You are on page 1of 24

A Journey to the Center of the Mind, Book II – The Police Officer Years

By

James R. Fitzgerald

Bonus Chapter 35a

(It wasn’t all just making arrests and supervising hard-working and self-actualized

detectives during the first six months for me as a detective sergeant. There were some potential

disciplinary matters I had to address too. They’re never the fun part of being in management -

not to me, anyway - but still necessary nonetheless.)

During the late summer and again in the fall of ’82, I faced my first genuine supervisory-

related challenges as it pertained to disciplinary action towards one or more of my CID

subordinates. The initial one in and of itself wasn’t of major consequence, but the second one

clearly had a potential criminal element to it. Both slowly mushroomed into ongoing

antagonistic relationships between me and the detectives involved. In other words, they never

got over how I chose to handle these problems with them. Well, at least while I was still

working at the BPD.

In the first matter, two senior detectives went AWOL, or “missing,” for almost four hours

during one of our 4P-12A shifts. I was their supervisor for that shift. What started it all was a

prior crime victim coming to the BPD around 7:30 on that particular evening looking for the

detective who had previously been assigned his case. Apparently, there had been an appointment

1
set up between the two of them to discuss the ongoing yet unresolved investigation. But it went

unrequited as the detective wasn’t at HQ at the scheduled hour. He and another detective left the

CID area around 7:00P that evening. I was on meal break at the time so I wasn’t in the

Backroom when they left. Neither one of them filled out the “Detective Activity Sheet.” This

basic form, a new one of which was stuck in the carriage of an IBM electric typewriter in the

middle of the CID area at the beginning of every shift, was supposed to be completed by a

detective each time he would leave HQ and list where he was going and which case he was

investigating. On this night in question, as it concerned these two men, the sheet was blank.

As it turns out, neither detective responded to numerous police radio calls during the next

few hours despite repeated attempts, at my request, by the dispatcher to do so. After these

numerous attempts to reach the two detectives, all met with radio silence in return, with some

trepidation I finally decided to call their respective residences later that evening and ask their

significant others (SIGOTs) if their husband/partner happened to be there. Each woman advised

they hadn’t seen their man since he had left for work that afternoon. Before ending each phone

conversation, I did my best to assure the women to whom I had been talking that there was no

problem, it was just a routine call, there was no reason for them to worry, and I’d have their

respective SIGOTs call home once they arrived back at the station.

Quite frankly, at this time there was, in fact, some genuine concern on my part regarding

the two detectives’ personal safety. This was slowly elevating into a matter in which I was of the

ever-growing belief that something could be wrong, perhaps even terribly wrong, regarding the

two of them.

2
These detectives were known to be friends and occasionally worked their cases in

tandem, so it was assumed by me that they were out on the streets together somewhere. But

where, and doing what?

Did their car run off a road? Were they somehow ambushed? Were they being held

against their will somewhere? Injured? Worse?

As their supervisor on that shift, I was at first bothered that one of them missed a

scheduled appointment that HE had apparently made with a victim of a crime. Then later it

bothered me more that neither of them was around to handle other investigative calls that came

into the CID. But, as the hours slowly ticked by, I found myself becoming less and less

perturbed by them and their workplace unavailability and more and more concerned for them and

their very well-being.

Around 11:30 that night, just when I was about to call Lt. Robinson at home to advise

him of the missing personnel, guess who casually walked back into the CID room? Yes, it was

the two AWOL detectives. As they strolled by me, nodding their heads at me as they

approached their desks, they acted like nothing was amiss as they engaged in seemingly

meaningless verbal banter back-and-forth between them. I let them continue talking for a few

minutes in an attempt to discern on my own what they may have been doing over the last four

unaccounted-for hours. Or, perhaps they’d even volunteer to me where they’d been and tell me

what they’d been doing. However, nothing became obvious to me in the casual discourse

between them and no explanation was proffered to me directly or indirectly regarding their

activities of that evening.

3
After about five minutes of this, while still sitting at my desk, I casually asked them

where they had been during most of the second half of their shift. Their answers seemed to be

somewhat well-rehearsed and formulaic as they stated that they were out following up on some

of their old cases. There was nothing specific offered in their answer, just generalities. In a still

informal mode, I asked them which cases were they working and where specifically they had

spent their time. It eventually resulted in them telling me they were sitting most of the night in

one of the Bensalem apartment complexes “staking-out” an area where an alleged peeping-tom

had been reported approximately one month ago.

