The fog was blowing through the neighborhood as it often does in the Berkeley Hills. As I park, I wonder how raccoons got in the shower stall. I popped the trunk and grabbed the “come along”. I have gotten some considerable crap from colleagues for using PC language. A City of Berkeley Animal Services Officer (aka Animal Control Officer) had told me that the catch pole was actually called a “come along.” I will leave it alone and get on with the story.
The door to the home was ajar and as I climbed the front steps, an older man appeared in the doorway. He spoke before I had a chance to introduce myself. “I have told the house cleaners to secure the wIndows. They are dears, really, so they were just trying to freshen the air, I’m sure.” He continued, his speech becoming more rapid, “I didn’t know who else to call. I had such a fright! Please come in, come in. The other officers are this way.”
I stepped over the threshold and surveyed the room. Impeccable. The floor was covered with beautiful Persian rugs. The thought of walking across them with my work boots (God knows what was stuck in the tread at the moment) made me cringe.
We got to the bathroom and the officers turn to me, one shrugging and the other trying not to laugh. There they were. Three raccoons busily walking around on the tile floor of the shower stall stopping once in awhile to look at us through the glass.
Ok. Here to solve a problem. Raccoons barricaded in shower. Trapped in shower? What page of policy or procedures covers this? Actually, these kooky calls make the work challenging. We could lock these buggers in there for the night, hope they climb back out the way they… Wait they can’t climb tile. Did they tumble in? One after the other? Like I was saying, solve the problem.
Over the years, we have had these gray wool blankets to give to the homeless on cold nights. I always took a few. I fetched them from the trunk of my patrol car and headed back into the house. My plan was to crack the shower door, slide the come along/catch pole in, get the first one, pull it out of the stall without letting the other two out to wreck havoc in the terrified man’s clean fancy home… Insert breath here — then place the squirming, screaming animal on the homeless blanket. Then the catch pole officer and the blanket officer would dash, drag and slide as fast as they/we could over the wood floor, the Persian rugs, then up and over the threshold and down the front steps where we would set the raccoon free.
We would do this three times. We’ll be out of here in no time. Sure, Mary. Think again. The raccoons kept tucking their chins. Had they been through this before? Were they smarter than we thought? I would dangle that wire loop at the end of the pole close to one of their faces and… Tuck. Try the other raccoon. Tuck. Hover over the group. All Tuck. You gotta be kidding me. I started to laugh. Then I snorted. Yup, a big snort. A pig snort. (pun intended) You know it. That noise that happens when you certainly don’t plan for it or expect it. After awhile, one of the officers said, “They are messing with us. Don’t ya think?!” Yes. This will be a test of wills. Of patience. Of perserverence. We had no choice. This community member was counting on us. We took turns. We changed roles. We tried different angles with the furry tuckers. It took us far longer than expected, but eventually the three raccoons ran off into the night.
As we were bidding good night to the homeowner, one of the officers suddenly ran off. He returned out of breath. “I almost forgot to close that bathroom window!” “Oh my…imagine.”, the man said.
Yes. Oh my.
Better than the Alternative
Did I forget spit?
A voice in the high school crowd yells “Killer Pig!” Whoever it was is wedged in the group as some laugh and others hold up their iPhones. I imagine they are hoping to capture an officer’s (my) profane reaction or maybe my patrol car screeching to a stop. I offer the unexpected. I smile and drive away.
I have always tried to share to my team that words can’t hurt us. It is the hands. Watch the hands. It’s the guns, knives, fists (Insert all weaponry here >>> x) Don’t forget that the majority of those we meet are in some sort of crisis. They are full of rage, grief, fear, anxiety… (Insert range of emotions here >>>x )
I feel I don’t lose much to allow someone to vent at me. I know I have avoided many a fight, resistance or a few melees. Maybe even a few sticks, stones, bottles and bricks. Did I mention spit?
In recent months, perhaps due to the current national climate about police officers, seems individuals or groups feel more confident to yell at me as I move about Berkeley. Maybe because of my longevity in the job or lack of sleep or not enough sustenance or not wearing sensible shoes or my pants feel a bit tight today or… Ok, ok, I digress… I notice that certain things that community members utter under their breaths or shout across the street do hit some sensitive spots in me. No, I don’t shed my humanity and don a uniform of… (Insert generalizations of cops here >>>x)
I loathe being called ignorant or uneducated. I spent valuable time and considerable money to get a college education. In fact, at one time, my agency was the only one in the country that required a 4 year degree. We all know that a BA or BS, MA, JD or PhD doesn’t necessarily equal smart. It’s not just that. I pride myself in being a life long learner. I read. I write. Hey, I even do arithmetic.
I also despise being labeled a killer. Sure, I have squished a spider or two over the years. I have eradicated snails from my gardens. I do pray that I get through my career without shooting anyone. Yes, I have come close a few times. Most officers I know and talk to hope they too are never in the position to take anyone’s life.
I am not an uneducated killer.
I try my darnedest not to swear, curse or use profanity when I am working. I am generally not a big curser. There are those moments when…well, things happen.
The woman who owned the home was clever enough to lock herself in the upstairs bathroom with her phone. She called 911 after she heard glass breaking in her dining room.
In recent years she lived alone, so she lined her windowsills with small figurines, colored bottles and assorted glass bowls filled with marbles. If someone climbed in a window, surely;
1. The clink, crash and smash would alert her.
2. Or better yet, the intruder would back out and run away.
We had the house surrounded. The beat officer and I were at the front door. The dispatcher was relaying what the homeowner was hearing. “Now she hears what sounds like scampering in the dining room.” Scampering?! If I wasn’t so focused, I may have laughed. All of us could hear this burglar moving through the downstairs maybe trying to find an escape. We watched as the knob of the door began to turn. Oh this was dramatic. Oops the peephole in the old wooden door may have given us away. The knob stopped turning. I heard noises to the side of the house. I ran that way just as a male leapt out the dining room window onto the grass. He fell momentarily, then headed to the fence. His fall gave me a tiny advantage. I ran after him trying to say something intelligible on the radio. “Stop! Police! ” (By the way, this rarely works.) This guy was motivated. He jumps onto the metal fence and starts to climb. I reach out and all I can grab is the back of his tee shirt. “Get down you (here is where the profanity comes in) “Get down you Mo***r F**c*r!” I pulled and the guy’s shirt ripped off like one of the Chippendales.” (This reference would be lost on some of my younger team members now.)
I tossed the shirt aside and grabbed the back of his pants. (I will have him unclothed in no time! Naw…) It was time for a dog pile. All of the officers came dashing over and knocked both the suspect and me on the ground.
When we stood him up, I recognized him as a prolific burglar. This was a fine team effort and a safe success.
As I walked to my car to get some wipes for the grass stains on the palms on my hands, I saw them. The small crowd of neighbors gathered across the street. There they were all lined up in bathrobes and slippers, some carrying stuffed animals. Oh sh*t.
A woman spoke first, “We heard someone yelling. It woke us up and well, is everything ok?!” My head was spinning. I started to formulate my explanations for MF’ing. Oh, this is going to suck. I ambled over and asked if they wanted to know what happened. “Oh Yes.”
They moved in closer as I explained how the burglar was inside and… Their eyes widened as I edited for the kids and added some flair for the grown ups. Phew. No mention of any name calling. A lesson – you never know what might come out of your mouth in the heat of the moment and you never know who is listening.