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Take It from This American Cop: No Day Is Ever Routine

'One minute I'm kissing my wife goodbye ... The next, I'm chasing some guy with a gun and a bag of cocaine on him'

It’s been a long day. Rake leaves, pile leaves, burn leaves. Next up is a ride to school to pick up the kids and help with homework. Double check. Triple check. I look at my watch and say, “I’ve got to feed them.” Tacos for dinner again — quick and easy. I clean up, brush my teeth, perfect the hair-do, and embrace my little girls. Finally, it’s time to gear up and roll out to work in the squad car that collects pine needles in my driveway.

I see my wife pulling into the driveway on her way home from work. I kiss her and tell her I love her. These brief moments are all that we get to share on work days, but that’s cop life.

I hit the road, and the first pre-work ritual of the day is down. Following the unknown events to unfold from a few 911 calls, traffic stops, whatever the brass throws at me, and 12 hours on the clock, I’ll be racing home to beat the sunrise so I can get a few hours of sleep before I have to do it all over again.

But right now it’s time to gas up the car and get my head right with some caffeine.

I kiss my wife and tell her I love her. These brief moments are all that we get to share on work days, but that’s cop life.

I pull into the station and start filling up the tank in my cruiser. That Texas deputy who got a bullet to the back of his head at a Chevron while putting gas in his own tank flashes through my mind. I look over my left shoulder, then my right. No one’s there. “And now for some coffee,” I say to myself as I walk toward the QuikTrip. Vehicle 153 continues to fill behind me.

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I walk through the front door and scan the room for anything out of the ordinary. Old habits. I head for the mosh pit that is the coffee station during rush hour and take notice. It’s rife with construction crews, commuters, and locals all jockeying for position to get at that sweet caffeine. One older Hispanic man looks at me as I’m dumping creamer into my cup.

“You work for Donald Trump?” he asks.

“I guess we all do in a way, right, bud?” I reply with a smirk.

I reach for a lid, and the same guy’s elbow bumps into my overflowing cup, knocking the liquid out onto my hand. I grit my teeth as the drink scalds me, and the man apologizes with a genuine look on his face.

“It happens,” I say. “Have a good one.”

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I pull out my wallet and try to pay for the coffee up at the front, but the clerk doesn’t let me. Seeing a lonely single tucked in there, I take it out and slap it on the counter.

“Let me give you a buck, at least. I appreciate you,” I tell her as I walk out. My second daily ritual is behind me and it’s time to head into the city.

I flip back and forth between two AM radio politics shows as I cruise control northbound on the highway until the stop-and-go traffic of the city rears its ugly head. When one show breaks for commercial, I switch right over to the next. When both stations are trying to sell me something, I slum it with sports radio for a few minutes. I’m impatient like that.

 One of those street bikes roars past me doing well over a hundred before it disappears in the distance. I’m out of my jurisdiction, and this car I’m pushing couldn’t keep up with that reckless fool anyway. Then there’s the chase policy that says I can’t have some fun with it no matter how much I want to. I wonder if the drivers on all sides of me know what I know, or if they think I’m just some lazy bum of a cop turning the other cheek.
I continue on. So goes my third daily ritual until I pull into the parking lot of the precinct. I’m twenty minutes early, as usual, so I read the daily “pass down” in my work email to find out what shenanigans the day watch crew got into. That’s number four. Before I know it, it’s time for roll call.

Roll call kicks off with the supervisor passing down the perfunctory housecleaning issues, reminders, and “new rules” from up top because someone messed something insignificant up. Eye-rolling commences, then a snarky comment or two. I look around the room. Most of us know what time it is. Bolos are issued. Small talk. It’s time to hit the road.

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I get to my car and log onto my computer. I’m sore from a hard workout yesterday and a busy night at the office. “I’ll just play defense tonight,” I think to myself. “Defense” means I’m hitting the crime hotspots and showing presence. I’m not looking for trouble, excitement, or adventure. A clean sheet for entering autos at the hotels, robberies in the streets, and burglaries at the residences on my beat is a win.

