Archive | 7:30 am

On Edge

22 Nov

During the two years I was stationed at Dam Neck, I suddenly got civic-minded, and joined the Auxiliary Police Dept. That involved attending the regular Police Academy for sixteen hours a week, for twelve weeks, after which, my surviving classmates and I were pronounced fully sworn officers of Virginia Beach, VA. The significance of this won’t be lost on anyone that has served as a police officer.

Typically, auxiliaries, or reserves, as they’re sometimes called, are utilized simply as warm bodies. They usually have no arrest powers, and little or no credibility either on the street, or in the precinct. Most often, they’re not even armed.

There is a very good reason for such limitations. A “regular” officer may have to entrust his life, at any moment, to another officer. That other officer may be his partner, which is akin to being a brother, or he may be completely unknown, in a large city. In either case, a certain confidence level is necessary…a confidence that can’t be shared with someone from “outside the circle”.

Even some regular officers, due to a single act of poor judgment, have experienced a loss of credibility, which can never be fully regained. Other officers may refuse them as partners; even refuse to work the same detail.

The fact that the Virginia Beach Auxiliary was granted full police powers was a function of the stated willingness of the regulars to accept such an arrangement. And that was due, almost entirely, to one man!

Pete Procter, the Commander of the Auxiliary force was a professional! He drew no pay for his police work, and he held a demanding full-time job in his civilian life. Yet Pete nearly always logged at least thirty hours per week in uniform, and probably nearly as much, out of uniform, re-arranging schedules, making duty assignments, preparing for court cases, etc. His dedication served as the example to his troops. It’s also fair to say that his size 13 boot helped motivate more than one officer, as well. Anyone might be allowed one non-serious foul-up, but never two. Pete had worked long and hard for the level of confidence the regulars had for the auxiliaries, and he wasn’t about to have it screwed up. If he was unsure of you, you were as good as gone!

Pete told my academy class once, “For you fellows, get ready to be considered a “queer”! For you gals, if you’re married, be ready to get divorced! ‘Cause when a situation develops where either your partner or you, are going to get it, you’ve got to love that sonuvabitch enough to draw fire away from him, and trust him to do the same for you! That’s love! And it’s the only thing that makes this job possible!”

At least once, that I know of, Pete practiced what he preached, when it came to drawing fire. He and his partner, a regular, were on Traffic. They had stopped a car with three guys in it, and Pete was backing up his partner on the curbside. Pete saw the guy in the back seat reaching for something that looked like a gun, but he knew that although his partner would be able to get out of the line of fire quickly, he couldn’t see what the guy was doing, from where he was. Pete, on the other hand, knew what was happening, but he was wide open, and had little chance of beating the guy to the punch.

Pete jumped toward the car, hollering, and stuck his fingers in the corners of his mouth, making a face at the guy in the back seat. The clown in the car was so surprised that he just froze. When he looked up, Pete’s partner had the drop on him.

When I heard what had happened, I asked Pete, “What would you have done if your partner hadn’t drawn on that guy?”

He promptly responded, “It never crossed my mind. He’s my partner!”

He continued down the hall, paused, then turned with a smile, “I guess I’d never have spoken to him again.”

That’s the kind of trust and love partners have to have for each other. Otherwise, they either take to the bottle, or they find a new job. One in a thousand may even put their own gun in their mouth.