Cop Tales

5-17-15

Foot Patrol Rules!

My first assignment fresh out of police academy was that of a Downtown Foot Patrol officer. I didn’t know this at the time, but the personnel assigned to the foot patrol were there under a Federal Grant. Later on as a supervisor, I became more familiar with how the city tried to attain Federal Grants to reduce their financial responsibilities with every conceivable aspect of policing within the parameters of the particular grants available. Maybe, within rural law enforcement agencies, this was not a normal practice as with major, metropolitan departments.

Back then, in the early 70s, Atlanta PD had two, foot patrol shifts covering the downtown business district with the appropriate number of supervisors to handle the day to day supervisory demands of the unit. The day shift worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the evening group covering 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. We had about forty or so officers and three supervisors on the day shift. The evening shift’s personnel numbers were somewhat less, as you would expect. Naturally, the primary need downtown for the foot patrol was an ample presence during the periods of the most activity… the day shift

As I look back and evaluate the various assignments I had, the internal question arises–which one was the best. It became apparent in pursuit of the answer that with every new assignment given, in some manner, it became the best to date. This may sound wishy-washy to you but not really. After seven years or so as a police officer of no rank, I was fortunate enough to begin ascending the ladder of supervision. With the new ranks came different assignments but with other added responsibilities. This partially explains my answer.

But, if pressed to provide a definitive response to this, I’d have to go back to the beginning, and report that the Downtown Foot Patrol years were tops.

Atlanta is a vibrant International city with a central business district that reflects the diversity of a great metropolis, and yes, I consider Atlanta to be such a city.

This duty was a dream come true. There was rarely a dull moment while walking the foot beat. Things were usually popping off there. You name it and it happened downtown. Street thieves, druggies, derelicts, pimps, prostitutes, street preachers, political activists, doctors, lawyers, beggars, college students, professors, intellectuals, the insane, blue collar workers, white collar swells, business owners, bankers, robbers, pickpockets, and all actors in-between, intermingled like the ingredients contained in vegetable soup. The pot simmered every shift while pounding out a beat on foot.

It’d be impossible to say for sure how many miles I walked patrolling the streets of Atlanta. A few of us decided to speculate how far we walked in an eight-hour shift. The consensus was that we traveled from six to ten miles every day at work. We literally walked everywhere after driving to our beats and parking our personal vehicles. Needless to say, as Miss Donna would attest, I wore shoes out like her baked brownies when she let her guard down.

I loved it!

This was what policing was all about. Daily you touched people’s lives. You were able to perform the job in a highly personal way. We came to know many of the regulars on our beats and that included those citizens that worked inside the high-rise buildings. Everyone came outside sooner or later.

There was plenty of police business for us there, as in locking folks up. Criminals in numbers were literally on every corner. I made more arrests as a downtown foot beat officer than all of my other assignments combined. That’s a fact. The cases ran the gamut also from the most heinous felonies to the simple drunk charges. That’s who occupied a large part of our duty time… alcoholics and other  drug users. You couldn’t let your guard down on foot patrol.

We had a damned ball while performing an important service to tens of thousands of honest citizens daily in Atlanta.

There were visitors all over downtown from around the globe. The major hotels in the business district stayed as busy as you can imagine. The older ‘dive’ hotels in other parts of the area were filled with a melting-pot of folks FROM down on their luck to just plain lawless.

This ENTIRE area was a thief’s dream, and we were there to nab the jerks before they got into your pocket. We tried, but as usual, the thugs had us at a big disadvantage. We had rules to play by, and they didn’t. As well, we were outnumbered.

There were two major bus station depots a long block from the main artery street that divided central downtown east and west, and that is Peachtree Street. Both bus depots, situated side by side, were hubs for activity, including crimes.

I grew up not a half-mile from downtown Atlanta, and I was raised to be comfortable like one of the wharf rats that knew what was what within the gutters of Atlanta. This area was my ‘briar patch’ as a child, and now, I was wearing a loaded gun and a badge and trying my hardest to apprehend as many of the bad rats, as possible.

