What Police Work is Really Like, Episode VI: Unnecessary Roughness


So there I was, minding my own business, on a routine night shift in a small town. Then I received a call. “Domestic violence assault, 201 Johnson street,” a duplex in the projects.

I arrived a few minutes later. Another officer, “John”, drove up at the same time. Several children were frantically running around the front yard, screaming that their mother needed help.

We went inside. Mom was in the front room, bleeding badly from a gash in her head. We called an ambulance for her while she and the children told us what happened.

Dad had been out all night drinking. He came home drunk and for some reason decided his 80 year old invalid mother, who lived with them, wasn’t being taken care of. He was going to move her to his sister’s house, right then. This was at around midnight on a weekday.

Mom, of course, got a little upset at Dad. But Dad wasn’t taking no crap from Mom that night. He hit her in the head with a glass ashtray, picked up Grandma, took her to his car and drove away.

I got on the radio to give a suspect and vehicle description. I also broadcast the sister’s address and let other units know he was heading that way. The dispatcher answered, “We just received a call for an ambulance at that address. Unknown medical problem.”

John and I jogged back to our cars and sped off to the sister’s house. It was less than two minutes away. As I pulled up I saw Dad and a teenage boy standing in the front yard. I screeched to a stop, jumped out of my car and yelled, “Stay right there!”

Dad immediately ran into the house. The other officer and I chased him inside, past invalid grandma who was laid out on a couch. Dad stopped in the living room and turned to face us. He was a pretty good-sized guy, obviously drunk, and pissed off.

John and I ordered, “Get your hands up!”

His answer was to shove his hands into his pockets and yell, “But I got these papers!”

We rushed him. John was a big, aggressive former Marine infantryman. He got to Dad first. Dad tried to run, but John held on. They crashed through the house, leaving upended furniture in their wake.

I pulled my pepper spray and waited for a clear shot. As Dad and John spun through the living room, they faced me for a moment. I sprayed. And in the grand tradition of all officers who use pepper spray, I managed to hit both Dad and my fellow officer.

They stood motionless for a moment. Then Dad dropped, totally out of the fight. I and John, who I fortunately hadn’t sprayed too badly, handcuffed him and walked him out to the car.

During the entire incident, the teenage boy from the front yard had followed us in silence. He had been silent, but had an anguished look on his face. After we put Dad in the back seat I walked to the teenage boy and asked him why an ambulance had been called to his house.

“That guy you just arrested is my uncle. He came over here with my grandma. When he brought her inside, my mom got mad. They had a real bad argument and my mom passed out, so I called an ambulance.”

“Okay,” I said. “The ambulance should be here soon then. Where’s your mom?”

“She’s over here.”

He led me to a room. I opened the door. His mother lay on a sofa, eyes and mouth half open, limbs hanging slack. She was dead.

Oh, shit. “John!” I screamed. “Get in here!”

John ran inside. He saw the dead woman, yelled “Shit!” and ran to the sofa. He grabbed the woman’s legs and said, “Let’s put her on the floor! We need to do CPR!”

I grabbed the woman’s shoulders and slid her off the sofa. Her limp head dropped between my forearms and bounced off the wood floor. We laid her down and John began chest compressions.

The teenage boy watched helplessly. The ambulance showed up a minute later, paramedics took over and rushed the woman to the hospital. I knew they wouldn’t revive her. They didn’t.

I walked to the patrol car we had put Dad into. He blew up at me as soon as I opened the door.

“Y’all didn’t have to spray that shit on me! That was wrong!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Was that your sister in there?”

“Yeah that’s my sister! So what?”

“She’s dead. You freaked her out and killed her.”

Dad’s expression softened for a moment. “Really? She’s dead? Aw man, that’s a shame.” Then he remembered what was really important. “But you didn’t have to spray that shit on me!”

Family members came to take care of teenage boy and grandma. We took Dad to jail for domestic violence assault. There were no charges filed for his sister’s death. She was only around 40, but had serious medical problems. The stress killed her, her brother didn’t intend to hurt her.

A few days later, I was notified that Dad had filed a complaint on me and the other officer. And what do you think he accused us of? You guessed it:

“Unnecessary roughness.”

13 Responses to “What Police Work is Really Like, Episode VI: Unnecessary Roughness”

  1. Chris, you’ve really come along as a writer!

  2. 3 Thomas A. Grimes

    Where is Episode V ? I’m hooked on them and will not sleep worrying that I missed one.

    • Good catch. I wrote 2 episode IVs, just to see who was paying attention. You are now a genuine junior investigator!


      p.s. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually just wasn’t paying attention. It’s fixed now.

  3. 5 SPEMack

    With all them roman numerals, I was having visions of the Star Wars saga. Thinks for the read, Chris. Good work. I swear I learn more about police work reading your stuff than I do in class.

    • Mack,

      Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I learned much of value during my 2 years studying CJ. I like to think the curriculum has gotten more relevant in the last 20 years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if theory still trumps reality in the classroom.

  4. 7 Mikey

    I’m waiting on CHAPTER V! D’Angelo made his move nearly a month ago. I’m dying here…

    • Hmmm…I figured chapter 4 would be the last one I posted, but I may drop chapter 5. It doesn’t give too much away.

      Glad it’s kept you interested, Mikey. 🙂

  5. Is it possible that she was traumatized and collapsed at the thought of “Mom” coming to stay with them, prior to even your arrival? And then, through their sibling telepathic link, he was traumatized by his sister’s death?

    I bet they’ll have some interesting Thanks Giving dinners going forward. LOL. I imagine it will all be smoothed over by blaming you and “John”, thus furthering the description of “Officer of the Peace.”

    • I like to think I’ve been cursed at every family gathering since that night.

      “You remember when the cops sprayed that crap on me? They were wrong!”

      “Uh…wasn’t that the same night you beat your wife and stressed your sister out so bad she died?”

      “Oh yeah. I guess that happened too. But they still didn’t have to spray me!”

  6. Chris,
    May I post a link to your blog, specifically in reference to your series, “What police word is really like.” Thanks

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