I inquired, “Any luck in finding him?”

They jointly replied in the negative.

(I later confirmed that there was such a police report filed about one month ago, but

neither of these detectives was assigned the case.)

I then asked the two of them if there was a reason they didn’t put this information on the

activity sheet before they left HQ. Each half-kiddingly blamed the other for not doing so as each

said the other detective was supposed to have typed it in. I next inquired of the detective who

missed his 7:30 appointment as to why he did so. He seemed surprised at first when I mentioned

it, but then matter-of-factly responded that he had called the man the day before and cancelled it.

Hmmm…the man in the lobby earlier seemed pretty firm and adamant that he had a 7:30

appointment. He seemed really concerned about some stolen property, he thought he knew who

took it, knew where the thief was now, etc., and he was at HQ tonight specifically to help the

detective work on recovering this property. I told the one detective all this and he laughingly

said the “dumb guy” must have forgotten the cancellation and showed up anyway.

Okay…so the guy is “dumb,” not the detective; the guy forgot, not the detective.

4
I wasn’t giving up here. I needed some answers from them and both detectives were

being very nebulous and evasive, if not actually lying, about where they were that night. It was

more a matter of principle to me now, especially as everyone else on the BPD radio band heard

these guys being called by dispatch every half-hour or so during the latter course of the evening.

I next asked the detectives, specifically, as to whether either of them heard the repeated

calls over the police radio to them. They responded they did not and that they thought the radio

in their CID car may be malfunctioning. I told them to write up a repair request to make sure the

radio was, in fact, in proper working order. One of them half-heartedly responded that he would

do so.

Clearly, none of this was adding up so far, especially as I saw that one of them also had a

portable police radio with him when he came in to CID. I couldn’t believe that BOTH the car

radio and a portable radio would be simultaneously out-of-order on this night for them.

Something wasn’t right here. I knew it. They knew it. They knew I knew it, but they

were acting very cool and deliberate about it. It was almost as if being purposefully AWOL was

a more than occasional habit of theirs, but I was maybe the first one to ever call them on it. They

were the senior detectives, I was the rookie detective sergeant, and no doubt they were testing me

here. Of that I was slowly becoming convinced.

Oh, and before too much longer during our back-and-forth discussion in which much was

questioned but little was answered, I told them that since I had heard nothing from them over

those almost four hours, out of concern for their possible safety, I had called their individual

homes and asked their SIGOTs if they were there. I suggested to each of them that they should

call their partners and let them know everything is okay.

5
One of the detectives became very upset at me for doing so and he told me I was “out of

line” for making the call to his wife. For the first time now during this three-way borderline

puerile dialogue, I stood up from my desk and told him, “No, YOU are the one out of line for not

responding to over three hours’ worth of radio calls and missing a scheduled appointment with a

crime victim.”

I told the detective my next phone call would have been to the CID commander, but

luckily for both of them they came in the door just before I did so. That didn’t seem to appease

him. Nonetheless, both men made their private calls to their residences, interestingly, in whisper

tones so I couldn’t hear what was being said to the person on the other end. I had zero interest in

listening to their private calls anyway.

It was just about midnight at this point and off we collectively went as the shift was over.

I knew I had to put more thought into this situation and decide how to best handle it. That would

become tomorrow’s task when I’m next back at HQ.

I didn’t initially tell Lt. Robinson or Chief Viola about the two AWOL detectives as I felt

I wanted to keep this matter at the lower end of the management scale, at least for now. But, on

the next day as one shift was ending and another was starting, I did run the matter in private by a

fellow detective sergeant, a guy about five years senior to me, about what happened the night

before. After hearing me out, and with hardly skipping a beat, he suggested that I write-up the

two detectives for “Failure to Respond to a Police Radio Call,” or some such official charge

which he pointed out was in the BPD rules and regulations. I asked him if that is what he would

do if the exact situation from last night happened on his watch. He said that’s precisely what

he’d do.

