What it’s like to be a FLY ON THE WALL at your local police department

What would it be like to be a fly on the wall at your local police department? Well, fly in the front door and find out. We’ll take a tour of the place.

Fly on the Wall in the Lobby of Your Local Police Department

Upon landing on a wall in the lobby, you notice a disheveled man standing at the front counter. His car was towed last night when he was arrested for DUI. He was just released from the detention center with a later date to appear in court. He sheepishly pays his fees as he tries to convince the desk officer of his innocence, even though he hopped a curb and tried to park in a planter that had the sprinklers on.

Behind him is a recently paroled sex offender who is required to register as such.

Off to the side is a teenager busy texting while waiting for the diversion counselor. The 14-year-old teen, 5 feet 2 inches tall, was arrested for tagging his moniker, “Goliath” on the high school gym.

Finally, sitting quietly is an elderly couple. It’s hard to hear what they’re saying, but it has something to do with identity theft and losing their life savings, as tears stream down their dejected faces.

Wow, that’s sad. I think I’ll fly through the opening in the bullet proof glass to see what else is going on.

Records Bureau

No one is really talking, but papers are everywhere. Finally, I hear someone from the clerical staff comment, “This is the millionth burglary report we’ve taken from the complex this month. Note to self, don’t move there.”

Dispatch Center

This should be interesting. I see computer screens of various shapes and sizes everywhere. It also seems like there is a phone and microphone for every screen. These people are cool, calm, and collected while they multitask. And the conversations they are having are incredible:

“911 can I help you?” … “What kind of weapon?” … “No ma’am, don’t go outside, we have officers on the way.” … “I’m sorry that your neighbor’s dog is barking, we’ll contact animal control for you.” … “Yes sir, I understand the mayor lives next door. We’ll have an officer there as soon as possible.” … “It’s a rollover crash? Someone was ejected? We have officers on the way.” … “I hear that your wallet was stolen. Hold the line, I’ll get back to you in a minute.” … “I am going to give you instructions for CPR while medics are on the way. I think you can do it. Are you ready?”

Phew, this is intense. I need to get out of here before I have a nervous breakdown.

Roll Call Room

I land on a wall in the roll call room just in time. Briefing began two minutes ago. The officer with the stripes is using a bunch of code words and numbers. Without someone to translate, I’m confused. Oh, wait a second, I understand this.

Lt. Aaron Allan was murdered while investigating a traffic collision. Did you hear that ladies and gentleman? A traffic collision! Don’t let your guard down. If it looks and acts like a duck, it probably quacks like one too. … Even it the duck crashed while landing in the pond.

Oh yeah, I think to myself. I remembering hearing about this guy. There were pictures on the internet showing him walking his child to the bus stop the day he was killed. So sad.

Moving my attention, I see there is a police K9 laying on the floor next to one of the officers, they call him a “handler.” I tried to land on the dog, because that is what flies do, but he keeps whipping his tail at me. Yet while buzzing nearby, I hear the handler tell everyone about another police K9 that was stabbed to death recently.

Yikes, this is a dangerous business. With all the talk of death, I hope I don’t get nailed by a fly swatter. I’m gonna move along.

Detective Bureau

These offices seem to be a compilation of the other places I’ve been to so far. Papers are everywhere, phones ringing off the hook, and people are using a lot of terminology I don’t understand. But some of it is comprehensible.

“We 10-15’d a teacher for screwing her students … not just one, but several,” said one detective.

“I can top that,” said another. “Patrol officers arrested this guy for humping a donkey. Can you imagine that?”

“If you guys are tired of dealing with perverts,” hollers a guy that doesn’t look like a cop, “we need all hands on deck for a gang sweep tonight. It’s related to the MS-13 homicide. Who’s available?”

Not me! I’m buzzing out of here!

Traffic Bureau

As soon as I arrive in this area of the building, I see some pictures that look like a feast fit for a fly. Blood and guts, exactly what flies like. I land on a photo, but I’m immediately disappointed it isn’t the real deal.

However, the conversation revolves around manslaughter, so I listen in.

“So what do you think?” asks a woman entering the room wearing motor boots and a helmet. “Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter?” she asks as she removes her sunglasses.

