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Columns : In My Sights

The Stupid Factor

We should have a code to warn fellow officers of the sheer magnitude of idiocy involved on a call.

December 10, 2009  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author


"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." – Albert Einstein

I never knew Einstein was a cop, but he sure talked like one. I was just watching a rather goofy show on the odd ways people get themselves killed and it struck me how every crime fighter I know could create a script for that and a dozen other such shows such as, "I never woulda done it if I knew you were watching," and "You mean that's against the law?" I especially love the folks who are not only stupid but self-righteously stupid, which ought to have its own special term like "extremepidity."

I remember a fellow I nearly had to arrest at the scene of an accident he had caused. I arrived at a busy intersection to discover that a large old-style tank-like Cadillac had seriously smashed a little Datsun in a rear-ender that had both its occupants being attended to by TFD paramedics. The large elderly "gentleman" was standing in the street looking at the front end of his vehicle oblivious to the medical activities behind him. I asked him to step to the curb as Charlie and Sam arrived to help with traffic control and as he did I inquired as to what had happened.

"Well," he said emphatically, "the light turned green and I went!" The nice little gap he had left between the little Datsun and his demolition derby deluxe allowed for quite a bit of impact. As I wrote the citation he not only refused to accept any responsibility, since "green means everyone has to go," but also refused to sign until Charlie and Sam sauntered over and affirmed we would, in fact, haul his butt to jail if he didn't.

This isn't an extreme case and that's why I mention it...it's actually a very typical case. Stupidity seems to be on the rise. If you Google "the basic laws of human stupidity" you will actually find a very entertaining and well thought out series of laws by Carlo M. Cippolla, an Economics professor at UC Berkeley.

I guess the good doctor must have been having lunch and overheard some local crime fighters philosophizing about various "citizens" they had dealt with over the last few hours. One can see the good professor leaping to his feet and crying out, "Aha, I shall formalize these observations into a series of laws!" then sprinting to his office to bring in his grad students to begin immediately.

Actually, however they came about, as I read them I shook my head...I already knew them...You already know them. Heck, we live them. Our job is to actually help these folks out when they do stupid things or arrest them if the stupid thing is illegal. So day in, day out, we get sent to stupidity. We are stupid experts...wait, that didn't come out right.

But since this is our area of expertise we should have a better way of describing how stupid someone or something is. Kind of like Eskimos and snow, which they have something like 30 names for, we should have a special code or call sign for stupidity. "Tucson, three Adam thirty-two, I have a code-'duh' at Country Club and Lee." At least the sergeant and the rest of the squad will have an idea of what's up.

I am sure the brilliant readership of this fine periodical could come up with unique and at the same time discreet ways of creating an identifier. Over the years I have been told of agencies that identify a stupid police action as "doing a Buck Savage," so we might think about identifying it with some character of popular culture, such as "pulling a Heene" after the balloon-boy-fraud-scheme genius who was not only stupid in planning and execution, but in interviewing his own six-year-old into confessing they did it "for the show."

Maybe we should just have a "Stupid Factor." You know, "He is an S-1," meaning the subject is stupid only to the first level, and we can go up from there. The nice thing about an "S" factor is you have your own little side-thought about what the "S" might really stand for...

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.


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