Don't Be a Fair Weather Cop

About the last thing I like to do is make t-stops during bad weather. Nonetheless, it's the job. And here's a story of why we need to remain vigilant even when it's awful outside.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Photo: Flickr (Tattooed JJ).Photo: Flickr (Tattooed JJ).

Sometimes I think California's weather system is more schizoid than I am. At the very least, it's more mercurial.

It can be hot and sunny one day, raining and cold the next, then back to hot and sunny.

Knowing the genuine horrors experienced in recent weeks by those in Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere, we Southern Californians won't be getting much sympathy, nor should we (at least, not until the seismic scales of fate shift...).

I merely mention our weather just to point out that such meteorological polarities can factor into how we do—or don't do—our jobs.

Several of my friends here in the Not-So-Golden State are currently laid up. It's not just the usual cold and viruses keeping a good man down, but mutant angiosperms and pollen that are causing all manner of head congestion and sinus infections. And when cops are dealing with dizziness, fuzzy thinking, and some very unglamorous nasal scenes, it hardly seems reasonable to expect them to be busting their asses under such conditions. I suspect that even some of their healthier peers are reticent to test the claims of their decongestants for fear of getting waylaid.

So while it's not been raining a helluva lot, some guys are hunkering down and laying low. Unfortunately, such work slowdowns may be what some criminals are counting on.

I'm not pious on the matter. I hate, abhor, loathe, despise and generally abominate rainy nights. So just about the last thing I like to do is make t-stops during bad weather. Nonetheless, it's the job. And here's a story of why we need to remain vigilant even when it's awful outside.

It was a dark and stormy night—I always wanted to start a story that way—when I saw a van roll through a stop sign. The "California stop" was almost forgivable given the van's compromised traction on the roadway and the absence of any other traffic on the road. All the same, it was a moving violation and so I stopped the van.

From the outset, the driver acted pretty nervous. Not having the benefit of a well rehearsed response, his excuse for being out and about on such a miserable night proved suspicious, too. I decided to ask for a permissive search of the back of the van, which he half-heartedly gave.

I opened the rear cargo bay doors and found the van completely empty, save for one thing: An empty cash register. Again, the man's explanation of it proved pretty half-assed and I ultimately had enough to take the guy in for reasonable cause burglary.

Back at the station, I found a case in the detective bureau in which a church had been burglarized several days before and its cash register taken. My driver eventually copped to the crime.

The one thing that stood out about the stop later was the guy's total befuddlement that he'd been caught. He admitted that he been counting on the bad weather to allow him to transport the register from one storage spot to another.

"I really didn't think you guys would be hassling people in the rain."

To be candid, I came really close to not "hassling" the guy. I didn't want to get out of my warm patrol car, either. But I was glad I did.

I'd be lying if I said I always showed such initiative, nor would I expect anyone to, either. But the next time you find yourself thinking twice before stopping a car because it's too hot or too cold, ask yourself one question.

Is that just what the driver's counting on?

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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