Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Work cars I've had.

Watching that car show, "Top Gear." Made me think about all the squad cars I've driven over the years. Thought I better make a note of them now before I forget them (since most were pretty forgettable). When I first hit the street on FTO most of the squads I drove were '82 (or thereabouts) Ford LTD Crown Victoria. Not a bad car. Not very fast, not very responsive, soft seats, pretty roomy, did the job okay. My biggest complaint that I can recall is that a few of my FTO's smoked (which bothered me terribly) and having the window cracked for the smoke caused cold air to be sucked in through the door handle freezing my leg. 

When I got off FTO I was sent straight to the midnight shift and assigned a '1984 Dodge Diplomat. I actually liked that better than those Crown Vics. The Dip had pretty good handling manners and a fair amount of power from it's 318 ci. engine. Seats were much better than the Crown Vic's too. All our squads had the speaker for the siren mounted up on the roof in the light bar so it was very noisy inside with that going.

Next up they got about 6 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity. Front wheel drive, no ABS, v6 motor. Looking back it wasn't a good idea to throw out a handful of front wheel drive squads to the troops with no training. These cars had terrible torque steer. They also had very bad vinyl seats. I didn't mind the car too much because it was a handful to drive and kept me busy. We only had performance summer tires on them too so terrible in the snow even with FWD.

I get a little fuzzy here but I'm thinking we got some Caprice's? I'm pretty sure I had about a 1989 one. I think this was about the best squad I had. Good handling, good power, good seats, roomy enough. I still remember one time where I had the tilt wheel up getting ready to get out. I had to turn the wheel quick and I jammed my hand on the A pillar mounted spotlight handle. Pretty sure I broke a finger on it. That really hurt. One of my Caprice's I had a interesting light bar on called the "Tomar Fast Flash." It had some very bright (for the time) strobe lights in it.

Somewhere in there we got the 4th generation Caprice (1991-1996). These were often referred to as the "bubble" or "bathtub" squads because of their shape. I hated the seats, no lumbar support whatsoever. They were low in the car and the door windows were hard to see out since we sat so low. The only thing good about the car was ABS. This was the first squad we got with ABS. It was wonderful!! Saved me bunches of times. When they rolled it out there was really no training for us. I had done enough reading about it to know how it works and what it could do. There were some high profile accidents where cops blamed the ABS. Then they came out with some minor reading article telling us how to use ABS. I believe most of the problems were caused by cops not knowing how to use ABS.

We also got a bunch of Crown Vics around 1991-1997. I liked these way more than the older LTD's. The biggest thing I can remember about these is how smooth the engines idled. It was way more comfortable than any other squad before. A lot of the time a cop spends in the squad is idling. These engines were smooth! They weren't any faster or better handling. But it sure was smooth.

We had lots of these squads over the years. My last one was a 2011. I retired in 2014 with that one. Ford quit making the Crown Vic at the end of 2011. The department decided to switch over to the Ford "Police Utility Vehicle." This was basically a Explorer modified for squad car use. I drove the Utility a few times and really didn't like the driving position. The seat is up high and you can't stretch your legs out in front. They are also very hard to see out the back windows due to structure and tinting. I was senior guy on the shift and the boss asked if I wanted a new Utility or keep my Crown Vic. I kept the Crown Vic. The Utility does have all wheel drive and active handling. But I still kept the Crown Vic. I think mine had a little over 100k miles on the clock when I left.

Some notes. When I came on the squads didn't have power windows, cruise control, and am/fm radios. The department didn't want those items to save costs. Then as time went on the manufacturers ended up charging more to have those items deleted since everybody in the world wants those items. I can't remember what squad was the first with electric windows but that sure was nice. Lots of times people flag you down and want to tell you something. The roll up windows made it pretty hard to do that when they were on the right. The midnight shifts got awful long with no music radio. Most of the guys would bring a boombox and bungy cord it to the cage. Sometimes I did but that was a hassle. Can you imagine how morale would be if they took those items out of the new squads now? Hahaha. We didn't have smart phones and internet to occupy our time back then either. I remember when I got my first pager so my wife could beep me if she wanted me to give her a call. Boy was that ever nice. My first cell phone was a Motorola DynaTac from about 1993. Pretty sure it cost me about $600. But I'm straying from this subject. Thanks for reading. Have a great day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