I’m in no way stretching this, but we saw every type of crime you can imagine while working foot patrol… crimes from murders, rapes, robberies, car thefts, suicides (not crimes), aggravated assaults, assaults, thefts of every variety, fights, spousal and child abuse, to simple alcoholics and more. The joint was always hopping. It took four to six officers alone just to handle the daily arrests from all the shopping stores downtown. This was primarily what duty they performed for eight hours. They’d go back and forth from store to store and handle the incarceration process of shoplifters up and down the main corridor.

You could write as many parking violation tickets as you wanted. For a few this was their priority one. It was never mine. I sought the big game… real criminals.

We walked our beat in twos, with a partner. We needed this on foot patrol. Officers were killed on duty in Downtown Atlanta, and serious criminals were amongst us and the law-abiding of the city.

The area was also a magnet to every nut freshly fallen from the tree. I met more memorable characters working downtown than anywhere else while on the department.

A few such characters come to mind.

There was this street preacher who was out ministering every day… all day long right smack dab in the center of the central business district. I’ll spare you his name, but he had a common one. Preacher yelled his sermon as loudly as allowed non-stop for hours at a time. He had a following of somewhat suspect street urchins. These flock members were actually in need of mental help by professionals, but by and large, they were harmless.

One day, the preacher was gone. He wasn’t seen or more importantly heard for a few days, and the regular citizens within the entire area breathed a huge sigh of ocular relief. several of us in blue became a little worried about him… an ‘only curious’ kind of concern. Most of us had answered dozens of complaint calls about him over the months. He was generally exercising his free speech rights within the law, but at times, he pushed the borders of legality.

It was too good to be true. My partner and I, one day during the lunch period, were approached by two ‘suits,’ obviously, law enforcement and well-dressed guys like FBI or other Federals. Then, the IDs came out in unison, The United States Secret Service. They were actively searching for the missing street preacher.

Agent A stated, “Mr. X, whom you know as Preacher Y, is actually Mr. Z, and he’s made credible threats in writing to the safety of The President of The United States of America.” To which my partner said, “What the…” as I finished his statement and exclaimed, “Get the fudge outta here… Preacher Y?”

“Yes, men, that is correct, Mr. Z. Here’s his picture. Is this the man you know as Preacher Y?”

I answered for us, “Yep, that’s him.”

“Would you men come with us? Our vehicle is parked around the corner. Hopefully, you can help us locate this individual before he can act on his threats. We’ve been advised by your superiors that you would be able to locate him for us,” Agent B said, as he closed their case folder.

We climbed into their vehicle, and in about ten minutes, we had located the street preacher about five miles from his usual Bible-thumping spot. He had used this location in the past, as well as a few others around the area. We knew the previously-preached-from places to check.

The preacher was literally standing on the sidewalk outside the Federal Building where the Secret Service Agents worked. These guys must have walked or driven past him, as they exited their building. We snagged him, walked into their building and then, upstairs to their offices.

The preacher was gone for a long while, but months later, he returned to his usual pulpit. It took a while longer to gather his regular flock back. Evidently, he wasn’t too much of a credible threat. It was understandable that he had added another evil to preach against after his release, and that, was the Federal Government and the POTUS… Jimmy Carter.

Then there were the alcoholics… Nah, drunks. They were all over downtown begging everyone wearing clothing as well as a few drunk’s we snagged while begging the naked for some pocket change. They rode to jail together. Yep, more than few folks downtown loved to get naked amongst the crowds… under the day sky, as well as sometimes inside businesses.

We kept the city jail busy with these street dwellers who drank anything with a hint of alcohol contained within it. They begged for money from all, including us. I had several who I loaned money to, and these would always pay me back.

These guys and gals were something else. There were the fighters that wanted to kick butt whether drunk, drinking or sober. Then, there were those that fought and resisted us only if they were drunk. Fighting amongst themselves was routine, and when they took us on, well, know that they got thumped hard every time. Some we had to fight each time they were arrested.

