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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Dirty Cops: The Slobs You Will Meet on Patrol

They say cleanliness is next to godliness, but some folks didn’t get the memo.

October 14, 2010  |  by - Also by this author


Batman has the Batmobile; Green Hornet, the Black Beauty. Me? I had my Tweaker-Cruiser, a.k.a., the Probable Cause on Wheels. In other words, my car was so cluttered with junk that it could barely accommodate passengers.

I've never claimed to be the neatest guy in the world, but at least I never left my backup gun under the seat of my patrol car where a suspect could've grabbed it. And even at my hygienic worst, I paled in comparison to some of my brethren.

For those who didn't get the "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" memo, there's nothing quite so liberating as tossing one's shit into the back seat of a patrol car. These Oscar Madisons riding shotgun encourage the carrying of chem wipes and find heroin junkies adopting a lotus position in the back seat for fear of coming in contact with what's on the floorboard.

On any given day, a cop's assigned vehicle will reveal all manner of surprises courtesy of his predecessors. Besides suspects' contraband, one can count on encountering crumpled brown paper sacks bearing the logos of various fast food joints, crushed paper cups courtesy of Winchell's and Starbucks; the occasional gob of tobacco spit that didn't quite make it out the window, and the empty Skoal container it came in.

Some deputies have been known to save trash they retrieved from their car over the course of a week to dump it on the person responsible at roll call. I've even heard tale of a cop who saved a partially devoured piece of chicken he found under the front seat and mailed it through the departmental mail to the offender.

When I got to patrol, I expected to find Reed and Malloy (ask your parents about them). Instead, I found guys with disheveled uniforms who would probably test positive for Twinkies. So if you're laboring under similar delusions, allow me to acquaint you with the dirtiest cops I've known

  • The Used Kleenex Compiler: Be it from colds, allergies, or failed point spreads, this cop's always honking in tissue paper, which somehow ends up collected on your floorboard. You'd probably pop him in the snot pump were it not for its prodigious byproducts.
  • American Pickers: As bad as Kleenex Compilers can be, these guys make 'em look like saints. These cretins pick their nose and smear their boogers on walls, desks, and those signs that say "Employees Must Wash Their Hands Before Leaving the Restroom." In the world of marking one's territory, dogs get the sanitary edge.
  • Cigarette Man: It's sad when the Los Angeles smog outside your patrol car is healthier for you than the air inside. Did you know that cigarette companies add urea, a chemical compound that is a major component in urine, to add "flavor" to cigarettes? Apparently, it adds to the smell, too. No wonder they took the automatic lighters out of our dashboards.
  • The Tobacco Chewer: If the second hand smoke doesn't get you, this guy's first hand saliva will. His errant chaw can be found on floors, walls, windows, space shuttles-just about everywhere save for that stupid Styrofoam cup he always carry with him.
  • The Sunflower Seed Sheller: A major pain-in-the-ass, especially when the shells he's insinuated in the folds of the seat work their way into one's nether regions. This, like kidney stones and Joy Behar, appears to be something of a universal problem.
  • The Coffee Spiller: Where would our patrol cars be without those Oklahoma pinstripes? (Still preferable to those goddamned candy-assed rainbows they stuck on LASD units.)
  • The Gum Chewer: Not encountered as often in patrol cars as he or she is in upscale theaters, but once the Wrigleys gets stuck to your ass, you'll know what they mean by "gumming up the works."

Junk Food Junkies: The most common of all badged slobs. If the wrappers left in their wake were laid end to end, they would still not reach a trash receptacle if their former owners had anything to say about it.

  • Trainees and Their Frustrated Training Officers: Theirs is a tag-team effort, with the trainee messing up booking slips and crime reports, and the T.O.s depositing the shredded remains of their mistakes in the back seat.
  • The Discount Shopper: These cops are adherents to "If it's free, it's for me," "To serve, and to be served," and "If they don't pop, we don't stop" philosophies, they inevitably tear open their wares right there in the car. If you thought cleaning up the car was a pain before, wait until those discarded DVD security stickers, and garment pins have commingled with some left-over KFC.

Dirty cops aren't just messy in cars. They also can really mess up their offices and other station locales.

  • Three-Point Shooters: These guys want to play basketball rather than do their jobs. But the department doesn't supply balls and hoops, so they use wads of paper and the nearest trash receptacle. But they suck at basketball. If you're lucky, they'll watch their shot bounce off the rim of the trash can and onto the floor and call it a day. If you're not, they'll keep trying until they end up producing a pile of crumpled paper balls so high that it results in a fine from the fire marshal.
  • Spray and Pray Guys: This problem is commonly associated with those who have difficulty with target acquisition at the firearms range, but it's equally applicable to those incapable of hitting urinals. I'm not endowed like infamous porn star John Holmes but even I can make the damn urinal. (The missus will dispute this, but I keep blaming the kid.) I've seen station men's rooms that look like those of a ZZ Top concert at halftime. With all the slip-and-slide possibilities, I'm surprised we don't have more employee injuries. (Maybe we should do some DNA testing on these guys and the American Pickers and force them to clean up their acts.)

