Here is another tale from Confessions of a Government Man about what can happen when people insist on doing things exactly by the book (“Where you sit is where you stand.”). Remember, while these stories I have been posting are based on real events, I am passing them along for their entertainment value.
* * *
Sometimes going by the book can be carried too far. There was the tale of the exuberant federal protective officer (known as an FPO, whose jurisdiction ends where the city street begins) who was guarding a federal building under construction. He heard the sounds of an infiltrator while patrolling the dark garage. He shouted “Halt,” while staring the perpetrator eye to eye from a comfortable distance. The perp continued to slowly advance. Perceiving this as a threat to the government, his own person and humanity in general, the officer emptied his Smith & Wesson into the perp who died instantly from his wounds.
In the ensuing investigation it was revealed that the late perpetrator was a contractor’s guard dog, on a leash, doing his own job of sniffing out infiltrators to the building. The officer claimed the canine did not identify himself when ordered to halt, and as per orders, he was authorized to shoot. The officer never was able to explain why, if the animal was attacking, the bullets were lodged in the dog’s rear.
If there was any chance that this officer may have been given any slack prior to his hearing and the official firing, it all went down the tubes when, on routine duty in a government black and white, enroute from one federal building to another, he spotted a “suspicious” woman at a sidewalk fruit stand and exited his vehicle, cuffed her and patted her down. With bananas and plums flying all over the place he read this octogenarian her rights and steered her to the black and white with the usual hand to the top of the head pushing motion seen on police dramas. The “suspicion” had something to do with her displaying characteristics similar to someone he saw in a spy movie. The lawsuits began before the car ever reached a place of federal jurisdiction.
As embarrassing and frustrating as these instances were, sometimes we did catch a lucky break. Fortunately I was not involved in this one. One of our Tackleberry clones made an off-duty arrest of a respected professor while the officer was gawking at the women on a college campus. The officer suspected the professor was kidnapping an underage female. It didn’t look good for the feds. The media attention and the likely litigation meant certain disaster. The threats began before the perpetrator reached the station house. The NYPD officers who took over were not happy. It forced them to assume jurisdiction of a nebulous case that violated all protocol. As it turned out, the young female was a student, not underage, but the last thing the good professor wanted to do was to call attention to this relationship, which in fact did begin when she was underage. All charges were dropped. The FPO was told to stay out of that precinct.
* * *