6
After more discussion, my fellow CID sergeant modified his stance somewhat and told

me a less severe option would be to just write a “Letter of Reprimand” to each, explaining what

happened and where they went wrong, citing the aforementioned violation, and give it to the two

detectives personally. I could advise them and even include at the bottom of the letter that this is

for them alone and for my own personnel file, and it would go no further within the department

as it is the first time this situation occurred, at least while under my direct supervision.

This seemed fair and reasonable. I’d still have to ponder my various other options, but

before he left I thanked my fellow sergeant for his advice.

While mostly on my own during that evening’s shift (and this time knowing the

whereabouts of my CID charges), I had time to think more about the entirety of the situation

from the previous night. Based on my own gut feelings, as well as the insight from the other

detective sergeant, I came to the conclusion that some form of disciplinary action was warranted

here. Especially, I came to realize, as the two men were essentially playing a game with me the

night before. If they weren’t lying to me then, they were certainly obfuscating the facts as it

pertained to them being “out of pocket” for almost half their shift.

Oh, and I should add here, I got late information from the BPD radio shop. The car radio

was checked and there was nothing wrong with it.

My mind was now made up. Two identical letters of reprimand were in order. Just the

names on the top of each would be different.

I didn’t want to hurt these two guys. Believe me, I really didn’t. I certainly didn’t want

to take any money out of their wallets with a suspension of any sort (as happened unfairly to me

less than two years before), but I figured a simple, yet formal letter from their sergeant would

remind them that they have to be held responsible for their actions, or lack thereof, while

7
working as a BPD detective. To me, it would be the appropriate thing to do; not too harsh, but at

the same time firm and letting them each know they can’t play these type games with me.

So here, with less than four months in my role as a CID supervisor, this was to be my

first crack at a disciplinary action involving a subordinate; actually, make that two subordinates.

It would be a relatively minor one, all things considered, but to me warranting a resolute

disciplinary response nonetheless.

Later that evening, shortly before the shift ended, I called both of them into one of the

interview rooms. I gave them their all but identical letters.

Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well. The two men let me know so right there and

then.

Under the previous Deputy Chief Zajac regime, as both detectives were non-

competitively appointed to their present promotional positions during that time frame, they

apparently weren’t used to being disciplined. Not even in a relatively minor form as I was

attempting to do just one night after their joint disappearing act.

That night, the two detectives were presented with the one-page letters of reprimand. In

it I laid out what happened the night before, listed several potential violations of the BPD rules

and regulations, and in so many words included at the bottom that this was just between me and

them. They took about a minute to read it.

Immediately afterwards, one of the detectives got up out of his chair and said, “This is

bullshit!” as he departed the small room. I could see him grab his sport coat and leave the CID

area.

The other detective, the one who told me the night before I was “out of line” for calling

his home, remained sitting in the room with his head slightly tilted, stoically gazing at me while

8
repeatedly sucking on his bottom lip. These facial tics and sounds, I would learn, combined with

his otherwise laconic demeanor, would be his trademark over the next few years when I was

forced to deal with him regarding virtually any work-related matter. Oh, and he would coyly

threaten me too in his own understated way, usually when he had an audience around him. But,

that came a bit later, after some forthcoming changes around the BPD.

By the early fall, this one detective’s attitude with me was reaching a very difficult stage.

He constantly attempted to undermine my authority. He never really got me upset, as he didn’t

say or do anything directly to my face (yet), but he found ways of playing the system to do just

enough to get by or follow an “order” from me yet with minimal adherence. In turn, I began

assigning him the worse or most undesirable cases as they came across my desk in CID. I

figured two of us could play this game.

This situation continued between supervisor and subordinate, but I handled it my way and

reckoned it was just a part of the job. That is, a “problem employee” that everyone in a

management position has to face at one time or another. Although, I should add, as within all

law enforcement agencies, these issues may become exacerbated over time as everyone carries a

loaded weapon with them at all time. That certainly ups the ante, some would say.

Things got a bit more problematic for me when the pending management change reared

itself. However, not long afterwards this particular detective was actually fitting right into my

newly devised workplace strategy. I was actually welcoming his attempts to undermine my rank

and position. He didn’t know it, but he was playing right into my hand - him and a few others

with whom I worked too.