We had regular drunks that were: PHDs, architects, ex-lawyers, doctors, teachers, college professors, a retired Major League Baseball star of the Dodgers and Mets, murderers (ex and current), past ( with some leaning toward active) robbers, rapists, burglars, con men, grifters, drifters, transients, old school hobo-types, pastors, knaves, and thieves.

More than a few had some of the saddest life stories you could imagine. We had tons of Veterans of wars that daily drank themselves senseless. Men and women that had lost their entire families in tragic events. It was not only depressing, but also heartbreaking.

More than a few of the regulars, and there were many of them, turned up dead from natural causes, their addiction, extreme weather conditions (frozen), killed by accident, or outright murdered for any number of ridiculous reasons.

Many of the alcoholics wanted to be sent to the City of Atlanta prison farm to serve a stretch to attempt to go sober for a while. These men or women would beg us for it as well as the judge if we had arrested them.

Then, there were those who had tuberculosis. It was as personally frightening as you might imagine having to deal close-up on the street with people suffering from active TB. After handling them, you usually learned weeks or months later that they had active TB, and then, your tests at the hospital would begin. The same thing was true of AIDS and our contact with those who had full-blown, at that time, deadly disease or other communicable diseases like STDs. The AIDS threat exploded in the late 70s and early 80s. The threat from accidental injection contact from used needles was constant with every prisoner we had to thoroughly search.

With all of this in mind, these years remain some of my best on the APD. I met many fine people working a foot beat downtown. Some of them are friends to this day. It was an excellent assignment to have a positive impact on the lives of folks from the gutter to the CEO Chambers. This was real police work and more fun than red-eye gravy on buttered-grits.

Ron Shaw

Copyright 2015

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21 Responses to Cop Tales

  1. Ron, I had to ponder this for a few days. Lots to take in.

    I cannot imagine walking a policeman’s beat each day, with all probability of being faced with life-and-death situations. I have never lived in a large city, but in visiting many, witnessed the presence of the “blue wave” of those whose job it is to protect…at all cost. Even in our small town growing up, we knew the policeman, always said “Hello”…as did they. We knew the line of respect one did not dare cross. Respect was revered.

    I can only imagine, and perhaps not well, what it might be like to have your “life-on-the-line” each day. To deal with similar situations, day after day, and the gamut of emotions it would entail. To be up one day, perhaps down the next…with no guarantee of your own safety. There has to be something within oneself to be able to rise to the occasion each day, and face your job with the level of love and respect you carried with you to work every day. There has got to be a sense of honor within, to meet the challenge without.

    My husband’s uncle, a policeman, pulled him aside when he was a teenager. (His children were younger than my husband). His uncle told him that if there were ever a time when he did not “make it home” from work, my husband was to give a box (tucked away downstairs) to his aunt…to provide for their family. Thankfully, that time did not come while on the Force. My husband carried that “haunting” thought with him until recently…when his uncle passed away. Thankfully, he was blessed with a good, long life. His uncle also loved his job, serving his community well.

    We never know the whole of a reality, unless we have walked in someone’s shoes. You have given the reader a genuine, and heartfelt look into a job that I do not think most of us comprehend. How would I respond to a split-second decision? I could not even venture a guess. Realistically? I do not think it is something anyone can know, unless we find ourselves in that given moment. Easy to speculate. Reality holds the truth.

    I can identify with the relationship you built with the “regulars” on your beat, and how they were an important part of the pulse of your job. Connecting with them, as people…more than just a familiar face.

    Thank you, Ron, for opening a window into the life of a policeman. I look forward to reading your book, “Transmutation” – to comprehend the challenges faced more fully, within the harsh realities this field-of-choice holds. And, the enlightenment it brings…from the inside, out…rather than the judgment that can befall this demanding job, from the outside, in.

