A Rookie’s Tale

By by Kimberly B. Owens/compiled by John Wills

To say I was gullible early in my career would be an understatement.

As I moved up through the ranks, I had to grow up and wise up. Still, those early times continue to leave me with fond memories that I share when reflecting on my career.
I was fortunate to have worked with trainers and partners whom I greatly admired and trusted, sometimes to my embarrassment. They convinced me to do some of the dumbest things, that, although somewhat perturbing at the time, still make me chuckle today. I invite you to laugh with and at me as I paint myself as the quintessential Keystone Cop.

During my first phase of field training, I had a fabulous field training officer named Steve. I think it was his goal in life to see what he could get me to do, regardless of how off the wall it seemed. Sometimes, against my better judgment, I did the things he told me to do because I rationalized that it must be my job, right?

We all know it’s the rookie’s job to be alert and listen to the radio at all times. Getting used to that job can be horrible, particularly with Metallica blaring on the good time radio while trying not to spill Steve’s dip cup as he tells me to drive faster. We made our nightly trip to the 7 Eleven for drinks and extra napkins, for the free dip cup, and of course, I had to pee. For those who don’t know, peeing in uniform is a feat in itself for a woman. There is no zip and go, but rather one must undress and hope nothing touches the nasty bathroom floor where half the drunks in town have spit, peed, vomited, and done God knows what else. And don’t forget, you have to hover over the seat while trying to accomplish all this.
As I hovered and held things, the dispatcher called “371,” our unit number, over the radio and gave us a call. I waited for Steve to answer; surely he knew I was performing a circus act in here. Crickets. The dispatcher calls again. Cursing, I fumble for the radio, cut off my stream (ouch), and answer. She gave us the call. I hurriedly dressed, and stomped out to the car, only to see Steve sitting there laughing so hard he almost had tears in his eyes. I got in the car, flung a few nasty words his way and backed out. While still laughing, the jerk had the nerve to say, “I couldn’t even hear you pee.”

Knowing Steve had an evil sense of humor, and remember, I’m gullible, I continued to trust him and do what he told me. Spring was in full swing, bugs were out and about by the thousands, including crickets. I hated having any kind of bug jump on me. Girly? Yes, but still a fact. Steve and I responded to an alarm call at an area church. He drove and I got out and checked the doors as he circled the building. We came around to the well-lit parking lot, which had attracted hundreds of bugs. The concrete was literally black from all of the bugs, almost like a blanket had covered the parking lot.

Steve drove up to the main doors and told me to put a false alarm notification on the door. I asked if he was serious—he was. I told him I was not getting out of the car. He told me that I was because policy required we leave the notification. I asked him to do it, but he quickly reminded me that I was the one in training not him. As I looked out the window I told him the bugs would jump on me so I couldn’t do it. He assured me they wouldn’t, that they would all run away when I stepped out. I asked if he was sure because it would freak me out if those crickets jumped on me. He replied that it would be all right and not to worry.

Stupid me, I trusted him and stepped out of the car. Yep, what felt like millions of crickets swarmed, attacked, and violently assaulted me. At least that’s how I felt. I screamed and jumped around like a nut in the parking lot and tried to get back in the car. The jerk locked the door and wouldn’t let me in until I put the notification on the church door. I ran through the mine field mauled by bugs to put the damn sticker on the door. I stuck it as firmly as I could, knowing it would take razors and massive elbow grease to remove. Yes it was a church, but those were their bugs, right?

I streaked back to the car and found Steve laughing like a hyena as he finally allowed me back inside. I was furious and dove into the car, cussing him and calling him every name in the book. He told me I did a good job, and I asked him why he wouldn’t help me. I reminded him that he told me it wouldn’t happen. He laughed and said he knew it would, but he didn’t help because he wouldn’t step out and let them jump on him. I asked what would have happened had I not been there to do it. The jerk told me, “Hell, I would have just driven off and not left anything.” Ass!

Finally, after several months, I completed training in one piece. I was then assigned to work with a fabulous partner named Jim. He was fun, got along with everyone, and had a great sense of humor, one that was often directed at me. Jim taught me the art of talking people into jail rather than fighting with them, and how to chase stolen cars. He was one of the few people who didn’t scare the living crap out of me when he drove fast and chased cars.