“It’s gotta be voluntary based upon gross negligence,” says a guy sitting at the desk and viewing the photos.

“Nah, involuntary,” says another. “We’ll never convince a jury of gross negligence. Everyone uses their cellphone while driving.”

“Hey, by the way,” says another woman wearing stripes, “did you guys see the video of the Fort Worth officer that was flipped by the deuce? It’s amazing he survived.”

“Now that is gross negligence,” responds the first guy.

Chief’s Conference Room

Someone once told me that all top-secret-conversations occur here. So I make my way to a room filled with suits.

“Okay, let’s talk about the use of force from last night,” says one person who appears to be in charge. … Yep, he’s in charge. I landed on a photograph of him hanging on the wall.

“Yeah, it’s going to be controversial,” says another. “It doesn’t look good based upon the video that is going viral, but we have additional video that provides more details. Moreover, our video has audio that is not present with the online version.”

“Furthermore, the sergeant on scene provided a complete overview,” said a professional looking woman. “I believe the internal review will be favorable regardless of the negative optics. I’d suggest we get out in front of the controversy with some proactive, yet fact-based statements.”

There is no shortage of drama in this place, I think to myself as I fly around the building.

Locker Room

After buzzing around the building for a bit, I’m drawn to the stench in the locker room. Now this is my kind of place are my thoughts as I find several things of interest. But while I’m there, I notice the officers let their guard down somewhat. Their conversations are a little loose. Yet it’s interesting that they talk about morose topics so matter-of-factly. I guess that is what you do when this is your life.

Jail Booking Area

Finally, I hear a loud “buzz, click, boom, … buzz, click” … ooh, an opening to a prohibited area. I fly in before the door goes “boom” again.

Well this is an interesting place. The officers in this area don’t look as crisp as those in roll call. Some of the uniforms are smudged, boots are dirty, and gig lines are crooked. These officers have apparently been wrestling with people they’ve arrested. And those people look pretty unhappy. One guy is literally smacking his head against a concrete wall. I’ve heard of this, but I can’t believe people actually do it.

Another guy is spitting on a glass partition between himself and the arresting officer. Some of these people act like animals. And I should know, I spend my time flying around many of them.

“F***** b****” … “G** d*** f****** cop.” … “Hey, you wanna be my b**** mutha f*****” … “PD all a bunch of wh***s” … “D*** A******s.”

Wow! … This colorful place is mildly entertaining …

You’ve probably never heard a fly laugh, but I’m cracking up as I see a sweaty, grimy, sore-infested arrestee piss his pants … sitting on a concrete bench, handcuffed to a rail. He never asked to use the bathroom, or anything. Just pissed himself right there.

When finished, he smiled at an officer and said, “Go ahead and search me now. I think I have some drugs next to my ball bag.”

“Buzz, click, …” that is my sign to exit, “… boom.”

Freedom 

Well now it is time to return to my life. Being a fly on the wall at the local police department was interesting to say the least. It is a much different world than I imagined. But I’m still trying to figure out why some people hate cops so much.

Yet regardless of public perceptions, this is what I learned hanging out with the po-po:

They consist of many fantastic people of all ethnic backgrounds that are doing their best to keep others safe. Internally, they don’t mention race nearly as much as the public does. They simply refer to “bad guys” as suspects and “good guys” as citizens. If they mention the race of an individual, that is because it is the description of someone accused of a crime, not as a form of discrimination.

They aren’t perfect, but they are generally doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reason. Furthermore, they wished others could understand how and why they do what they do, but the reality is that will never happen. It is nearly impossible to see things from their perspective, even if you’re a fly on the wall.

I think I’ll fly to the fire department to see what they’re having for dinner. I love those guys!

– Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today

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Author
Jim McNeff

Jim McNeff worked in military and civilian law enforcement for 31 years. He retired as a police lieutenant with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California. He currently serves as the editor-in-chief with Law Enforcement Today. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) course, Leadership in Police Organizations. He authored "The Spirit behind Badge 145" and "Justice Revealed." He is married and has three adult children and three grandchildren. You can contact him at [email protected] or view his website www.badge145.com.

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