The Tom Tom

O.K. So we got a call from Downtown that the Mayor’s Office is getting complaints that the hotel is being used by a bunch of girls. New Haven is having a sweep so they’re probably from up there. We’ve been told to put an end to it.

With about a year and a half on “The Job” and only 2 weeks within the specialized Undercover Narcotics,Vice and Tactics unit I was as green as grass and constantly amazed at what human beings could dream up for pleasure or profit. It was with close attention and a vague premonition of dread that I listened to our squad leader, none other than, The Tom-Tom. At six foot three, 200 pounds, bald with an Irish- red face, Tom-Tom was a truly imposing figure. I would discover as a few years went by that fear was never present when Tom – Tom was by your side. And, I was about to soon discover that Tom -Tom, with his quick wit and Irish sense of mischief, could turn a routine assignment into a night never to be forgotten.

Eddie, Tom–Tom said to one of the senior squad members, I want you to work with The Kid. Come into my office.

A few minutes later Eddie came out and told me to follow him. Out into to the night we went to our unmarked car parked at the curb a short distance from our “headquarters” – a non-distinct building in an unremarkable neighborhood at the edge of town.

I’ve got to swing by my house to pick up some equipment, said Eddie. Then we can get something to eat. It’s gonna’ be a long night, Kid.

OK, I said. Actually, it was the only answer that could be given to a senior team member.

45 minutes later we pulled into the hotel parking lot to “Ron Day Voo”, as Eddie would put it, with the team. Tom-Tom explained that our “cover” would be that we were a group of surveyors traveling through the area and that we would hang out in the bar to see if any Ladies showed up.

Only hotel management knows we’re coming, he said. And, even though department regs say ,”no drinking on duty”, this is “on duty”. But, only 2 drinks for the whole night. Am I clear? Tom-Tom was very clear, it seemed.

So, off we went. Everyone moseyed up to the bar and ordered their favorite beverage. When the bartender asked what I was drinking it seemed that Tom-Tom’s eyes would bug out when I answered, Diet Coke, please. But then he got a certain little smile and said, Oh, this is going to be a good night.

Oh, boy, muttered Eddie.

It didn’t take long for The Ladies to arrive. There were two. One was wrapped in red silk, the other was in “Hardly Any” green. For working girls, our team of “Surveyors” must have seemed as manna from heaven.

Well, hello. You boys look like you’re having fun, said Red Silk as she sidled up to the apparent leader of the gang, Tom-Tom.

Yeah, we like to have fun, Honey. But, it sure gets lonely on the road. We’re working for the State surveying all the bridges. Been away from home almost three months now.

Oh, what a smooth operator this Tom-Tom is, I thought.

Well, why don’t we go somewhere quiet and maybe we could make you a little less lonely, offered Hardly Any.

Why, Honey, you know I’d love that but I’m a bit too old for that, especially with this new pace maker thing I have.

Oh, what a glib liar, I thought. The Tom-Tom was as strong as an ox and not too old for anything.

But, you know, my nephew over there could use some cheering up since his “old lady” left him right before we hit the road. And, with that Tom-Tom signaled Eddie to come over.

And, then it happened. That look of devilish mischief combined with absolute merriment came over Tom Tom’s face.

You know, girls, my son here has never been with a lady before. The iron strong arm of Tom Tom reached over and pulled me close to him in what appeared to all the world to be a fatherly embrace. I think he could use some special attention, don’t you?

With that, Red Silk and Hardly Any both erupted into convulsions of laughter.

Oh, Honey, I’ll take real good care of you. Oh, Lawd I will!, promised Red Silk

If it weren’t for the grip of Tom-Tom on my shoulder and the insistent tugging of Red on my arm, I would surely have collapsed.

Oh, no, Dad. I can’t, I pleaded.

It’s time son.

Oh, Lawdy, yes it is!, choked, Red.

But, Mom wouldn’t like me doing this. This time my plea sounded more like a whimper.

Mom will never know. And then Tom-Tom pulled me closer and whispered, It’s an order.

So, off we went. I being half pushed, half dragged by Red Silk through the hotel lobby to the bank of elevators and Eddie nearly sprinting. That Eddie, always ready to perform his duty!

As Eddie opened the door to a double bed room, my mind tried to work its way through every possible scenario where the job could get done without the actual labor, so to speak. Eddie had other plans.

Hardly Any was already down to her slip and Eddie, in a manor of seconds, had taken off his pants and shirt and lay on one of the beds, displaying the “special equipment” we had earlier stopped by his house for.

What the hell? I blurted!

What are you looking at? he said.

Nothing. I was speechless. For sprawled across the bed with his arms in back of his head was Eddie dressed in what he must have thought to be proper boudoir attire. And, I promise this is true, Eddie was wearing white boxer shorts with little red hearts, black over-the-calf socks and a stocking garter.

