*Note* This post is the third in an ongoing series of posts written by Joseph Julicher, a former police officer, who has been invited to blog about his time as a cop on CopBlock.org. Julicher’s other posts at CopBlock.org can be found here: “Meet Telly Heath” and “Not this Again!”
There had been rumors going around for days that Flanagan was denying my request to be sent to the accident investigation school. I didn’t believe it, since I’d heard of no one else who had submitted their name on our platoon to attend. As a matter of fact, no one else in the entire department had requested the school; translation; sending nobody to accident investigation school was better than sending Julicher. Really? But, then again, I’d never thought that this place was run very well. I had been known to quip “If these fucker’s (administration) ran a lemonade stand, it would go out of business, yet you leave them in charge of a ten-plus million dollar budget?”
I passed Timmy Waring upon his exit of the midnight shift.
“How’s things going?” Tim asked.
I said “Decent, except for the fact that you’ve heard Flanagan’s giving me shit.”
Immediately Waring exclaims, “Well, just remind that fuck about the night he stuck that gun in that dudes mouth.”
We both laughed, and I shook it off. I wanted the school on merit, I wasn’t the type of person to try and hamstring someone with something. Besides, with my own morality wrestling match, I’d been trying to put that event out of my mind, let alone dwell on it or air dirty laundry. Be that as it were, Waring and I spent about forty-five minutes “reminiscing” about that night in the parking life. We laughed about it, but shook our heads at the same time, in typical, cop, gallows humor behavior. Life was moving on for both of us; Tim had just been promoted to Lieutenant and I was expecting my first kid. No sense bringing up ghosts of the past. If only they’d leave me alone.
The bad news came first thing in the morning, Lieutenant Tim Hark broke it,
“Flanagan said he’s not going to recommend you for class.”
“That’s what I’ve heard” I replied, “What the fuck, Tim?”
“I know, I know, we just have to get used to the way he does business.”
“No, we don’t. I mean really, do you think that it benefits our platoon?”
Sometimes, cops have a tendency to become territorial when it comes to their assigned command. I had been a member of Third Platoon since graduating the academy, save for the couple of years on steady midnights. Tim and I had been on Patrol while Flanagan was out playing detective. I say playing because the simple truth is that Flanagan was a pud. Plain and simple, a chicken-shit, narcissistic, paper hard-guy, who wouldn’t be noticed in a mall unless he was in full uniform. His physical presence demanded exactly no respect. This guy was literally an “average Joe”. Now, Captain-fantastic was making a “command” decision that I felt was going to be detrimental to our platoon, and my personal progress as well.
“Well”, Lt. Hark began, “do you want to see if we can set up a meeting? See if we can maybe get some answers or plead your case?”
“Of course I do.” I said, and went about the business of getting ready for my shift.
Aside from the bad news, it was going to be a pretty cool day. It was the eve of my best friend’s wedding and there were still plans last minute details to be worked out. Amy even had one of her best friends in from out of town, checking on her expectant condition. Like I’ve said; life was GOOD! Unfortunately, sometimes when life is seemingly going too smoothly, sometimes a wheel falls off. However, I had no reason to believe that all four wheels were about to come off, crash, roll over, land upside down in a ditch, and burst into flames.
Lt. Hark and I walked into the Captain’s office for our meeting. To my face, Tim had told me that he was supportive of me and had tried to sway the Captain’s decision; I had no reason to doubt this to be true.
“So, Lt. Hark here said that you wanted to meet with me?”
“Well, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know, that’s exactly what I want to know, ‘what’s going on’? I’ve put in for this school for the past twelve years, only to be beaten out by a senior officer. Now that I am senior man, you won’t send me. Furthermore, I’m the ONLY person department-wide who has put in for it. Regardless, I’m the most qualified. It’s my understanding that the course is heavily mathematically based, and my field of study was engineering right before I came and took this job. So, it’s the perfect fit.”
“You want to know why I’m not going to send you then.”
“Ut-oh” I thought to myself as I could feel my blood coursing through my body. “Did this motherfucker just question MY character? Oh shit, keep it together, choose your words VERY carefully.”
“You mean to tell me that you’ve developed a summary judgment about me in TWO MONTHS AS MY BOSS, that includes ‘questioning my character?’ You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Missing the point, Captain Fantastic went on to explain that he’d assumed command of the Third Platoon well over two months ago, and we argued about his exposure to my work and work ethic. You see, there was a transition with day-off groups, his vacation time, and my vacation time; all told, we had worked in proximity with each other for two months, but why let the facts interfere with the assessment by a lunatic.
“I’ve seen enough.”
“You’ve seen enough? I’ve heard enough! Captain, why don’t you excuse the Lieutenant here and maybe you and I have our own private chat about ‘CHARACTER’”
Flanagan moved his weight forward on his chair (I doubt that his candy-ass was still making contact with it) and shouted “You want to talk to me ‘man-to-man’?” Pounding on his desk for emphasis he went on, “You wanna talk to me one-on-one? Tim”…
Lieutenant Hark, who had been wholly uncomfortable since the beginning of the meeting, couldn’t get out of his seat fast enough. Hark, who was seated to my right, did what only could be characterized as the best Speedy Gonzales impersonation I’d ever seen. Exiting the room, I’m not even sure if his feet ever touched the ground! And then there were two…
“Joe, what’s this all about?”
