By Gerry Goldshine
Police work can be soul-crushingly stressful. To keep from going off the deep end or venturing over to the Dark Side, many officers devise harmless but often humorous diversions – well, at least funny to them. To be sure, if the public or police department supervisors were to become aware of some of these high-jinks, more than likely outrage, internal investigations and discipline would surely be forthcoming. Some of these people have no sense of humor. So, as a result, this story may self-destruct when you’re finished reading it.
Having worked Traffic most of my career, there were times that constantly crapping on someone’s day by issuing them a citation or spending hours investigating some gruesome traffic accident occasionally got me thinking about paying a visit to our local 5150 depository. However, I managed to find my own ways to keep from being fitted with a straitjacket.
On one occasion, my department had long last taken delivery of a brand new, Kustom Electronics, dash mounted, moving radar for the traffic car. It had all the latest whistles and bells and it was Radar Love for yours truly. This marvel of early 90’s electronic engineering came with an instant on-off feature designed to defeat radar detectors. On this particular day, I was driving through downtown, heading north, when I noticed that the car in front of me had a radar detector clipped to the driver’s sun visor. After a moment of contemplation, I flipped the instant-on switch and saw a small red light illuminate on the guy’s radar detector. I suspected it also had an alert tone because the driver, who had been blissfully gazing out his window, suddenly became alert and vigilant.
For whatever reason, he failed to see me in his rearview mirror, so I flipped the radar off. I could see the light on his detector go out. A few blocks later, we stopped for a red light. Seizing the opportunity, I toggled the radar on and off a couple of times, each time setting off his radar detector. By the time the light turned green, he was making all sorts of adjustments to the device. He even went so far as to tap it a few times, as most all males are wont to do when something electronic appears to be malfunctioning. I let a little distance open up between us and another car soon filled the gap, but I could see that the radar detector was still reacting whenever I flipped the switch. For the next mile or so, I think I might have driven this poor guy to the brink of lunacy when, with what had to be a display of disgust, he ripped his radar detector from the visor and tossed onto the seat. Mission accomplished, I took the next side street.
Juvenile? Yeah, probably. Did I have the giggles for the next couple of hours? You bet!
When I started working Traffic, I became to DWIs what the Great White Shark was to people in Peter Benchley’s Jaws. After awhile, it was almost as if I had a sixth sense and could close my eyes, point at a random car and that driver would turn out to be under the influence. Sometimes that ability was a bit of a curse. One Saturday night, at about 2:15 AM, I was heading into the station more than ready to call it a night. No sooner had I contemplated going home on time than good old Murphy’s Law intervened. The car in front of me began to swerve, weaving from one shoulder, across both lanes and onto the other shoulder, kicking up a slight cloud of dust, all the while, gradually slowing down to about 15-20 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. My inner DWI alarm went off. This guy had to be stopped and while I could have passed the arrest onto a Graveyard shift officer, that wasn’t how I viewed my job; I saw it as relieving Patrol from having to deal with anything traffic related.
Long story short, I arrested the driver for DWI. He was so intoxicated that while we were enroute to the station, he repeatedly kept asking me where he was. Though he wasn’t nasty or combative, around the twentieth time, in the space of five minutes, he asked me where he was, I started to get annoyed. I have no idea why I did it, but I finally told him he was in Reno, Nevada. Much to my surprise, that shut him up until we got to the station.
The first question he asked as I got him out of the back seat of my patrol car?
“How the hell did I get to Reno?”
Clearly, I had him hooked. After I booked him and he completed the Breath Test – I don’t recall his BAC other than, he was way over the limit – the question for me then became, should I tell him the truth or reel him in? I reeled him in, of course!
Though I knew nothing about Reno – this was years before the show Reno 911– I kept up a conversation with him as if we actually were in Reno. Finally, he stared at my uniform patch, which of course, had Petaluma Police embroidered on it.
“Hey! Hey! Hey, wait a minnnnute! How come your uniform patch says Petaluma Police on it? That’s where I’m from…or was…or something.”
“Coincidentally, sir, the Petaluma Police Department is participating in an officer exchange program with the Reno Police Department.” I replied, trying desperately to retain my official demeanor.
Against all odds, he seemed to accept that explanation and staggered his way back to a holding cell, where he promptly fell asleep. The following afternoon, right after briefing, a Dayshift officer came up to me in the hallway.
“Hey Goldshine, I just released your “deuce” from last night. Boy, that guy must really have been plowed because he kept asking me for bus fare back to Petaluma. He thought he was in Reno. Can you believe that shit?”
Yup, I sure could.