We’re getting there…then it will all make sense soon.

9
Well, not really, but it’ll be more understandable, anyway.

Interestingly, after I left the BPD and joined the FBI, and not having even thought of this

particularly difficult employee in those ensuing years, I ran into him at a crowded nighttime

church social function in the early 1990s. He surprisingly came up to me through the crowd, and

was clearly under the influence of a few alcoholic beverages. I was awaiting the worst from him

at this point. But, after reaching out to grab my hand, shaking it firmly and seemingly sincerely,

asking me how I was doing, etc., he cleared his throat, took a deep swallow, and told me he had

something he wanted to say to me. I advised him to go ahead as I was listening. He then went

on to tell me that he was very sorry for how he treated me for those few years when I was his

sergeant on the BPD. He knew what he did and said was wrong back then and that he was an

“asshole” for having acted that way. (He was still a detective, by the way.)

I didn’t disagree with the man. I’m not sure whether he expected me to or not, but I

continued to let him assert that he was, in fact, an “asshole” to me when I was his immediate

supervisor. As such, I allowed him to follow through on his apology. We shared a few more bits

of dialogue, caught up with each other professionally and personally, and as we parted company

he patted my back and told me I was a “good guy and a good sergeant.” Geez, if only back in

the mid-1980s he felt that way. Anyway, I thanked him and proceeded back to my table of

friends and fellow parishioners. This was the last time I ever saw him.

I suppose time heals all wounds, or wounds all heels, or something like that.

10
This detective was an employee of mine who gave me an above-average modicum of

hassle back in the day. In the end, it was all forgiven. I haven’t forgotten, though, that’s for

sure.

Maybe that’s a bad habit of mine. If it is, it’s worked in life for me so far.

The next detective to get on my bad side, or more accurately, me on HIS bad side, never

forgave or forgot his detective sergeant. Much like a certain young kid felt about this same

detective after their late-night physical interaction outside of a local motorcycle shop.

Please read on….

*****

Sometime in the fall of ’82, shortly after starting a weekday 8A-4P shift in CID, I was

routinely reviewing the crime reports and arrests from the overnight shift. One of them involved

the 2:00A break-in of a motorcycle parts store in the Andalusia section of town. I read that two

juveniles were arrested for the burglary and theft, but that one of them was also charged with

resisting arrest. And, as it turns out, a newly-minted CID detective was one of the co-arresting

officers. I knew this particular investigator was working a 7P-3A shift the night before, and I

guessed that he somehow found himself in the middle of the arrest itself, especially as the

“resisting” took place near the scene of the burglary.

Hmmm…what was this detective doing out at the crime scene as it was still unfolding?

And how and why did he get involved directly in the resisting arrest charges?

I was soon to find out.

11
Before my shift was over that next afternoon, I would be sitting in a CID interview room

with one of these two boy burglars as well as his father. It was evident that the young man had a

fat lip and his orthodontic braces in the front of his mouth were clearly misaligned. Since he was

a juvenile, he had been released to his parents several hours after his early morning arrest on the

various charges. But the father and the boy were back today at BPD HQ to tell Chief Viola the

rest of the story as to what happened the night before. In effect, they were filing a formal

complaint of police brutality against the BPD and the striking officer. They’d soon be telling me

the story all over again, as I was the one assigned to this potential police brutality case.

Lucky, lucky me, especially as Lt. Robinson was on vacation this week. As such, it was

all on my combined managerial and investigative plate to resolve this matter, one way, the other,

or somewhere in-between, within the next few days.

What the chief told me early on after he met in private with the father, and what I heard

directly from the son later that day, was a bit troubling. It seems that the kid and his friend did,

in fact, climb a fence in the rear of the motorcycle shop in an attempt to steal what were

essentially scrap motorcycle parts for one of their dirt bikes. But unbeknownst to them, the place

was alarmed, dispatch received the message, the uniformed officers got the call, they responded

to the scene, the two kids ran, with one of them being located and arrested right away. That was

the kid I was now interviewing, along with his father. The other burglar was arrested about an

hour later not far from the scene.

