By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
More irony: The sights, smells, sounds of police work
How do cops deal with the irony of police work, the sights, sounds and smells of police work? [This will also apply to all first responders, fire personnel, EMT and some hospital staff.] We all deal with horrific sights in our own manner and I’m going to describe just a few of the ways. I’m not an expert or have any type of psychology training but I am a product of my environment. For thirty-five years I’ve seen things that would make Edgar Allan Poe cringe, and he was crazy!
I’ve seen countless homicides, suicides, traffic accidents and way too many natural deaths with delayed discoveries. The sights are the hardest to forget but more on that later. The easy ones are the sounds. Huh, what sounds? Have you ever heard the crash of a major traffic collision that happens right in front of you? Have you ever heard the thud of a body hitting the ground from a four story jump? Have you ever heard a person take their last gasp of air? The cry of a mother as she holds her dead child (SIDS) will never leave you!
Smells: Have you ever smelled a long decomposing body? It’s an odor that you’ll never forget, or get used to. I was once in a deadly four-story apartment building fire. Some of the tenants jumped from their windows to escape the fire. For years after I associated the smell of smoke with their deaths. Any fireman and some cops can tell you about the reek of burned human flesh.
And last, on a lighter note, the smell of fresh dog shit that your probationer stepped in and then spread on the inside of the floorboard of you police car? That’s a trip to the police garage to hose out the floorboard. My wife says I’ve lost my sense of smell.
I think of it as evolution.
Come back next Sunday, May 29th for more cop irony from Hal Collier.
Two incidents of smell stand out in my old mind. #1. I was sent Code 2, to back up another unit for traffic control at an injury accident. The primary unit went Code 3, got there ahead of me & had things under control. He asked me to take a stray dog he had picked up, (back in olden times we did animal control work during their off hours), to the shelter which I did. The dog was very upset after making a code 3 run. I was able to get him in my unit but on the way to AC shelter he started throwing up followed by a very liquid feces expulsion, all over the back seat of unit. What a mess. #2. I had picked up a town drunk for 647f, on the way to drunk tank, even though he was handcuffed & very inebriated he managed to pull down his pants, stand up on the back seat & take a large dump on the back window shelf.
I never had a dog foul up my police car but I had a very sick man relieve himself in the my police car. I had to drive to the hospital with the windows down and my head out the window just to see. Must have been a funny sight to anybody seeing us drive by. Hal
As a reporter, I had my share of gory sights, horrifying sounds and fetid odors–vehicle accidents, suicides, fires and murders. But the most horrifying sight and odor was of two young children, brother and sister, burned to death with their arms clasped around one another.
That would haunt anyone. Thanks for your comment, John.