“Get me a dog,” I yelled at the young, part-time officer. “I don’t give a shit where you get it. See if P- has theirs on, or S-V-, or State, even. Get it from the damned Mounties, for all I give a shit, just get me a fucking dog.”
But there was no drug dog.
I knew – not legally but absolutely – the car was full of drugs. It had been stopped before. And the occupants had been loaded down with drugs before. There was a history. And the occupants knew it and I knew it and another county officer – who called me on the phone breathlessly to remind me who it was – knew it.
But the part-timer, the young cop who’d stopped the car, hadn’t a clue. His inexperience had driven him to pull a car over for a loud muffler (which I’m probably too lazy to have done) and that was good. But that same inexperience left him with no idea who he had.
I raced to help him. “You know who this is?”
He shook his head.
“Get me a dog.”
“‘Cause this car is full of crack.”
His eyes lit up and yeah, it was excitement, but it was also a measure of fear. This suddenly wasn’t about a loud muffler and whether or not to write a citation that the State’s Attorney’s Office would probably throw out anyway. Now this was about arrests and evidence and reports and court testimony.
Except it wasn’t going to be about anything if I couldn’t get a dog because all of us knew the dance. The vehicle’s occupants knew, the moment I as a second officer arrived, what tune had been called. I knew what tune had been called. The young officer, though he didn’t hear the music clearly, knew what tune had been called.
So with all of us in our places, we started dancing.
The driver started talking. Laughing and conversational and as though he hadn’t a care in the world. Under the glare of my flashlight, he kept his hands on the steering wheel and made no sudden moves. The woman, who’d once been pulled from a car and had given up handful of drugs, sat in the passenger seat and mostly straight ahead. The rear passenger, who’d been in jail numerous times for low-level drug offenses, laughed and carried on as though it were a Sunday afternoon and we were all headed to a damned picnic.
I sang and sang, giving them all my best lines, most conversational attitudes. I worked and worked and worked to lower the tension and lighten the atmosphere. They watched me watch, they said nothing offensive or stupid, did absolutely nothing to ratchet the situation up. They knew I wanted inside that car and they knew, as long as they were cool and calm and gave me nothing else, I would stay on the side of the road, frustrated.
We ran their names and the plate and everything came back clean, as I’d known they would. I asked at least three times, in various semantic versions, if I could take a look through the car. They always smiled when they answered but the answer was always no.
And there was no dog coming.
In the end, there was nothing. I had no probable cause to force them to do anything. I could ask and cajole and try to convince all I wanted, but if they said no, I was screwed. In the end, I told the officer who’d stopped them that I had nothing and the stop was his again (yeah, I had taken it over in the same way that the older cops used to take over my stops…it drove me nuts then and that I’m sure drove this new guy nuts).
“Let ’em go?” he asked.
“Unless you’ve got something you haven’t told me about.”
He shook his head.
“Write ’em or let ’em go.”
And so they left.
And I straddled the double-yellow line on this lonely county highway at 2:00 in the morning, two miles from town and at least a mile from the closest farm, engaging in primal scream therapy, “Fuuuuuuuuuuccckkkk….”
The upshot? There had been a dog on duty in one of our small towns. But the night had been so slow I hadn’t heard him on the radio so I hadn’t known.
Almost made me wanna go back to that lonely spot on the highway and do some more primal scream therapy.