The boy now in front of me related that once in custody the night before, with handcuffs

securing his arms behind his back, the uniformed cops were asking their new and at the time only

12
arrestee the whereabouts of any stolen motorcycle parts, his car, and the location and name of the

other burglar. When the barely five-and-a-half-foot tall, skinny, pimply-faced, 16-year old boy

wouldn’t or couldn’t answer the questions being posed to him right away, out of nowhere from

between four patrol officers strolled up a guy in a suit. He started asking the boy the same

questions. When the juvey didn’t immediately answer, the suited guy hauled back and

coldcocked him squarely in the mouth. As a result, I was told, down on the ground the kid went.

While horizontal and looking upwards and seeing actual celestial stars in the nighttime sky, as

well as those other types of stars which were spinning around the outer perimeter of his head, the

puncher stood over him screamed the same questions at him.

The kid managed to spit out some blood and then “spit out” some answers too, as best as

he could despite the fact that his jaw, mouth, and lips didn’t seem to be working quite right. He

recalls at the time in garbled speech telling the man in the suit that he threw a handlebar or some

such type of motorcycle part along the road in some bushes, their car was parked behind a nearby

gas station, and his friend’s name was so-and-so. The young burglar in custody of the police at

the scene fully cooperated with the arresting officers, but barely before he even had a chance to

do so he took the haymaker to the face. He didn’t necessarily see the fist flying at him, but once

on the ground, and once his head cleared, he saw the face of the man who he was positive had

just hit him. It’s a face, he later told me, he would never forget.

In the interview room with me, needless to say, the kid was hurting and the dad was

fuming. Dad was especially upset as his son had never been in trouble before with the police.

He readily acknowledged his son did a dumb thing and should be prosecuted in juvenile court for

the burglary and theft. No problem there, he assured me. He fervently maintained, however,

that his son should not have suffered the injuries to his mouth, the result of being sucker-

13
punched, while in handcuffs, by this as of now unnamed man in a suit. As the dad had earlier

told Chief Viola and repeated to me, the boy recently had undergone over $750 worth of dental

work, mostly in the form of braces. I could observe as the kid lisped and garbled his way

through the interview that his mouth somehow wasn’t how it should be, both inside and outside.

The broken wire braces were jutting in places in and out of his mouth that they were not meant to

be. On top of that, I could see a loose front tooth, no doubt also the result of the punch.

Having been explained the charges against his son earlier this morning when he first

showed up to retrieve the boy, the dad suspected it was a BPD detective who inflicted the

physical damages on the boy and the soon-to-be inflicted financial damages for new or repaired

braces. However, he wanted that information confirmed by the BPD. That’s why he didn’t take

his kid to the dentist yet. He wanted us to see the injuries and damage up close. He took his own

photos of it, and he insisted we do too. Before they left I did, in fact, take close-up photographs

of the boy’s mouth, open and shut. The kid wasn’t smiling for these photos. I’m not quite sure

he could have if he wanted to.

In view of all of this, Chief Viola put me in charge of the internal investigation to find out

exactly what happened the night before, how the kid got hurt, why he got hurt, and who did it.

As there was only one detective on the scene that night, we all knew right away who it was.

Now, as a detective sergeant, I was the one appointed to launch the inquiry in an attempt

determine the facts and details of the arrest and its aftermath. I would have to cross that

proverbial “Thin Blue Line” and figure out just how this kid’s mouth got mangled and why. The

dad wanted this information, the Chief wanted this information, and now I was charged with

14
getting it to them. Of course, Viola would get it first. Then he would ultimately decide what to

do with it.

This wouldn’t be easy. There were potential criminal charges against the detective IF the

kid’s story was determined to be valid. An assault is an assault, whether a police officer or a

civilian is on the receiving end of it, or whether a police officer or civilian is on the forceful end

of it. In this case, it was clearly the civilian who was assaulted, a juvenile handcuffed behind his

back, no less. Some “assaults,” of course, are warranted if it’s a police officer lawfully using the

necessary force to affect a legal arrest. That most definitely was NOT the case here. I mean, the

kid was supposedly already in handcuffs at the time he was punched.

I had to get to the bottom of it all, and I already had the arrested juvenile’s story. Now, I

had to fill in the missing pieces, from the handful of police officers who were on the scene last

night - and eventually from the detective himself.