Now, I’m not in the habit of staring at men in their underwear, but this was a sight to behold. Apparently, our “dates” had seen their fair share of odd sights or maybe they had grown up in a circus. In any case, they didn’t bat an eye.

Part of the Outfit

Eddie continued to give me the Stink Eye and said to Hardly Any, Come on, let’s go. I’m ready! Indeed he was.

Red Silk says to me, Come on, Honey, take your clothes off.

My mind and heart were racing. Think, Billy. Say something clever. Aha!

Can we just talk for a while?

Red Silk responds, What you want to talk about? This ain’t talkin’ time, Honey. This is doin’ time.

Hardly Any: Talk??

Eddie rolls his eyes and through clenched teeth mutters, What the *!%#.

I start to pace the floor. Both girls begin to get jittery.

Let’s get out of here, Red says.

No, no, let’s just talk.

And then a look of sheer panic comes over both girls. Aaaa, Aaaaah, Aaaaaa. They start screaming, They gonna’ kill us! Aaaaaah, Aaaaaah. They start crying.

It then dawns on me that these poor girls think they have fallen prey to the slayer or slayers of a recent string of working girls.

No, no , I say. It’s OK. I just want to talk.

Aaaah, Aaaah. Oh, Sweet Jesus, help us!

By now, Eddie has lost all attention to this assignment. If looks could kill I would be murdered right then!

Both girls drop to their knees next to the empty bed and are now wailing: Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.

My pacing becomes more frantic and so does the crying.

Red Silk opens the bedside table, grabs the Gideon and frantically flips through pages. The Lord is my Shepard…

Oh, are you a church girl?, I ask.

Eddie says, Are you kidding me? This is just great.

Aaaaah, Aaaah, Oh, God help us.

It’s OK, I tell the girls as I too get to my knees in an effort to calm them. God is with us. You’re going to be OK.

Aaaah, Aaahhhh

I glanced over to Eddie but between the look on his face and his outfit I thought surely I had entered into one of Dante’s infamous rings. Or a Fellini movie.

Just as I gave up all hope for an end to this nightmare there was an earthquake – like crash and the room door burst open. There stood The Tom-Tom.

You’re under…what the hell is this, a prayer meeting!

I suppose the open Bible and three of us on our knees might have given one that impression.

Both girls ran sobbing into Tom-Tom’s arms. Are you the police?

Yes, girls, I’m the police.

Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord. Thank you, Jesus!

The girls were ushered out into the hallway. Tom-Tom looked around the room and said, Eddie, what the hell happened?

I don’t know. I can’t begin to describe it.

Well, the other people on this floor thought that these girls were being murdered and called downtown. Patrol is on the way. We have to get out of here, but we can’t let them think this was a police operation so we’re going to put cuffs on you both and lead you out…now.

Off we went, not quite as we had entered a short time before. My head hung low as we were perp- walked through the lobby past a large wedding reception. And Eddie. Well, let’s just say he wore his special outfit, hearts and garters, proudly.

It would be a few months and several running street battles together before Tom Tom stopped shaking his head whenever he saw me. His little smile told me it was OK, but he never missed the chance to repeat those infamous words, What would mom say? And then laugh.

I think of Tom Tom often. And still laugh at that Night Never To Be Forgotten.

Coppers

I admit it. I am not a good blogger. Good bloggers write or post consistently or at least regularly, maintaining a relationship with their readers. I do not. Maybe it’s more accurate to say, I cannot.

My wife says that I often go off into my own world of thoughts. She calls it, Billyland. Whatever it is, it’s how I come to grips with or resolve within myself issues big and small. I become so immersed in the issue lots of other things take a back seat for a while. Sometimes, it’s how to fix something around the house or, lately, where to plant some trees and bushes around our property or rearranging my work room. These things I have thought through and acted on more or less. But, this is not the reason I have not written or posted here lately.

If you and I have anything at all in common then perhaps you, too, have this sense that so much of what you took for granted or thought to be true has been overturned, cast aside or just…erased. I mean really, did you ever think that the day would come when you’d need to get permission to go to church or be required, when going into a bank, to put on a mask? When did needing a law defining what a boy or girl is become necessary? Seriously, did you ever imagine days such as these? In less than one lifetime we’ve gone from the moon to the sewer, from asking what we can do for our Country to demanding what it must do for us. We’ve gone from worrying about nuclear fallout to greenhouse gases to now…cow farts. Can it get any crazier? Apparently, yes. Our Commander-in-Chief promises us that in June he’ll release information letting us know that UFO’s are for real and…get this, some creatures from outer space may have been visiting us from time to time. Oh, really? Have you taken a close look lately at Congress or your Cabinet, Mr. President? But, I digress.

