I'm agnostic on matters of religious faith, don't consciously try to skirt black cats, and tend to question how much luck the rabbit's foot brought its owner.

Yet there is one thing I tend to be superstitious about: the new guy.

Now, lots of guys worry about the old guy, the one who's near retirement and counting the days. After all, he's the Wambaugh protagonist who has his cabin in Idaho all set when fate or some dirtbag drops him.

Yet it's been my experience that it's the new guy who's the true harbinger of doom. Like the four horsemen, his name on an in-service sheet is a clarion call that the shit's going to hit the fan.

Don't believe me? Think about how often some boot trainee comes out and things go south. But more than that, it's the newly promoted sergeant or lieutenant that really gets things going.

I first noticed the phenomenon early in my career while listening to war stories that began with, "I remember it was Lt. Smith's first night as watch commander when..."

...and then they'd proceed to lay out a very good case for why Lt. Smith should have called in sick the night in question. Often, the story entailed riots, fire storms, earthquakes, or some embarrassing David Hasselhoff situation.

In due time I found that things were no different where I worked. We could have had four weeks of beautiful weather and relative calm and then things would go to shit the moment some new guy arrived.

It wasn't so bad if the new transfer was from another patrol station. But if a guy was just coming back to patrol after enjoying a decade-long sabbatical in various admin and custodial assignments, you knew that his would be the baptism by fire. In algebraic terms, the formula went: TAFP (time away from patrol) + Weekend - PTSD (Patrol Time Spent as Deputy) = Clustermuck (the "f" on my keyboard occasionally gets stuck).

And it didn't matter where you were assigned, either - the splatter effect would catch everyone. Even if you were the watch sergeant, you could bet it'd be the night when some inmate would apply a bedsheet tourniquet to his neck, the jailer running to his rescue would slip and bust his ass, and some deputy would crap himself from laughing too hard.

It'll be the night when the neighboring PD will drag the body of a murder victim into your jurisdiction and abandon it (you can backtrack the blood trail), and one of your prisoners will allege that one of your deputies beat her up while en route to the station.

This latter complaint will be somewhat mitigated thanks to a civilian witness who saw her Louganis out the back seat of the patrol car while on the freeway: "I could see her handcuffs sparking off the asphalt!"

Then the "victim" will change her story.

"Well, he hit the ejector button!"

The assertion will find Traffic Services Detail and Fleet Management going over the car with a fine tooth comb looking for any James Bondian adulterations. Meanwhile, you'll be stuck investigating the "name-calling" allegation.

"Now why the hell would he call you 'Flipper'?" 

"Why?" she'll scream, indicating with her finger where her cranium has dilated. "Because I had a blow hole!"

Another Employee Service Comment Form.

Yep, new guys are a jinx.

But don't take my word for it.

Just watch that in-service.

Author

Dean Scoville
Dean Scoville

Associate Editor

Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

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Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

View Bio
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