Before I would interview the detective, I had to determine just who was at the burglary

arrest scene and who saw what. I wanted to have all the facts necessary to further this

investigation and eventually interview him. I’ve only heard one side of this story so far, but I

needed the other side too. That would only be fair, for everyone’s sake. I eventually found out

who was there that night and I interviewed each of the four patrol officers over the next few days

as they would come in for their shifts. Conveniently or coincidently (take your pick), none of

them initially saw a thing regarding the punch. Well, at least not at first.

The three uniformed officers I initially interviewed told me in a somewhat consistent

manner about receiving the alarm call from dispatch, responding to the scene, seeing two kids

running away from the motorcycle shop, chasing them a very short distance, and catching one of

15
them almost right away. One of the officers even told me that he was the one who placed the

handcuffs on the boy. Up to this point, each of the officers’ stories was believable and

seemingly on the mark from what I already knew. It all appeared in line so far with what the kid

had previously told me too. But, as to the actual assault itself on the arrestee, it appeared as if it

was a phantom punch, invisible to the naked eye, which caused the injury and damages to the

boy’s mouth. None of the officers at the scene seemed to see it or knew who threw it. They had

either temporarily walked away, had their backs turned, it was too dark, blinked their eyes, or

some such similar excuse. No one would initially give up whose name belonged to the flying-

fist-from-nowhere. The Thin Blue Line had actually grown pretty thick at this point in my

investigation.

The last of the four patrolmen I interviewed, after vaguely telling me at first that he

wasn’t exactly sure what he saw, how it exactly happened, etc., finally told me what he saw and

what happened. It took some additional prodding on my part, but he all of a sudden just blurted

it out. He related that it upset him right then and there when he saw the kid take the hit for no

apparent reason. He kept it to himself over the last few days, but now, since I was formally and

officially asking him, and he was not in the habit of lying, he would tell me what he saw.

The officer continued by verbally walking me through the scene and collaborating that

the kid was already in custody and cuffed, he didn’t fight any of the officers or curse them out,

he had no weapons on him, but when he didn’t answer the questions posed to him as fast as the

newly arrived detective thought he should have, the punch was thrown and the kid went down.

And yes, it was the same detective, the one man there wearing a suit.

The formerly phantom/invisible puncher’s identity was now confirmed for me. It’s the

same person that the juvenile described, and now one of the officers at the scene also

16
independently named him. I thanked the officer as he stood up to get ready to go back out on

patrol. He told me then that he didn’t care if his name went in my report or not. What happened

that night was uncalled for and the kid should NOT have been treated that way. He was firm as

could be about that issue and if the detective found out he was the one who gave him up,

well…so be it. He didn’t care. As he was adjusting his equipment and putting on his hat, he

confidently said to me as he exited the interview room, “Yeah, Sarge, let him find out it was me

and have him try to sucker-punch me the same way. He’ll find out I’m no short, skinny, 16-year

old with my hands cuffed behind my back!”

I simply responded, “I hear ya….”

Now, with my ducks in a row, it was time to interview the detective. Perhaps three or

four days had gone by from the actual incident but now was the time to talk to him. We

happened to be working the same shift one evening and when the Backroom was empty of other

personnel I called him into one of the interview rooms. He was quasi-friendly at first, telling me

he’s been wondering when he would be called in to speak to someone as he knows the “dirtbag

little burglar” and his dad had filed a complaint against him.

The detective even said to me regarding their complaint, “Do you f**kin’ believe this

shit?”

I didn’t respond to his particular scatologic-themed rhetorical question.

Even with the less than one hundred sworn officers in the BPD, it so happens that I never

really worked with this guy during my previous six years on the force. I only really got to know

17
him over the last few months as we occasionally worked together in CID; he as a new detective,

me as a new sergeant.

I would come to learn that this detective was a walking contradiction in many ways. He

liked to loudly speak in a very much street-style vernacular. This was in a “dese” and “dose”

sort of way (for “these” and “those,” of course), “ain’t” for “is/am not,” consonant-deleting most

words ending in “-ing,” as well as the usage of various other informal and/or slang language

features. He was big on profanity too, specifically, the “f-word,” and usually laced at least

every-other spoken sentence with one or more versions of it.

