Originally published in the fanzine Sentry Duty #11
Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing.
A prequel to "Graduation" in Sentry Duty #10
by Susan M. M.
Cadet Blair Sandburg settled into a desk. He pulled out a notebook and three sharpened pencils. Other cadets took their places around him. Some greeted him, some didn't. More than a few gave him odd looks. Blair suppressed a sigh. He hoped that in the weeks to come, his classmates would start taking him for granted. Otherwise, it was going to be a very long thirteen weeks.
Cadet Roger Jeter sat at the desk next to Blair and smiled a greeting. Roger was a few years younger than Blair, and had in fact, once been his student in Anthropology 102 at Rainier University. Tall, blond, and muscular, he looked like he'd stepped down from a recruiting poster for the Cascade Police Department.
Roger turned to talk with Catalina Jimenez on his other side. Stan Litewski sat beside Blair, gave him a dirty look, and proceeded to ignore him. Blair bit his lip, telling himself not to let it bother him. One of Naomi's mantras whispered in the back of his mind: let other people's negativity roll over you, like waves rolling over the rocks on the beach. The waves can not harm the rocks. Blair thought that Naomi had never been in a situation where everyone around her was convinced she was a liar. Half the class thought he'd lied about his dissertation and had no place in the police academy. The other half thought he'd only lied about lying, and were convinced that Detective Jim Ellison was a real Sentinel – despite Blair's press conference proclaiming himself an academic fraud – and that he was the Tonto to Jim's Lone Ranger, the Kato to his Green Hornet. Hell, one classmate had flat out compared Blair and Jim to Wong and Doctor Strange.
Sergeant Sam London strode into the classroom. "Good morning, cadets."
"Sir, good morning, sir," the class said in unison. Except for Blair, who only mouthed the words. Roger noticed what he was doing and winked.
"What is the primary purpose of an officer on patrol? What is his mission statement?" Sgt. London demanded.
O'Reilly raised his hand. "Sir, to protect and to serve, sir."
London shook his head.
"To uphold the laws," volunteered Erica Rice. "Sir."
"That's for when the commissioner's around, not for real life." The sergeant looked around the room. "Jeter?"
"To come home alive, sir."
"Close," London allowed grudgingly. "The universal goal of patrol officers everywhere is never get cold, hungry, or wet."
Several of the class stared at him in disbelief. It was only the second week of the police academy, and they had not yet lost their idealism.
"This job is tough enough with deliberately adding discomfort," London explained. "Police offers take care of themselves; they have to. When's the last time you saw a cop make a traffic stop in the rain?"
As the class thought that over, London picked up a dry-erase marker and wrote on the whiteboard behind him. "These are the four main tasks of a patrol officer. They are prioritized as follows. One, answering radio calls for service. Two, covering or backing up other officers on their calls. Three, writing reports and performing follow-up. Four, officer-initiated activities. In other words, cadets, think of yourselves as attached to your radio. That radio is your friend. It is your sweetheart. You stay by it." He turned at looked at the class.
"If you're dispatched to a call, you go. That takes priority over officer-initiated traffic enforcement. If another officer needs help with a call, if he – or she," London added, "needs back-up, that's a definite priority. Not only do you want to be alive at the end of your shift, you want your brother officers alive at the end of their shifts."
Two cadets were whispering in the back of the room.
"Jensen and Fisher, drop and give me twenty," London ordered quietly.
"Sir, yes, sir," the two-red faced cadets replied. They clambered down to the floor and immediately began doing push-ups.
"I know you've all seen Hollywood's idea of police work: Lethal Weapon, Starsky and Hutch, Hawaii 5-0, Forever Knight, Cagney & Lacey, Hill Street Blues, that sort of thing. Forget 'em. I want you to think Barney Miller. Paperwork, cadets. The sun may burn out some day, but paperwork is eternal. Proper documentation is the lifeblood of the judicial system. And do you know why?"
No one volunteered an answer, either not knowing or else thinking it was a rhetorical question.
"If you can't explain that a crime occurred, and clearly state what it was, you might as well hand in your badge. Defense attorneys will eat you alive on the stand." His eyes raked the class, capturing and looking each one in the eye, one by one. "You remember your English teacher talking about the five Ws when she was trying to teach you how to write an essay?"
"I have six honest serving-men," Blair quoted under his breath. "They taught me all I knew. Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who."
"You have something to share with the class, Sandburg?"