When we first started riding together, Jim and I were assigned to an alarm call at a junkyard. We already knew how well those calls go for me. It was pouring rain when we pulled up and saw the place was surrounded by a six foot fence. The building whose alarm was ringing was located in the middle of the yard. I asked Jim how we checked on a place with a fence we couldn’t get through. He said we had to climb the fence and inspect the building to see if it was secure.

I sat there because I wasn’t fool enough to get out in the monsoon. I had to figure out how this was going to happen. I’m smaller so Jim said I had to be the one to climb the fence. I let him know that climbing fences wasn’t exactly my forte, but he said he would help. I asked if we could just leave and write a report stating that we couldn’t access the location. “No,” he said. Jim insisted we had to make sure it hadn’t been burglarized.
“Fine,” I replied. He told me he would help me. I asked how I would get back over when I finished checking the building, and he said he would help pull me back.

The plan was that he would pull the car against the fence; I would stand on the hood and be able to reach the fence. He pulled up and parked the front bumper against the fence. I got out in the freaking rain and climbed on the car. As I reached up to grab the fence, I slid off the hood and fell against the fence with my foot wedged in the buddy bumper. Jim jumped out, burst out laughing and said he would help get my foot loose. His brilliant idea was to get in the car and back up so my foot would come out. Rather than listen to my pleas to him not to try that, the car was thrown in reverse and my foot did come loose. Of course, as he dragged my butt with the car I couldn’t hold on to the fence any longer and fell right on my rear in the mud. I got in the car and said it was his turn, I was done. With the car still rolling, Jim told me that he wasn’t climbing the fence. “We can just do a report that we couldn’t get inside to check,” he said and drove off!

Jim and I were partners for a while. Time with him was a riot. He continued to play jokes on me, embarrass me, and make me laugh at myself and everyone else. In hindsight, my favorite Jim moment happened one night when we made a traffic stop. I drove that night and Jim did the paperwork. The driver of the car we pulled over had warrants and we arrested him without incident. Jim sat in the car with the driver and completed the book-in paperwork while I searched the vehicle. There were no problems until I searched the trunk.

The car had a sloped trunk, similar to a hatchback, except it didn’t open into the backseat like a hatchback. The trunk wouldn’t stay up, but there was a wooden pole the driver used to hold it open. I tried to prop the trunk open with the pole but dropped it into the trunk, which was very deep. I leaned into the trunk to retrieve the pole while I held the lid up. As I leaned further into the trunk, I lost my balance and fell inside, losing my grip on the lid. The lid came down on me, pushed me further into the trunk, closed on my ankles, and left only my feet sticking out. The trunk was so deep, I couldn’t get enough leverage to push myself up or push the trunk lid up. I yelled and kicked my feet, hoping Jim would come and, yes, I will say it, rescue me.

Nothing. And after several minutes I tried figuring a way out of my seemingly hopeless situation. I decided if I could get completely inside the trunk I could stand up and push the lid open. Apparently my socks, boots, or perhaps my shoelaces were caught on the trunk latch, and I couldn’t move forward. I was basically hanging upside down inside the trunk at this point. Finally, I struggled, kicked enough to move the lid, and was able to kick, push the lid, and inch backwards a little at a time. I worked my way back until I could get leverage to open the lid and get out of the guy’s stinky car.

I stomped back to our car and asked Jim why he didn’t see me. I found him sitting in the car, laughing, tears streaming down his face. I yelled and demanded an explanation. He quit laughing, turned to me with a straight face said, “I had a prisoner in the car and couldn’t leave him,” and burst out laughing again.

I yelled, “&*!@ you,” and got back in the car to wait on the wrecker.

Needless to say, I’ve grown older, moved up in rank, and hopefully become a little wiser. Looking back though, those times were the most fun I’ve ever had. My war stories always seem to involve the group of guys I worked with for years on nights, which included Steve and Jim. We were a close-knit, specialized unit that focused on narcotics, high crime areas, and illegal nightclub operations. We worked hard and we had fun. I was treated like the little sister, and no matter what they did to me (these stories were just the tip of the iceberg) nobody was even allowed to look crossed-eyed at me without having to answer to one of them. Those guys taught me how to laugh at myself and have fun doing it. How much fun would life be if we couldn’t do that?