    I commend you for your dedication, Ron, and the heart you brought to your job. I believe you gave much more than you are aware of…and touched more lives than you can imagine. Respectfully, Suzanne
    Suzanne L Holko recently posted…Every Child…Wins?My Profile

    • ronshaw says:

      Suzanne, you consistently amaze me with your moving comments about my various works. You are very special to me as a true friend. You’ll never fully know what your insights have done for me. With each post by you, my heart swells with pride and joy as the tears well up and begin to flow. It’s the absolute truth that your words each time turn this old man into a sobbing and at times blubbering Whale.
      God bless you.
      Before our show together, I will have read and reviewed at minimum one of your books, probably more. I promise

      • Good Afternoon, Ron. I appreciate your kindness, and encouraging words. The same holds true for you. As I have mentioned, you have helped me greatly…in finding my way along very new territory. Life has a way of weighing us down, amidst the challenges. And so goes the journey. Your support has lightened the load. Nothing like a good challenge to keep the brain creative and productive!

        I enjoy your blog and books, and the heartfelt sincerity with which you bring them forth. It presents an opening for the reader to connect to the story. It is real. Your writing not only holds a genuine respect and compassion for the story, but also for those present within it’s pages. Keep up the good work, my friend. God Bless you.

        I hope you enjoy my book(s). Looking forward to your show.
        Take care, be well. Suzanne
        Suzanne L Holko recently posted…“Random Acts of Kindness…Caught Being Good?”My Profile

        • ronshaw says:

          You have become a dear friend to me. It’s so much fun to toss writing ideas back and forth with you. I will begin reading your books very soon. My headaches have gone down a bit and believe me, I’ll take any decrease in them.
          Your insights of life are amazing. I love reading your blogs and I know your books will be amazing. They must be because you are that and much more.
          This whole writing thing has been an amazing adventure that has been made infinitely more incredible with friends like you. Think about it. We’ve met so many wonderful people through writing words and having them published. We are indeed blessed.
          Our show together will be a hoot and a half! You’ll see. I know these things.
          GOD Bless you, Suzanne Holko.

        • You’re wonderful, Suzanne. I love your comments.
          William D. Prystauk recently posted…Crash Analysis Support Team: The 1990’s – Horror’s Lost Decade – Part II: 1995 – 2000My Profile

  2. Mark Schultz says:

    Great story about the preacher! Thanks, really enjoyed your blog. Check mine out when you have a chance, book reviews also if you like to read <;-)

    • ronshaw says:

      Hi, Mark. It’s nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my blogs and commenting on them. I’m very happy that you like them.
      I’ll check yours out.
      Enjoy reading, but since I’ve been writing books, my time to read has been very limited. I still do daily. With my weekly radio show and authors, publishers as guests, they keep me loaded down with their books to read.
      Your kind words are very much appreciated.
      I’ll click into your blog and read a bit later today.

  3. Amazing, Ron. I hope you write an autobiography because if this story isn’t a prelude to one, I don’t know what is. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences from when you were on the job.

    I think we have even more to talk about when I interview you. Be well!

    • ronshaw says:

      I appreciate you, Bill. Thanks for the kind words. I’m honored that you came by, read me and responded. Just wait until we do your podcast. My friend, as we say in the hood, “You ain’t heard Jack about shit, yet!”
      Extremely pleased that you walked the beat in words with me.

      • My pleasure, Ron. I truly hope you right that autobiography, buddy. I have no doubt it will be amazing.
        William D. Prystauk recently posted…Crash Analysis Support Team: The 1990’s – Horror’s Lost Decade – Part II: 1995 – 2000My Profile

        • ronshaw says:

          Bill, my book out now, TRANSMUTATION The Life of a Twisted Cop is the autobiography you suggested that I write. The next one coming soon will be a continuation of true cop tales, but this one, AROUND THE CAMPFIRE is as told by Texas author D.A. Grady and me. D.A. Grady was also in law enforcement. He served out West in a rural environment. We show two different perspectives of our crime fighting days, as well as two very different voices and styles of writing. He’s a tad country and I’m more southern rock and roll, urban-like within the City of Atlanta.
          I read your captivating piece at your site that you highlighted and left a few less than brilliant comments.