However, on certain rare occasions, the detective could also come across as relatively

intelligent and well-spoken. One of those rare occasions must have been the oral interview

portion of the recent promotional testing. Otherwise, I and my fellow officers were convinced,

he wouldn’t be a detective today.

This detective could best be described as short and stocky, and it always appeared to me

that he felt he had to somehow make up for his vertical minuses and horizontal plusses by

playacting to be someone other than who or what he really was. I didn’t care at all about this

particular chameleon-like personality trait of his up until this time in our professional

relationship as it didn’t affect me one way or the other. But, I was pretty sure in advance that he

would attempt to use both personas during the course of our interview.

This was definitely the “suspect” detective’s style, coming across as a rough, tough, street

guy at times; but also as a wily, I’m-smarter-than-you sort of person sometimes within the same

conversation when it suited him to do so.

Some men I’ve come across in my life could successfully pull off this act. This particular

man wasn’t one of them, at least not in his dealings with me.

18
The details of the interview itself are not all that exciting. It didn’t last all that long

either. The detective told me that when he would work the 7P-3A shift, instead of sitting in CID

and doing paperwork or waiting for the phone to ring in the wee hours of the morning, he had a

habit of cruising around Bensalem in his CID vehicle. He’d like to “look for trouble,” as he told

me. On the night at issue he found his trouble alright. It was, I was convinced, at the end of his

fist as it hit the mouth of a handcuffed 16-year old boy.

But the detective wouldn’t admit to it at first; not even a little bit. He confirmed that he

did arrive on the scene, saw a kid under arrest and in handcuffs, and as far as he knew the kid got

his injuries and messed up his mouth as he fell to the ground while he was initially running away

when the patrol units pulled up. I had him tell and retell the story to me a few times, and he was

relatively consistent throughout. There wasn’t much he could change in his story as he said he

didn’t really do or say anything while there. He showed up, saw all was under control, and came

back to HQ to process the paperwork on the arrest. Next thing the detective heard a day or two

later is he was being accused of hitting the kid. Not true, he assured me. To further make his

point, he emphatically stated a few times across the desk to me during the interview, “The kid’s

f**kin’ lyin’.”

Interestingly, up until this time in the interview, it was the “street” talking tough guy

sitting across from me. That was about to change. In the field of sociolinguistics, as I would

learn years later in my graduate studies, this sort of conscious or subconscious language

morphing in terms of one’s accent and/or other dialect features is known as “style-shifting.”

At this point I told the detective that something wasn’t adding up here. He wanted to

know what I meant by that. I eventually told him that one of the patrol officers on the scene saw

19
him hit the boy and told me the blow-by-blow details. (Well, actually just one “blow.”) Before I

could practically finish my sentence, he asked me, “Who the f**k told you dat?”

I told the now inquiring mind the specific officer’s name is not important right now, but

what IS important is how this kid got hurt. We went back and forth for a few more minutes, and

I did my best to convince him that telling the truth here may serve to minimize any damage down

the line in terms of any potential disciplinary OR criminal actions against him. I let him know

that this kid described him to a tee, what he did, and then a fellow BPD officer independently

told me exactly the same thing and was willing to go public with it if he had to.

I then put it right to the detective, “Do you really want to keep denying this? C’mon, you

hit the kid, right?”

After some hesitation and reluctance, the detective finally gave it up. Well, kind of, sort

of, in a way. The kid was a “wise guy” to him as he was asking him some basic questions and he

merely slapped him lightly in the face, just to teach him a lesson. He never “punched” him per

se, he insisted. Then, the kid, on his own, tripped a few minutes later and that must have been

when he damaged his mouth. This was the detective’s final version of his story and he was

sticking to it.

Oh, and the above was told to me in Standard English style, with no “dese” or “dose” or

“ain’t” or similar street-wise vernacular usages or profanities. Something must have clicked in

the language portion of my interviewee’s brain when for the first time he learned that a brother

officer on the scene had laid it all out for me as it actually happened. So, it was time for the

detective to drop the tough guy routine and adopt the smart guy routine. When he was in formal

trouble, that’s apparently what he did, and most likely without any cognizant knowledge of it

either.

