If you were to believe popular fiction or current events, there is a lot of animosity between police and the press. Sometimes that animosity is well-earned on both sides, but at least in fiction, much of it is overblown.
With my own background of having been around law enforcement, I always enjoyed a very good working relationship with the police in the small towns where I owned newspapers. Many of those officers became good friends of mine. In the beginning it took a while to earn their trust, but I did, and over time it paid off. Because they knew they could tell me things in confidence that I would not release to the general public until it was appropriate, more than once my phone would ring, and an officer or the chief of police would say something like, “You might want to be in such and such block of such and such street this evening at 7:15. There might be something happening there that would be good for your paper.” So, I would show up and find myself covering a drug bust, the arrest of a felon, or something like that.
There were times when they would give me information and ask me not to release it until they said so. Sometimes they would explain why, but either way, I always did as asked. For example, in our small town in Arizona’s White Mountains, we had an incident where a young officer chased a suspect through the woods and into a creek. They got into a struggle, and the suspect somehow managed to get the officer’s weapon out of its holster. In the fight to control it, the suspect was shot and wounded, and the officer received non-life-threatening injuries that sent him to the hospital as well.
At the time, the officer and his wife had separated and she had moved down to Tucson. The police chief told me what had happened, but asked if I would hold off on identifying the officer until they could contact his estranged wife to let her know. I respect that, but the other newspaper that served the area immediately plastered the whole story, including the injured officer’s name, on the front page, saying it was the public’s right to know. Guess who got the cold shoulder for a long time after that, and guess who reaped the rewards by being able to get a heads up on things that would make the front page?
Quite often I was invited to do ride alongs with different officers. That was always fun because even in a small town there was always something happening. And it was a good opportunity to get to know the officers on a one-to-one basis, and for them to get to know me. Some of the things that happened on these ride alongs were flat-out funny.
For example, I was riding with an officer in Show Low, Arizona, and about twilight we pulled into a Circle K on the Deuce of Clubs Boulevard, the town’s main street, to get a cup of coffee. It just so happened that our timing was perfect, and we came upon a beer run. Two guys had gone into the store, each grabbing a 12 pack of beer under each arm, and running out the door without paying for them.
When they saw us just getting out of the police car, one immediately dropped the beer and raised his hands above his head, but the other one decided to make a run for it. Since he knew the first guy, who was a frequent flyer with the police department, the officer told him, “Don’t you move, Johnny, because if I come back and you’re not here, I’m going to come to your house and arrest you in front of your wife and kids.” Then we went around to a wooded area in the back of the store after the other suspect.
Now, you have to picture this, folks. The other suspect was well over 300 pounds, and he was hiding behind a tree about eight inches in diameter. He was standing with his side to the tree and peeked around it, and when he saw us, he quickly drew his head back. I guess he didn’t realize his rear end and the rest of him was sticking out a foot or more in the other direction.
The officer said, “Put your hands up and come out from behind the tree.” The guy peeked out again and quickly drew his head back. The officer and I couldn’t help but laugh, and the cop said, “You need to either lose weight or get a bigger tree to hide behind, partner, because it’s just not working.” Even when we walked up and were within three feet of him, he poked his head around the tree and pulled it back again.
It kind of reminded me of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. If I can’t see you, you can’t see me. Well, as it turned out, he was easily seen, and instead of relaxing and drinking beer with his buddy that evening, the two of them spent the night in the Graybar Hotel.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for campground reviews, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – I wonder how police on bikes arrest people. Do they say, “Alright, get in the basket?”