The Fairer Sex? A Lesson Learned
By Gerry Goldshine
As a Baby Boomer, I came of age in the late nineteen-sixties and early seventies, fully cognizant of the upheaval in traditional roles, as women fought anew for equal rights. All too often, I found myself disgusted at the misogynistic response by members of my gender. Though in full agreement with feminist ideals and equality for women, my thinking was none-the-less colored by a touch of traditional male chivalry. By that I mean, I stood when a woman entered a room, I held the car door open for my dates and above all, I firmly abided by the coda that a man never physically assaults or harms a woman. However, I was rather quickly and quite pointedly disabused of that last notion during my first month of field training as a Deputy with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office that.
My FTO (Field Training Officer) and I were working Swing Shift and assigned to the Roseland beat area. Roseland is an unincorporated part of Sonoma County, southwest of the City of Santa Rosa. It is considered an “active” beat, just the sort of locale for a rookie to gain a wealth of experience. On a lovely spring night, while driving by a school, we spotted a disheveled woman, staggering haphazardly along on the sidewalk. She was clearly under the influence of some type of intoxicating substance. As I was in the very early part of the Field Training program, my FTO was handling most of the tasks and my job was to learn from his example. By the time we notified dispatch that we were going to contact this person and stopped our patrol car, the fair maiden had fallen upon her fundament, spilling the contents of her threadbare purse in the process. There, amongst her wallet, empty pill bottles, used Kleenex, miscellaneous feminine hygiene products and keys were several hypodermic syringes, a dirty blackened spoon and a wad of cotton. That partially explained the reason for her inebriated condition. Above the mix of “quaint” odors emanating from her person, I could easily smell the odor of many consumed alcoholic beverages. Drugs AND alcohol; swell. Then, much to my surprise, my FTO gestured to her and told me, “Go hook her up.”
This would be my first arrest as a Deputy. I dutifully explained to her that she was under arrest for public intoxication and illegal possession of hypodermic syringes. I told her to put her hands behind her, moved in smartly and took one of her arms to place her in a control hold. Though quite pickled, she quickly made it obvious that she had other ideas; none of them included complying with a rookie sheriff’s deputy and going to jail. Responding to me with a hail and hearty, “Fuck you, asshole!” she swung her free arm in a wide arc, just missing my head. From that point, as they say, the fight was on. So, with my FTO looking on rather bemusedly, I went through a repertoire of control holds, none of which worked as they did in the academy – big surprise there, right? Then I tried bringing her down to the ground. Considering her indelicate state of balance, that shouldn’t have been a problem, except when she realized what I was trying to do, she became possessed of stability rivaling that of the Flying Wallendas. After about five of these fun filled minutes had passed, I grew weary of this dance; after dodging loads of wildly swung haymakers, well aimed furious kicks towards my groin and the occasional attempt at a bite, I looked at my FTO, expecting some type of help or suggestions.
He merely cocked an eyebrow and said, “You know, we do have other things to do tonight. Stop playing around and arrest her.”
I can’t imagine why that response would tend piss me off but anger led to one of those defining moments of clarity; I suddenly focused in on the knot of her pony-tail. With little tactical forethought, I quickly grabbed it and holding it tightly, I pulled her down to the ground. Once there, I immediately put a knee in her back to hold her still and quickly completed handcuffing her. Well before Kevin Costner said it to Al Pacino in the “Untouchables”, my FTO reacted to my triumph by slowly clapping his hands and saying, “Here endeth the lesson.” Now deigning to help me, my FTO and I “delicately” placed her squirming, struggling form into the backseat of our car; as we headed to the jail, I considered what I had learned.
Rather stupidly, on some now unfathomable level, I had expected this drug-addled, intoxicated flower of feminity to behave in a genteel, lady-like manner when faced with the prospect of going to jail rather than reacting like one of the mythical Furies. The most extreme hazardous point of any police-suspect encounter are those very first few seconds when an officer is effecting an arrest and moving in to handcuff a suspect. No one wants to be denied their freedom. Fear brings out adrenaline which brings about unpredictable responses. The meek can explode like hellions possessed while brawny behemoths fold like a house of cards. In not taking decisive, forthright action the moment I went to handcuff this woman, I placed myself into serious jeopardy.
While there may still be a time and place for chivalry, arresting a drunk drug addled woman is inarguably not one of them. Had she been an obnoxious, slovenly drunken man, I would not have hesitated in applying escalating force, resorting to perhaps CS spray (a tearing agent) or if necessary, my baton the second I met physical resistance and other less “forceful” tactics were not working. Equal opportunity applies to arrest situations. Over the ensuing years, I have been kicked, slapped and spat upon during the course of arresting combative members of the so-called “fairer sex”. One demure, 54 year old grandmother, drunk and resisting arrest while squabbling with another patron on the floor of a local tavern, grabbed one of my legs and sank her teeth into my calf. It took three other officers assisting me to pry her loose.
At the start of each of these encounters, I always recalled the lesson I learned in Roseland that spring day, now so many years ago. The ancient Greek poet, Homer, perhaps put it better when he wrote, “Oh, woman, woman! When to ill thy mind is bent, all Hell contains no fouler fiend.”
As they say in these contemporary times, “Word”.
Gerry was born in Providence, Rhode Island but raised in Southern California.
Upon graduating from California State University, Los Angeles, Gerry enlisted in
the Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After leaving active duty
in 1979, he worked for Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. From 1980 until his retirement