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't pay respects to those who occupy the other end of the hygiene scale: Those endearing anal-retentive Felix Ungers of patrol whose arsenals include Spic 'N Span, Brillo pads, and toothbrushes for those hard to reach crevices.

We had one such OCD-type at Temple Station (LASD) who detailed his car every shift, inside and out. Of course, he also used Armor-All on the straight back seats we had at the time.

Unfortunately, this left the seats so slick that one day when a friend of mine drove Mr. Clean's car, he made a left turn and found himself seated on the passenger side of the car as the car went sailing into the front of a commercial building.

There was no more Armor-All-ing of the car thereafter.

If you know of someone who fits the bill, feel free to forward this to them. Let them know that you're thinking of them.

Also, comment below and tell us about your experience with clean or dirty colleagues. Be sure to friend me on Facebook as I have nothing resembling a social life.

Today's joke:

Q: How many cops does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Just one, but he's never around when you need him.

Tags: Officer Behavior


Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

mtarte @ 10/14/2010 7:47 PM

Dean, insightful. I tried to keep my assigned unit clean, but the senior guy who had it before me was a generalist. Tissues one shift, empty Burger King wrappers the next. The final straw was when a coke can slid out from under the seat and nearly caused me to have an accident. I started shoving the stuff in his mail slot in the roll call room. He got the hint.

SAM551974D @ 10/14/2010 9:35 PM

Once I stop laughing I will forward...and I know just the folks to send to! Reed and Malloy 1-Adam-12...This was like the movie (Hollywood Knights 1980) all over again...Imagine cleaning their unit was a Dodge Dart...

konaron @ 10/15/2010 12:14 AM

I had a fellow lieutenant who was a chain smoker, and when I would go out to use the watch commander's vehicle I would find that he would flick ashes on the floor all during his shift. I mentioned it to him a couple of times, and then when one night when I was suffering from male menses I got into the car to find ash all over the floors. Realizing that he would be relieving me on a double back shift when I finished my shift I dumped the full ash tray on the front seat. Juvenile probably, but he got my message. I am a non smoker...

walkin' trails @ 10/15/2010 6:18 AM

I can't claim to keep the cleanest vehicle in the fleet, but I've seen far worse than mine. When I wore a uniform and drove patrol vehicles that ran 24/7, I encountered a lot of the sunflower seed spitters. Some didn't even bother to aim for the floor, but seemed to be trying to project their spent hulls at the windshield and dash. By far the most curious thing I ever found in a vehicle was a cow patty sitting on the passenger seat. Never could figure out why it got there and I don't think it was left for me specifically because the vehicles were assigned at random.

JANickols @ 10/15/2010 10:00 AM

I worked Temple 44 years ago as a rookie. We had guys that ate peanuts and left shells all over the floor. My partner Gary would have me clean it up and check under the rear seat for contriband left by the last villain. Gary, a good and patient training officer, taught me to simply keep quiet and use the experience as an object lesson for my future.

SPOC711 @ 10/15/2010 12:14 PM

Boy you hit the nail on the head....I just mover into an office with two other sergeants (Married to each other)..two three days to move stuff from under my work station, desktop and overhead cases, from old boots, food, various types of equipment and the smell..took another day to clean...now I need to purchase scented bulb candles to cover the odor..and we all know that if their work place is in bad shape so is their personal hygene..filthy uniforms, boots and body ordor. our detective burue is in the same shape, one lives out of the office, filthy with garbage on the floor, food wrappers and dirty laundry..when I see cops that don't take care of themselves, I see a cop that doesn't care abouth thier police work, it shows in the product they produce, doesn't help that the chief approves of these behavior, by not addressing it.

mac114 @ 10/17/2010 3:31 PM

OMG Dean, you got me rolling out of my chair!! When I wipe the tears away I'll be able to see straight!! You are right on the money here. I have experienced a plethora of these fine folks you mentioned. I am guilty of being the Mr. Sani-Wipe but only to de-germ the squad car from whatever bacteria was running around the rolling Petri-dish. Nothing like finding mustard and teriyaki sauce on your center console!! A good argument for having take home or assigned cars. Stay safe!! Mac.

punisher @ 11/2/2010 8:19 AM

Small department, one guy is all of these combined into one. Coffee rings left on desks, cleaning out ears and nose goblins during public contacts and staff meetings, and turing in reports to the prosecutor that look like he either drug them behind the cruiser en route to the office or, ran over them for good measure before he left to turn them in. I am not the cleanest, nor will be. But a sense of professionalism and pride in one's job and appearance carries over into our stationary and mobile offices. Not only that, I imagine its a little difficult to chase and pursue offenders when there are stank-missles and garbage flying about the cabin of the cruiser during break neck turns. Good article and as always, a reminder to look at one's self as an example of goodness, safety, and professionalism.

Kyle @ 1/16/2011 5:55 AM

Well at my department we have take-home vehicles so it is pretty nice to only blame yourself for your own mess. But we do have a some fleet vehicles to use if our take-home is in the shop. I one found a half eaten egg McMuffin in one under the seat. And a pistol under the passenger seat of another. And what is with officers shoving trash down the barrels of shotguns that are assigned to cars?

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