Blair repeated the verse aloud. Some of his classmates chuckled.
"You fellows laughing, you could do worse than remember that bit of Kipling. It'll help when it comes time to write your reports," London told the scoffers. "All right, Sandburg, how much time do police officers spend on writing?"
Blair knew that well, having done the lion's share of Jim's paperwork for the last few years. "Roughly fifty percent, sir."
London nodded, and Blair thought he glimpsed approval in his eyes. "Roughly fifty percent. If you don't like writing reports, if you can't accurately record what you've seen and done, then you're in the wrong line of work."
A couple of the jocks and gung-ho guys traded dismayed glances.
"If there are no calls, if no one needs back up, and if your reports are finished, then you can do officer-initiated activities. Who can define officer-initiated activities for me?" London looked at the raised hands, and chose one at random. "Jimenez."
"Sir, officer-initiated activities are anything an officer can decide whether or not to do, sir," she replied.
"Such as?" London encouraged her to continue.
"Parking by the side of the road with a radar gun. Checking to see all the doors are locked at the strip mall after closing time. Stopping by a bar, looking to see if there's trouble. Making warrant checks- "
London nodded. "That'll do. Can you decide not to respond to a radio call? No. Can you decide not to back up a fellow officer? Hell, no! Can you decide not to write up a report? No. But traffic enforcement, bar checks, civil assists, building checks, etc., that you can decide for yourself whether or not to do, and when. And how do you know what to do when?" His head turned as he looked at the class, trying to see who understood and who was hopelessly lost. "That's a matter of priorities. And one of the hardest things for a rookie cop to learn is how to prioritize. Anybody know what triage is?"
Three or four hands flew up. London pointed to Cartwright.
"Sir, triage is a medical term, where doctors decide which patients are hurt the worst, and which patients must be seen to first," Alexander Cartwright answered.
"Correct, and dispatch will triage the calls. It's sort of like poker. A bar fight beats a shoplifter in custody, but a shooting beats a bar fight. A fellow officer in trouble is ace-high; nothing beats that." London stepped away from the podium. "The Cascade PD does not need kamikaze cops. We need cops with brains. The last thing we want is Rick the Rookie warrant hunting when –"
A hand flew up. "Sir?"
"What's warrant hunting, sir?"
"Stopping cars and contacting citizens specifically to search for people with warrants," London explained.
"Without probable cause?"
London nodded. "Do it without probable cause, and you're begging for trouble. Now say Rick the Rookie decides to go warrant hunting while everyone else is tied up on calls, or trying to eat lunch. He thinks it shows how gung-ho he is." The sergeant shook his head. "Just shows his inexperience. Instead of cooling his heels in a parking lot, maybe keeping an eye on a neighborhood where vandals have been causing trouble, maybe sitting there catching up on his paperwork, Rick makes several traffic stops. Most just annoy people, and give them a bad impression of the department. One goes bad. All of a sudden he's maybe trading punches with a drunk driver, maybe looking down the barrel of a gun because the guy he stopped for expired tags is really a dope dealer. What happens then?"
Jeter raised his hand. "Sir, he calls for back up."
"If he's able to – he might not be able to reach his radio, and he's dead before we find out about it. Or maybe he does call for back up, but everybody else is across town, or already busy. Somebody else has to leave his location to go bail out Rick the Rookie." London looked at the class. "What should Rick have been doing before all this started?"
Blair glanced around to see if any hands were going up. It was bad enough having a reputation as the class liar; he didn't want a reputation as a know-it-all. Not seeing anyone else volunteering, he raised his hand.
"He should've been monitoring his radio, sir. Keeping an ear out for what everyone else was doing and where they were," Blair explained.
London raised one eyebrow, then nodded in grudging approval. "Vic the Veteran would have been sitting in the 7-11 parking lot, discouraging shoplifters by his presence, listening to the radio as he caught up on his paperwork. Vic would've heard if several officers announced they were taking lunch breaks, and known that back up would be slow. If the north side of seemed to be having more than its fair share of break-ins or purse snatchings, Vic would've started up his car and headed north, ready to assist if necessary. He would've been closer to possible trouble."
One of the cadets sneezed; someone murmured "bless you."
"Another difference between Vic the Veteran and Rick the Rookie, Vic never misses morning briefing," London continued.
Blair strongly suspected that by the time he finished the police academy, he would be sick of Rick the Rookie and Vic the Veteran.