          • Thanks so much for the information about your work.

            As for your comments on Paul’s article for Crash Palace, they were wonderful. Stop beating yourself up, my friend. You count and I hold you in very high regard.

            WRITE ON!
            William D. Prystauk recently posted…Crash Analysis Support Team: The 1990’s – Horror’s Lost Decade – Part II: 1995 – 2000My Profile

          • ronshaw says:

            As you know, my self-deprecating ways run deep, and I’m working hard on watering them down. Lately, I’ve been doing much better and I’m certain that with at least a baker’s dozen more couch sessions, I’ll be totally cured without needing the daily baby aspirin regiment. LMAO
            Seriously, I’m on it.
            Bill, your website is top drawer in every way. You know by now that it’s extremely difficult for me to write anything with a straight, serious face and pen. I try in my books at times, but the jokes spew forth at the most embarrassing moments. Do you see? I continue to use adverbs, as well as a ‘very’ every now and again.
            Boy, I can’t wait to be on your show where waxing sincere may show it’s ugly mug. As one of our favorite nephews from age six on used to often say, “Uncle Ronnie, you don’t want to see me cry. You don’t ever want to see me cry!”
            Thanks, Bill.

          • Ha!

            You’re fine, buddy.

            Since my house is going on the market next Monday, and with all the prep work I have to do, we’ll probably get together after the first week of July. Let me know what dates/times work for you.

            Keep doing what you do, Ron. The best asset any writer can have is know his or her weaknesses with prose. Since you understand what undermines your wordsmithing, you can certainly rise above.
            William D. Prystauk recently posted…Crash Analysis Support Team: The 1990’s – Horror’s Lost Decade – Part II: 1995 – 2000My Profile

          • ronshaw says:

            Appreciate it, Bill. Good luck with selling your house. The housing market has been picking up some of late.
            Anytime in July is fine with me as long as it’s not Monday evening. You let me know what date and time and I’ll be here.
            Suzanne is awesome. Isn’t she?

          • She’s wonderful, indeed!

            We’ll set a date soon. Regardless, you’re coming on THE LAST KNOCK, so get ready!
            William D. Prystauk recently posted…Crash Analysis Support Team: The 1990’s – Horror’s Lost Decade – Part II: 1995 – 2000My Profile

          • ronshaw says:

            Sounds like a good plan to me. It’ll be a blast goofing off with you, Bill.

      • Ron, Looking forward to your podcast with Bill. I enjoyed your show with him last week. Interesting show! Hope Bill will return as a guest, as I believe he has much more to share.

        Great last line above. Rather poetic, “…that you walked the beat in words with me.”

        And, I agree with his comments. Hence, my next read: “Transmutation.” Hope “Mary” of “Cramped Quarters…” will not be upset…

        Take care, Suzanne
        Suzanne L Holko recently posted…“Random Acts of Kindness…Caught Being Good?”My Profile

        • ronshaw says:

          Suzanne, I’m certain Mary will not mind at all because when you do read her story she’ll enter your world. It has been happening to others as they get into her.
          Bill will be coming back on the show in the near future. He Annie Acorn and I will do a show together on 8-10-15 after our book DARK TALES has appeared. It will be out in July we anticipate.
          Please be warned about TRANSMUTATION. It is so serious that I had to at least inject some humor in the method I used to write it. It’s a tear-jerker as well as a laugh-fest in many places, but it is true. The book should have been listed as Nonfiction, but my publisher decided against it for some mysterious reason.
          I will read your post soon and post some comments.
          Check this one out. Wow! Also, if you haven’t done so, follow Vanya Vetto @i_far at Twitter and he’s also very active at Facebook. Vanya is a freelance journalist, author, and an all around excellent writer. http://linkis.com/farsidetravel.net/20/W1kN6

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