The Rookie’s First Stolen Vehicle
Jeff is new to our department and graduated from the academy about six months ago. He did well but had a bit of trouble with academics. He still managed to make it through with a 79 average. I will never hold my 96 over his head unless it’s to say, “That’s why I’m the detective.” I use this line on all the guys when they think they’re too smart for their britches.
Jeff received a call for a possible stolen vehicle at our small, but well stocked grocery store. I was in the office and the only supervisor on duty (no raise for this, no stripes, just more work) I could see his excitement and decided to let him handle it on his own.
Jeff ran out the door like he was heading to an active shooter. I smiled.
He radioed from the scene and put out an ATL (attempt to locate) on the missing car. His voice was excited but professional. The stolen vehicle was a gold, four-door, 2010 Buick Allure, possibly heading east. I decided to take a drive around the outskirts of town just in case. Unfortunately, I had no luck but it felt good to get away from my office and report writing.
Just as I put my signal on to re-enter the police department parking lot, I heard Jeff call over the radio that he was doing a “high risk” stop on the stolen vehicle. I pulled back into traffic, activated my lights, and sped to his location. My “fan” beside his vehicle was training perfect and I let him continue the lead.
With both of us positioned; driver’s doors open, sitting in the “V”, and guns drawn… we were ready. Jeff used his radio’s loudspeaker to give directions.
“Put your hands up where I can see them.”
Small, tentative hands went into the air. I started thinking we had a young juvenile car thief on our hands.
“Using your left hand only, open your car door and push it wide with your foot.”
The door opened and a slender leg with a high heeled foot pushed the door. The driver’s head turned around and Joleen from the sheriff’s office looked back at us. She wasn’t happy.
“Umm Officer Davis, I yelled, That’s Joleen.”
“I don’t know her last name but she works at the sheriff’s office.”
“Well she’s in a stolen car.”
“There might be another explanation.”
“The car’s stolen and she’s driving it.”
“Okay, it’s your call but don’t get trigger happy.” He was a rookie after all and I had to say something.
He continued his instructions, “Using your left hand, turn off the vehicle, and toss your keys out the door.”
I could hear the frustration in her voice, “My vehicle’s already off. What’s going on?” she yelled back.
Jeff didn’t miss a beat, “Take them out of the ignition, and toss them outside the vehicle.”
An angry hand threw the keys quite a distance away. Joleen had a pretty good arm.
Jeff went by the book and eventually Jollen was walking slowly toward us.
I only waited until she was at the halfway point, “Hi Joleen, it’s Suzie, the vehicle you’re driving was reported stolen.”
“It’s my neighbor’s vehicle. Mine broke down and she said I could use it to go to the store for milk.”
“Who’s your neighbor?”
“Michelle Rankin.” I knew Michelle.
“Jeff, who does this vehicle come back to?”
My detective brain gears turned quickly. “What color is the vehicle you borrowed Joleen?”
“Jeff, was there another gold vehicle in the parking lot near where Mr. Barley’s vehicle was parked?”
“Yes, but it was a few spaces away.”
“Did it look like this one?”
“Joleen, are you armed?”
“Then put your arms down.”
She continued walking to us and I got out of my car. I saw Jeff’s gun following her. “Jeff, put your gun away.”
Joleen began shaking and I thought she was going to cry. “Did you leave the keys in the vehicle when you went inside Joleen?”
“You know you took the wrong car.”
“I just figured that out.” I smiled which caused her to finally break down in tears. Jeff wasn’t sure what to do.
We called Mr. Barley and his wife drove him to our location. He drove away in his car after Joleen removed her milk and apologized profusely. Mr. Barley laughed and gave her a hug. I let her ride in my passenger seat and took her back to Michelle’s vehicle which, thank god, was still in the parking lot.
Poor Jeff, this is his rookie mistake and he’ll never live it down. I know it sounds like I live in Mayberry R.F.D. and some days it feels like it. If you didn’t know, R.F.D. stands for Rural Free Delivery or in my wishful thinking, Rookie Free Departments.
The picture above is a 2010 Buick Allure (Mr. Barley’s vehicle) and the one here is a 2004 Chevy Malibu (Michelle’s vehicle) but please, I’m no longer a rookie and would have solved this case in minutes because I would have run the plate of the other gold vehicle. I stopped believing in coincidence after my first year on the job.
I bet Jeff does the same thing but then again, that’s why I’m the detective.