The first call is routine. A woman is complaining about the neighbor’s dog barking and wants me to do something about it. I tell her I can ask the man to be a better neighbor, but we don’t have a city ordinance against his dog yapping. She’s one of those city council meeting regulars who reads the ordinances, knows the politicians, and isn’t afraid to tell you about it. In an attempt to correct me about the ordinance, she cites “public nuisance.”

I advise her I will double check, but I’m fairly certain it only covers violent or dangerous animals. I’m right, but I tactfully make her feel whole before I leave. The neighbor lets his dog inside and the next several hours go by uneventfully. I’m feeling lucky.

It’s about 2 a.m. and the call goes out. “Discharging firearms.” I head over to the complex it was heard from and come across three males in a vehicle matching the description given by the caller. The driver attempts to move the vehicle when he sees me. I block it in. I approach the vehicle as my backup is arriving.

“Get out,” I say to the driver. I pat him down for a weapon and tell him to sit on the hood. My beat buddy gets the front passenger out and I see a gun on the floorboard. I don’t say a word until I get the third out from the backseat, pat him down, and corral the three at the front of the car. “Gun on the floorboard,” I say to my comrade.

I place him in custody and pull a bag of cocaine out of his pocket.

He grabs it. One runs. I know I should be thinking about his hands as I give chase. You’ve got to watch the hands — but for some reason I’m thinking, “Damn. My legs are sore from that workout. I’m not 100 percent.”

I yell “stop,” but who am I kidding? Stubbornness pushes me on and I close the distance. I shove the suspect hard from behind and he slides across the parking lot like a seal on ice. I place him in custody and pull a bag of cocaine out of his pocket. I’m feeling kind of bad that he sustained some scrapes, but he shouldn’t have run. They end up being just a couple of drunk, coked-up idiots firing rounds off into the air.

It’s time for paperwork. I’ve got to log the gun and dope and impound the vehicle. I finish around 4:30 a.m. Two more hours to go.

I pull into the parking lot of one of my hotels to finish up my report when I see this guy in a hoodie crouching down by the back door of a vehicle. Then I see there’s another vehicle two cars over that’s running with its headlights blacked out. Just my luck. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

I pop out of my car and the suspect jumps into the blue Chevy Aveo with the blacked-out headlights. I get back in my car, and the suspect’s vehicle backs over a curb and into a storage container. Three suspects jump out, but I can only catch one. I pick the lowest hanging fruit. With my weapon drawn, I order the slow, fat one to the ground. The other two jump a fence and run off. They get away — but they’ll be back. It’s job security.

The vehicle comes back stolen, but I was lucky to get there before the suspects were able to make entry into the other car they were targeting, so I keep my clean sheet. The race is on to impound the car, complete the jail run, and finish the paperwork for both cases so I can get off on time, which I do.

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I’m watching the clock as it strikes 6:30 a.m. The day watch supervisor comes over the radio and gets his shift in service. It’s time to hit the road. My adrenaline is still going and I’m thinking about the last 12 hours I just put in. I’m feeling grateful to be able to do what I do. Tonight was a win.

I hit the highway and the adrenaline dump sets in. With the windows down and the radio turned up, I’m fighting back the nods. This is my final daily ritual — just make it home without falling asleep.

I pull into the driveway and get out of my car to hear the birds chirping. I’m greeted by my family, and the dog is going crazy with excitement to see me as I walk through the door.

“It’s good to be home,” I think to myself as they leave for work and school. The sun is coming up and I’m feeling content as I collapse into bed. Tomorrow’s another day.

T.B. Lefever is a police officer in the Atlanta, Georgia, area and an OpsLens contributor. Throughout his career, he has served as a SWAT hostage negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a school resource officer, and a uniformed patrol officer. He has a BA in criminal justice and sociology from Rutgers University in New Jersey. This article is from OpsLens and is used by permission. 

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