“You brought up the word ‘character’”
“Yes I did!” Attempting to stand his ground in a situation where he was clearly over-matched.
“Joe, you’re my new boss, and you’re entitled to your opinion as to how I perform as an employee. You’re even entitled to your assessment as to my abilities as a police officer. I wholeheartedly disagree with your opinion on both, and have performance evaluations for fifteen years that back up MY opinion. However, you mentioned the word ‘character’, and that’s out of your purview! You see, I AM a man of great character, and where I come from, if you question a man’s character, you better to be willing to back it up. Yet, here we are, in this artificial environment, where three feet of mahogany and bars on your collar provide you the false sense of cover where you have the gall to question my character, when, if we were standing at a bar right now, you’d be on your ass! Don’t take false liberties with me, do you understand? This is bigger than this job, and YOU of all people have some nerve questioning MY character!”
“You’re a senior level administrator in this department, you couldn’t possibly formulate a summary judgment about my job performance in only two whole months. Nope, we BOTH know that there’s something else to this!”
“A grudge, a vendetta, revenge. Call it what you will, but what I wouldn’t call it an act of great character. It happened so long ago that I’d forgotten it, but now it’s crystal clear; this is payback! I blew you in to Captain Burr for slapping that kid around on the domestic at Eggert and Colvin.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Oh really? Well, lemme see if I can refresh your memory….
I “refreshed” Flanagan’s memories of the incident, in great detail, as the cowardly little motherfucker feigned that his memory had failed him.
“And then consider this; why did I blow you in for that? Maybe there was a little history of you behaving that way. Imagine that, they were both involving young, minority suspects. Yep, I saw the pattern, I saw you jeopardizing the careers of honest cops by doling out a little ‘street justice’; unfortunately for you, those kids had rights too. Maybe, regrettably, the first time I ‘looked the other way’, but not the next time. Sorry, I like this job, it pays my bills and I ain’t putting my neck out for some agenda driven racist.”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Really? You’re going to sit there and claim amnesia about, not one, but TWO incidents that I witnessed with my very own eyes? Are you fucking kidding me? You wanted to talk about ‘character’, so now it’s on the table, let’s talk about it! Because from where I sit, you’re telling me that a man questioning MY character is the same kind of piece of shit who has a track record of abusing minority suspects and even goes to the point of sticking a gun in a man’s mouth because he had the living shit scared outta him and didn’t know how to control himself. That same man of ‘character’ then asserts himself upon junior officers to cover his own ass. It’s a shame, too, because if I’d have stood up to your bullshit and stood up for that kid, this meeting wouldn’t even be happening because there would have been no more ‘Officer Flanagan’ let alone CAPTAIN Flanagan that’s sitting here giving me shit about MY character. Over what? A fucking school? An absolute joke! You picked this fight over a fucking school?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, and I don’t like your attitude”
“MY attitude? Fuck you! Telly Heath! The car chase, asshole! The car chase where the kid crashed out a Buff State. The one where you pissed your pants because he popped up out of that garbage container and smashed your face. The one where me and Waring came around the corner only to find you on top of the kid with your gun in his mouth. That jogging your memory any?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re going to sit there and deny it? That it ever happened? I saw it, motherfucker! I’m telling you, I saw it with my own two fucking eyes and even then, you have the balls to sit there and play dumb with me, you cocksucker? Funny, when Tim Waring reminded me of it this very morning, at 8:00 in the lot, his recollection was EXACTLY the same as mine!”
“You were there? I don’t remember you being there. I remember Waring being there, but not you. Another supervisor of this department spoke to you about this before coming to speak to me? Why? Why would Waring do that?”
“Why? Because he heard that you were giving me shit about this school and told me that I should ‘remind’ you about that incident. A little ‘leverage’ so to speak. But I told him that I wasn’t about to do that. But no, you had to fucking get on your high horse and talk about my character. Fuck you! MY character, you motherfucker? We closed our mouths, we looked the other way, we SAVED your career and now this? Is that the fucking character that you’re talking about, you piece of shit?”
“Are you threatening me?” he retorted.
HO-LY-FUCK, once again! This motherfucker is CRAZY! Nothing from this conversation is sinking in. He goes from denial mode and now he’s into defensive mode; 100% cover-your-own-ass territory. Wow, did this take a turn!
“Un, no, Joe. Nobody is threatening you in the least. You called this meeting and YOU assaulted MY character. Now we’re just two men in a room, talking about character. Nothing more, nothing less; nobody threatened anybody about anything.”
Stream of consciousness thinking takes over and he’s totally out of context.
