s a small time shit bag. Is he causing trouble in your neck of the woods?”
“No, his brother has the ace of spades on his cheek and I just wondered if your ace is as bad as mine.”
What more is there to say but thank you to all the criminals that make my job easier.
Life has been changing at Small Town PD. I’ve complained of budget cuts and so on but we finally realized something had to give. Our officers were facing burnout and complete dissatisfaction with a job we needed to at least like.
I’m now back in uniform, working nights and having a blast. I’ve been given my own squad and I love every minute of it.
When my Police Chief offered me the position it came with the title of Sergeant. I was ecstatic. I could see it in lights, “The Bad Luck Sergeant.”
Four weeks ago, I started as the acting supervisor for Squad “B”. I have a great team and they have bent over backwards to get my street smarts up to par. During the past three years, I’ve filled in for daytime patrol but night duty and the traffic beat are a different story. I’m now practicing night shooting, clearing abandoned buildings and learning to work with a team. Awesome doesn’t quite describe it.
Unfortunately, our city council sees no reason to give me a promotion to fit my new job description and they have final say. I was left with a dilemma.
Police Departments are a paramilitary organization. Title and rank hold power.
I’ve never been a typical cadet, officer or detective. It looks as if I won’t be a standard supervisor either. I spoke to my squad and they all said to hell with it. They have begun calling me “boss.” I’m so thankful for their attitudes and willingness to follow me without stripes on my shoulder. Squad B rocks!
Jim is now my squad car partner. We will ride together for two months and then I will join another officer on my team. I’ve never worked with Jim and we were both a bit leery. Detectives are notoriously known for their laziness. Jim’s first words to me when I joined him in his car were, “We can look at frogs and rabbits all night or we can do some real police work.” These past two days Jim and I have arrested ten people. This has involved three DUI’s, a high speed car chase ending with the driver running on foot, Jim tackling and me Tasing. We’ve also had a drunken brawl and an idiot trying to sell a bag of marijuana at the corner store parking lot. The jail booking officers just shake their head and ask how many.
Jim’s best quality is his K-9 sidekick Astro.
Astro is a black lab trained to sniff out drugs. He is beautiful, courageous and smart. With Astro’s help, I landed my first major cocaine bust two weeks ago.
Astro loves Tasers. Not the volts but the laser light. He chases the light around the squad room playing his K-9 version of search, pounce, and destroy. The guys thought it hilarious when they pointed the laser up my leg to about thigh level. Astro took me to the ground flat on my ass. The laughter continued for an hour. I guess it’s a guy thing.
I’ve spent this past week working with my own dog Charlie. She’s a one hundred and sixty pound Rottweiler that can only sniff out food. I give her treats for chasing the laser light. I’m having a squad barbeque next weekend. Charlie and I are ready. It will be hard but I’ll try to resist pointing my laser at certain male anatomy. I swear.
My chief has told me not to give up hope. He’s planning to bring my position back before the city council. He’s been talking one on one with the council members and trying to swing things our way. I’ve decided The “Bad Luck Boss” doesn’t sound so bad and I’m willing to wait. As long as my team sticks together, we can handle anything.
PS. The picture above is Charlie on my king size bed. She’s the size of a moose with the demeanor of a bunny rabbit.
Sergeant Boss Ivy signing off