There has been one particular issue that has really wormed its way into my thoughts almost non-stop: The Cops.

Nearly everyone has an opinion of cops. Some people say they love them and maybe they do – until they are getting pulled over for some traffic violation or they are putting handcuffs on them for beating their wife. How quickly love then fades. Once, as a rookie officer doing traffic duty for the first time, I managed to screw up pretty badly the flow of cars. What looked to be a simple task proved not to be quite so easy. I knew drivers were getting impatient, but I was determined to do the best I could in moving rush hour traffic through a busy downtown. I took the horn blowing in stride but wasn’t at all prepared for what happened so unexpectedly that it left me stunned. A rather fancy car pulled up along side me and the driver rolled down the passenger side window. Thinking he needed something, I bent down so that I could hear him. The driver leaned over and said, “Why don’t you go have a doughnut and leave people alone”. He then spit on my brand new uniform and sped off.

I was so stunned that all I could do was stand there in the middle of traffic looking as dumb as I felt. A senior officer noticing me standing there came over and asked what was the matter. I told him what happened and admitted , when he asked, that, no, I did not get the marker number of the car. He then told me to take a break to collect my wits. I asked him why, why would someone do something like that? His answer stays with me still: “Look, kid, if you wanted to be loved you shoulda’ been a fireman”. The doughnut comment still makes me laugh, but the spitting… Oh, well.

Most people don’t know a lot of cops. As a result, most people don’t have a real sense of who cops are or what they are like – as if there was a one-size-fits-all cop mold. Recently, I read an article on a religious web site I frequent where the author was giving his best effort to defend cops in general from the current bashing they are currently subject to. In a backhanded attempt to compliment them and explain the physicality of the job he stated, “It should be expected that because of the type of people attracted to police work that most of them would like to fight”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most cops hate to fight and will avoid doing so whenever possible. They also know that if a physical confrontation – a fight – is unavoidable, they cannot come out of it second best. It is also a myth that most cops go around shooting people. The overwhelmingly vast majority of cops never discharge their weapons, except on the practice range, during the entire course of their careers.

So, who are the cops? They are us. They are usually, as should be, from within our communities (an exception may be where, in many affluent communities, cops, firemen and teachers cannot afford to live in the areas they serve). Cops shop, worship, socialize, live and raise families right along side the people they protect. This commonality is crucial to both the cops and the community – both rely on the other.

In looking at the current situation of the anti-police attitude, if not movement, several questions must be asked and answered.

Are there problems with policing in the United States? Truthfully, yes. But, the problems are multi-faceted.

One is the increasing militarism of the police. Most apparent is the uniform. Look at many police departments today and you will see their officers dressed in military-style garb. Also, many departments have been granted or gifted military surplus equipment: armored vehicles, robots, drones and heavy weapons and this equipment is seemingly used or deployed whenever possible. This trend has been increasing over the past 30 years or so.

Secondly is training. There are two main approaches to Police Training: Warrior or Guardian. The first style emphasizes being ready at all times to be attacked while performing their jobs, thus being hyper-vigilant. The second style of training emphasizes approaching the public more as a Guardian: Always alert to safety but also actively engaging in non-enforcement contacts with the public. This is a simplified version, of course, of these styles of training but it illustrates, I think, the need for a change in style and perhaps a return to the old style of community policing.

Thirdly is Management. This past year showed us a parade of politically motivated police chiefs willing to sacrifice their communities, departments and their officers in an effort to save themselves from public criticism or political pressure. In nearly every case it had the opposite affect, cities burned, communities became more disenfranchised and officers became disheartened, jaded or worse.

Is all this upheaval coincidental or inevitable? I don’t believe so.

searching for “papers”

There have been more and more frequent calls from within certain sectors of government and private organizations for such things as “social workers” replacing or accompanying police in the performance of their duties. Also, there has been a renewed effort to adopt a National Federal Standard for police. If communities and police truly wish to have a fair and compassionate police department it must remain locally staffed, trained and controlled. And we must be vigilant in preventing any politician or group from seizing control of our communities, police or rights. History is replete with examples of this, few as eerily similar than that of 1930’s Germany.

For further information on this topic ideas please read:

Law Enforcement’s “Warrior” Problem, Seth Stoughton, Harvard Law Review (https://harvardlawreview.org/2015/04/law-enforcements-warrior-problem/)

Building Guardians to Create a Better Community, Sue Rahr, National Police Foundation

(https://www.policefoundation.org/building-guardians-to-create-a-better-community/)

The Nazification of the German Police, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,

(https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/german-police-in-the-nazi-state)

(https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/ss-and-police?parent=en%2F6413)

As always, thanks for reading. Comments always welcome.

Pray, be kind, do not be afraid.

Bill