War Stories

As a police officer, you see the strangest things. You are witness to the craziest events mankind can dream up. If you have any time on the job you have seen things that civilians would find unbelievable.

A good friend, Larry Casey, has written a book of funny events taken from his thirty years with the Chicago Police Department. We’ve always called them war stories, even the humorous ones. Over coffee one day, he was telling me he’d received a complaint from a reader. The woman felt the short stories in his book were made up and were unbelievable.

We all know there is no reason to make up these of stories. Unfortunately, the woman who complained had never been exposed to this side of life and found it unbelievable. Maybe it isn’t unfortunate.

We all have our favorites. I remember my partner and I had stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation one night in the 5600 block of W. Madison Ave. in Chicago. While we were both out of our vehicle another car pulled alongside. Standing on the roof was a man who looked to be surfing. The driver rolled down his window and asked us to get the man off his car. He told us the man had jumped up on the car four blocks west of us and had surfed all the way.

We stepped up and ordered the surfer to get off the car. He did. He dove at us. It took a moment to subdue him and place him in handcuffs. The driver of our original traffic stop helped us restrain the surfer. We ended up letting the traffic stop go without a citation and took our surfer in for a psych evaluation at the hospital.

Another time, many years back, the girlfriend of one of the guys I worked with sent a stripper for his birthday. She was supposed to walk into our roll call and entertain. Unfortunately, she was late and we had already come down and were milling about at the front desk when she began her performance. This is a very public area and there were far more than sworn personnel in attendance. There were several ladies from a local church waiting to see the District Commander sitting on a bench. There were four or five citizens making out reports standing at the desk.

People could see in from outside and one officer had to block the door. Most of us got our radios and left as quickly as possible. The Watch Commander shut his door and pretended not to know what was happening. The birthday boy, embarrassed and worried about his job tried to stop the artist from performing her dance but she insisted on earning her pay. Fortunately, the District Commander and the ladies on the bench saw the humor in the incident and the birthday boy was not punished.

Every district I’ve worked had at least one woman who would call at night and want to talk dirty to whoever answered the phone. Most of the desk people would hang up on her but when there was a new rookie standing nearby they were handed the phone. It was always a laugh to see how the rookie handled the call.

Sure, there may be some embellishment to the story by the storyteller. Most often it is to poke fun at a fellow officer and not so much to build up the storyteller. For the most part, these stories are factual. There isn’t much need for embellishment. These outrageous things happen. We get to see it and often become a part of it.

When you’re having a beer or a cup of coffee with your fellow officers it takes only one story to get the ball rolling. It seems everyone has a story to top the last one. Notice how when you’re telling these stories and you’re out in public you lean in and talk softer. That’s because no one wants the uninitiated to overhear. They won’t understand the humor and they won’t believe the stories to be true.

These strange and hilarious events are part of what makes our job as great as it is. While I have seen death and tragedy I have also had the good fortune to laugh harder on a regular basis than a person should. It might be this is part of our coping mechanism. When you get too much and are ready to burst, a man goes past, surfing on the roof of a car.

I’m sure sworn officers who read this have their own stories to tell. Feel free to leave one in the comments section at the end of this article. You might want to make sure there are no names or incriminating facts in the story. I look forward to hearing them.

Stay safe and zig zag!

Robert Weisskopf is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. In thirty years, he rose from police officer to sergeant, to lieutenant, serving every role in patrol with 18 months detailed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development leading a team for narcotics enforcement. He became a member of the Lieutenants Union. Robert served as its’ president for six years negotiating two contracts. He also served as vice president of the Illinois Police Benevolent Protective Association. He’s a divorced father with three sons.

(Graphics Robert Weisskopf)