20
So, in summary, after initially denying (in street lingo) any physical interaction with the

kid, the detective did admit (in standard American English lingo) to “slapping” him. But, HE

didn’t do the damage to the teeth and the braces. That was caused when the kid later tripped and

hit his face on the concrete sidewalk. This was all my interviewee would tell me at the time. I

said, “Okay,” told him we were done, and got up to leave the interview room. He then asked me

one last question. “Who was the fuckin’ patrolman who ‘ratted’ me out?”

Back to the tough street guy, are we? Well, two can play that game.

For one last time, I didn’t directly answer him. I merely suggested, style-shifting myself

at the same time, “You’re a f**kin’ detective! Go figure it out yourself!”

He responded emphatically (remaining in street-lingo persona), “Yeah, I f**kin’ will!”

I walked away.

It took me a day or so to type up the internal investigation report. I did so, and included

everything mentioned above – well, almost. Rightly or wrongly, I chose not include in it the fact

that the detective initially denied hitting the kid. I simply related his version of the story from

the point of reference starting at the time when he admitted “slapping” him. In terms of the

severity, direction, speed, and configuration of his hand/fist to the boy’s face that night, it would

remain for Chief Viola and others in upper-management to deduce from the report as to whether

the kid/victim and a patrol officer/witness were telling the truth, or the accused detective was

telling the truth.

It apparently didn’t take long for the Chief to deduce what he needed to deduce. I did not

play a role in advising anyone in management regarding disciplinary action, if any, against the

detective. In fact, I was never even officially told what happened. But, through my sources, I

21
later learned that the detective was suspended without pay for five work days. In light of this,

through negotiations of sort with Chief Viola and the Township solicitor (lawyer), the father and

son agreed not to pursue any criminal charges against the detective, nor any civil actions against

the BPD and/or Bensalem Township. Included in this “deal” was the fact that the kid would

have his dental work repaired and the bill would be paid for by the Township. Lastly, in juvenile

court, the charges involving the motorcycle shop parts were reduced to just a single attempted

theft, and the boy along with his co-conspirator were put on one year’s probation. As far as I

know, they never offended again and their respective records were expunged once they hit 18

years of age.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the detective and I hardly ever spoke to one another

again. He felt he was railroaded not by one, but by two of his fellow officers and that “Thin Blue

Line” was violated by both of them. Me being one of them, of course. Since he never further

confronted me or asked me about it, I never again addressed the issue with him. If his own

“investigation” ever uncovered the name of the officer that provided me with the truthful details

of that night, I never heard of it.

I’m not sure of this particular detective’s disciplinary track record within the department

subsequent to this incident and over the rest of his career, but I do know after he finally retired

from the BPD he once again had some legal issues to address. Ironically, they were not all that

dissimilar from those of the juvenile offender back in ’82, with just the roles being reversed.

It seems in or around 2012, the now-former police officer was employed by a certain

Philadelphia area school district and was responsible for maintaining their fleet of motor

vehicles, yellow school buses, etc. While working there, he somehow found himself involved in

22
the receiving of and distributing of, believe it or not, vehicle parts stolen from the school district.

The former detective was subsequently arrested for his part in the scheme. He was actually one

of twenty people arrested as a result of this months’ long investigation.

In total, the numerous thefts of vehicle parts and accessories over time added up to a loss

of approximately 1.5 million dollars to the school district. When all the dust finally settled, the

former detective, and now a former school district employee, was formally sentenced to multiple

hours of community service, a several thousand dollar fine, along with restitution.

When reading of this arrest years later, and after recalling my investigation of the same

detective for punching/slapping the 16-year old motorcycle parts thief, I wondered….

When the then-school district employee was first identified, first arrested, first confronted

by an investigator in the 2012 stolen car parts scheme and was asked questions about it, and if he

didn’t answer those questions quickly and thoroughly enough, did the investigator choose to

punch HIM in the mouth?

No…it probably didn’t go down that way in the great suburban school district stolen car

parts caper of 2012. I’m sure the investigator in that case was smart enough not to do something

such as that. He wouldn’t have to put on an act to pretend he was something other than what he

really was at the time…unlike the shifty former detective who STILL may not know what his

actual “style” should really be.

23
24