“I remember that guy. He’s the one that tried to start all of that shit. He was writing letters to the FBI, I had to answer questions about that. He was involved in that big stolen car ring. That was a nice pinch, we got a lot outta that one.”
“Oh, so now you remember?”
“Yes, but I STILL don’t remember you being there. I remember Waring being there, but I don’t remember you.”
“Well, Waring remembers and I remember, and according to our conversation this morning, he remembers EXACTLY as I do!”
“Why would another supervisor talk to you ‘out of school’ about another supervisor of this department? I gotta talk to Tim about that!”
“You’re fucking kidding me, right? THAT’S what your takeaway is from all of this is? You’re pissed that he didn’t follow protocol? We’re talking about your lack of self-control that nearly got us all into a jackpot, yet you’re worried about procedures?”
“Joe, I don’t know what you think you saw that night, but I can assure you, there was no gun in that kid’s mouth!”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Me, Tim Waring, we saw the same thing! Your fucking lose your shit…
The captain calls him in and Ritchie pops his head in the door, nervously “You guys OK in here? Getting pretty loud, I can hear you all the way to the front desk.”
“We’re fine” Says the Captain, with a dismissive inference. Engler leaves us, and I spark right back up.
“You lost your shit on that kid and stuck a barrel of a gun in his mouth ‘nigger this, nigger that, nigger you’re gonna die’. What the fuck Joe, we were ALL right there, we ALL heard it. Waring repeated it to me this morning, word for word, yet you’re going to sit here and deny it?”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Threatening you how? Why do you keep going on about threatening you? I haven’t heard one single thing come outta my mouth that was in the form of a threat, implied or otherwise. Just two men in a room, like you said ‘do you want to talk to me one-on-one?’ I had the fucking presence to have you dismiss Hark before anyone said anything stupid in front of anyone. If anything else, I was doing exactly the opposite of threatening you, I was keeping this between US. As far as I’m concerned, this shit never leaves the room. I mean, decorum has certainly broken down, we’re well past ‘Officer Julicher reporting to Captain Flanagan’ because if we ain’t, well then I’m pretty fucked! So no, NOBODY IS THREATENING YOU IN ANY MANNER. I just wanted to go to a fucking school, but you had to go and make it about something bigger.”
“I don’t know what to do. I have to talk to Waring, I gotta tell the Chief. One of my employees comes to me like this, and I’m on the hook here.”
“Uh, no you DON’T! This conversation is NEVER leaving this room! Are you fucking kidding me? I ain’t sayin’ a goddamned word to a goddamned soul! It’s in my own best interest to keep my fucking mouth SHUT!”
So, now here we are, in calmer waters, trying to play strategy and figure out what the play is. I tell this moron twenty-five times if I told him once that a) No one issued ANY threat, and b) I ain’t saying a single fucking word about this. The conversation ebbs and flows. His wife calls his office, my wife is blowing up my cell phone. All told, we’re there for about two-and-a-half hours, just yelling and screaming at each other, working on skeletons. In fact, Officer Engler has to interrupt us again, explaining that every word can be heard by the citizens in the lobby and that our language is unprofessional, shocking, and has registered on their faces!
We somehow call some reluctant truce, I even take the initiative to shake his hand and ensure that I have direct eye contact with him, “Joe, there’s no threat. This stays between you and me.”
“Can’t do it, I’ve got to talk to the Chief. And Waring.”
“Alright, well, if you’re going to talk to Tim, at least let me do it first. I brought his name into this, so I’m not gonna let you just blind side him with it; I owe him that much”.
We part company and I go on a to find Waring. I end up finding out that he’s working a side job in a local park, and I drive there to meet him. I pull up alongside of him, and he inquires as to why I’m wearing a uniform 2.5 hours after shift; he thinks that I’m on my way to a side job. He can tell by my face, it’s much, much more serious than that.
“What happened?” he asks.
“Oh fuck, it blew up! Fireworks, me and Flanagan. His office. Screaming, swearing, Ritchie had to interrupt us TWICE because we were too loud. Holy fuck, what a jackpot. Sorry I dragged you into this. Flanagan’s pissed”
I’m startled at his response. Hell, Timmy’s even laughing about this.
“Fuck him; if he’d have had some self-control for once in his fucking life, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.”
Well, the worst of my fears were put to rest. Tim and I had been really close at one point. We’d spent hours upon hours in this very same park, over coffee, while working midnights. We discussed every facet of life, and he even credited me with giving him some advice that saved his own marriage. I distinctly remember that night, because there were tears in my eyes when we spoke of it. I mean, I’d made some mistakes in my own life, especially when it came to my first marriage, but if I were able to provide my buddy with some good insight, it took away some of my own guilt and burden. I was touched, so what…
We spoke for about forty-five minutes, and then I drove home. Of course I had to rehash the episode with Amy. There were some details with my buddy’s wedding to get to, so he was pissed at me by the time I got around to him. I explained that I was delayed by my meeting with Flanagan. When he asked for detail, all I provided was that it was tense and that it had blown up and I wasn’t sure what kind of a jackpot that I was in.