"Rick got to work late, missed briefing, didn't hear that the bank was robbed during the last shift and the suspect got away in a red Ford Focus. Rick is young and cocky, thinks he knows everything, so he doesn't bother to ask a buddy to catch him up. He wants to impress his sergeant by being a busy little beaver, so he immediately sets up for traffic enforcement. He sees a red Ford pass by him, six miles over the speed limit. So he flips on the lights, and goes after him, figuring a lot of tickets will impress the sergeant." London shook his head. "No matter what you may have heard, there is no quota for traffic tickets."
"Not even for DWB, Sgt. London?" asked DeMarcus Washington.
"Raise your hand if you have a question, Washington," admonished London mildly. Anyone else he would have given push-ups, but not Washington, especially not about a question on Driving While Black. Washington's father was a civil rights attorney who regularly attended fundraisers with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Washington's father had recently filed a suit against the Cascade Police Department over insufficient minority recruitment and promotions. All the instructors at the academy had been 'requested' to treat the son with kid gloves.
"Now, Vic, on the other hand, has been doing paperwork in the 7-11 parking lot. He knows he doesn't want to issue a summons, because his Slurpee will melt if he does."
The class chuckled.
"You think I'm kidding? Remember what I told you before? Never get cold, hungry, or wet. Any time you do a traffic stop, even if it's for an expired tag or a burnt out tail light, there's the chance that what you intend to be a quick, friendly warning will turn out to someone with an outstanding warrant, or a drunk driver, or maybe a housewife who just murdered her husband and has his body in the trunk. And if that happens, then the Slurpee will melt. So it's a valid consideration," London said seriously. "So either Vic remembers the red car from the briefing that he didn't skip, or he forgets it, but he alerts dispatch about the car before going after it, and dispatch remembers it. Vic then just keeps an eye on the vehicle, and doesn't even think about stopping it until back up arrives. And our buddy Rick, did he alert dispatch before a traffic stop?" London shook his head. "Nope, he didn't. Those of you who are planning to join the sheriff's department or some small town police department instead of the CPD, it's especially important that you always notify dispatch where you are and what you're doing. I got a friend who's the chief of police in a little one-horse town up in the mountains. It's a two man police force. Whenever he goes on a call, he notifies the local sheriff. Once or twice he's even called the game wardens in as back up."
London then spent ten minutes explaining the basics of answering radio calls and providing back up. "These are just the basics. Those of you who don't drop out, or who are asked to leave, will learn more in depth later."
A few heads nodded nervously. Two students had already dropped out.
"Sir?" Leroy Brown raised his hand. "This is all for patrol officers. When will we get to what detectives need to know?"
"Almost all of you will be starting out as patrol officers. Only on TV do people go straight to plain-clothes work immediately after graduating from the academy." London's eye caught Blair. "Of course, there are some exceptions."
The anthropologist squirmed in his seat under the piercing gaze. Then London turned to Sue Mullens, who was 22, but looked 16, and was almost sure to enroll in some high school as an undercover narc.
London glanced at the clock. "Take a fifteen minute break. Then assemble on the jogging track for a two mile run. After that, Squad One to the firing range. Squad Two, first aid/CPR training. Squads Three and Four, Criminal Code class. Squad Five, Interview Techniques. Dismissed, cadets."
"Sir, yes, sir," the class replied. Again, Blair merely moved his lips silently. Everyone gathered up their belongings and headed for the door.
Blair hesitated a second, then turned to face London. The sergeant gestured to him to come closer. Blair obeyed.
London waited until the other cadets had left the room. Lowering his voice, he asked, "Is Ellison doing okay with you here?"
"I don't understand, sir," Blair lied.
"Without you there as back up, is he doing all right?"
After quickly glancing that no one else was there to overhear, Blair nodded. "Sim- , uh, Captain Banks and Joel Taggert know what to watch out for. They're keeping an eye on him.
"Good. I worked with Ellison when we were both in Vice. He's a good cop, and a good man. I'd hate to see anything happen to him." London nodded curtly. "Get out of here, cadet. You're wasting your break."
"Sir, yes, sir."
Author's Note: large segments of this story were "borrowed" from True Blue: An Insider's Guide to Street Cops for Writers, by Lynda Sue Cooper, and from When You're the Only Cop in Town…, by Jack Berry and Debra Dixon. Both are published by Gryphon Books for Writers, and I recommend both heartily.