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Behind the Badge Invisible clotheslines and not-so-invisible suspects

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Lt. Chris Piombo

Posted: Monday, February 7, 2011 12:00 am

Memories can bring a smile to a cop's face even in the middle of stress-filled day. And the longer you're on the job, the more memories you'll have.

I was taking a guy down to be evaluated at mental health in Stockton one hot afternoon many years ago. He had a giant grin on his face as he sat handcuffed in the back of my patrol car. He screamed, "I'm invisible! I'm invisible!"

I tried to ignore him, but I was growing frustrated because we were stuck in rush hour traffic. He continued to yell, "I'm invisible! You can't see me. I'm invisible!"

This went on for about five minutes. I waited until he paused to take a breath. I looked in the rearview mirror and made eye contact with him. I said quietly, "No you're not. I can see you right there."

He got tears in his eyes and he slumped back into the seat, defeated. He never said another word the rest of the trip.

  • ••

Rick Cromwell and I handled a loud party call one night. Rick sternly told the resident to close down the shindig and we walked back to our cars. He seemed quite proud of how he handled the call.

I noticed his front driver's side window was down but didn't think much about it. He got into his car and I heard a "squish." He exclaimed, "Oh, $#@!" and jumped out of the car as fast as one of those "Ghost Adventures" guys runs from "a spirit" (a.k.a. a guy off-camera throwing a rock down the hallway).

I looked into his car and noticed a departing partygoer had taken the time to reach through the open window and leave a neat layer of foamy beer all across the front seat. I laughed out loud. Rick found a towel to sit on and humbly drove his car back to the station to change.

  • ••

One of our park rangers came across a guy with a warrant at Legion Park late one night. I was new and quite naïve, so I granted the suspect's request that we escort him to the house across the street so he could tell his girlfriend's family he was going to jail.

We stood next to him on the front porch and I noticed he was slyly looking from side-to-side as he knocked unenthusiastically on the door. The house was dark and quiet.

The suspect mumbled something to the effect of, "Maybe ... they're ... in ... the ... back ... " and, poof, he was gone.

He scurried around the corner into the pitch black backyard. We caught up to him, but since he was covered in Crisco, we had a hard time getting him under control. Seriously, Crisco shortening.

We wrestled with him in the dark to no avail. Dogs were barking and several of the neighbors called 911 to report that a couple of officers were in trouble somewhere in the area. Since we hadn't had time to use our radios, no one knew where we were. We could hear the sirens in the distance as other officers came to our assistance.

I tried to put a carotid restraint (choke hold) on our lubricated suspect but, since I was wearing an old fashioned plush Tuffy police jacket, the hold had the same effect as wrapping a silky smooth dark blue pillow around his neck. Quite luxurious.

Anyway, he wiggled free and ran towards the back fence. Then, bam! Down he went, just like he'd been clotheslined by an old-school NFL linebacker.

He had been clotheslined, literally.

Our greased-up suspect had failed to notice the clothesline stretched across the backyard in the inky darkness. The resident's unmentionables were swaying in the breeze.

We jumped on him and eventually were able to handcuff him. We paraded him out into the front yard like Wyatt and Virgil Earp pulling one of the Clanton boys out of the Oriental Saloon. We noticed there were police cars with their lights flashing all over the street and people were standing everywhere.

One of my fellow officers came up to me and said, "I was coming Code 3 (with lights and siren on). I didn't know where I was going, but I was going Code 3." That pretty much summed up my night.


For cops, memories like these will always remind us the job can be fun ... and that we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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