How about a happy story? One night I was driving my van to work the midnight shift. Warm summer night so I had my window down. I was wearing my uniform so I'm thinking I had worked an off duty job that day ( I usually didn't wear my uniform home). I worked midnights for 7 years so it was sometime between '84-'91. Crossing Snelling Ave. on Marshall I hear a loud bang sound as something hit my door, just below the open window. I kept driving so whomever threw it didn't think I would do anything about it. I drove up to the next intersection over the hill and turned north, knowing they couldn't have seen me turn there. I parked over on Carroll and walked up into the woods by the railroad bridge overpass. I spotted two guys on the bridge and they had a carton of eggs that they were throwing. I came out of the brush and shined the flashlight and yelled at them that I'm the police and they're under arrest. I handcuffed them together so they couldn't run and walked them down to the gas station at Carroll and Snelling. This was before cell phones remember. And, we didn't have radios issued to us so I had no way to communicate. I had the attendant call the police and tell them to send a squad to assist me. We tagged them for throwing objects at cars. I took a picture of the van with the egg splatter on the door. It hit about 3" below the window. I came very close to getting an egg on my uniform. If they had hit me in the face I could have easily crashed. I was rather upset with these two college boys. They had obviously had a couple of beers and thought it would be fun to pelt passing motorists, and get a little throwing practice in at the same time. I wrote a report and don't remember hearing anything about what happened after that. Well, a couple years ago I'm at a local charter middle school for wayward youth. Handling a call for some problem children. After resolving the issue the principal asks me if I have a minute to talk to him about something else. We go in his office. He says years ago he did something really stupid with a buddy when they were in college. He tells me about that incident. He said he felt so bad about it afterward and he wanted to apologize and thank me for being firm with him and catching him and treating him fairly. I almost cried (I do cry easily, but still). He said I made a profound impression on him and taught him a valuable lesson. I thanked him for thanking me. I told him no hard feelings and I'm glad everything worked out for the better. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Preserving memories of bygone times.

Driving around today listening to the radio talk about riots in Baltimore they were interviewing an ex-police chief about the Baltimore police. The guy was talking about administrators making decisions that some don't think were the right decision. Well, that got me thinking about some pretty stupid decisions that were made around my work. Don't get me wrong, I had a bunch of great bosses over the years. But, I thought it would be interesting for my grand children to see some goofy stuff too, and to see what a rebel difficult to supervise patrolman I was. I also know that my memory is not getting any better and when those memories are gone they're gone. So, how about I make a note of some of them once in awhile for some interesting reading? I'm not going to identify anybody by name. Pretty sure nobody is going to read this that will be able to figure the names out either. I intend to note all sorts of history somewhere on this blog but for starters I figured I'd note the turkey orders. How about the supervisor I had that didn't like me, period. He always seemed to find things to challenge me on. I had a pair of Rudy Project sunglasses that were given to me by Jim Ochowicz, then manager of the 7-11 cycling team. They were expensive high quality glasses. They were wrap around kind, red frames. Well, this boss certainly didn't like those glasses. He told me so. I told him there was nothing in the manual about what sunglasses we were allowed to wear. I also told him there were no sunglasses provided in our uniform allowance. I told him if he wants me to wear a particular sunglass he would have to provide them for me. And, everybody else would have to wear the exact same glasses. Since that's one of the reasons he told me I shouldn't wear them. He said they don't go with the uniform. They are "... of a garrish color that clashes with the conservative nature of our uniform." Wellllll, he sure didn't like me. So, on a day the Chief was coming to roll call to give me a commendation (for an off duty arrest) he told me to take my sunglasses off my head (I always wore them up top while inside the building and then on my eyes when going outside) before roll call. Shame on me for not following that "lawful order." I left those glasses up top, and got my award from the Chief. On a side note, the Chief handed me the letter and said, "this is a copy of the letter that will be going into your permanent personnel file, along with all the bad stuff about you." Hahahaha, that was one smooth Chief there. My wife and kids were watching. Nice huh? After roll call that boss yelled at me at the top of his lungs about my insubordination. He wrote me up and recommended suspension. I got a written reprimand for "insubordination,  failure to follow a lawful order."  Dang that hurt. I did keep wearing those same sunglasses for quite some time after that incident. My Union representative told me as far as he could tell that order was just for that particular time. He never said, "never wear those sunglasses again." That boss was rather disliked (a nice way to put it, hahaha) and retired not all that long after that incident. I had other run-ins with him. Maybe I'll relate one or two more some day. That's all for now I guess. Thanks for reading.