December 11, 1987

Article at Dallas Times Herald - Dallas Observer - Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance

Police story: One long day in the street

The clouds foreboded rain that day, but nothing really came of it.  A few drops fell in the late afternoon — enough to water down the streets before their rush-hour workout. And later that night, an uneven drizzle pestered drivers into hitting their wipers every few minutes, as a picnicker would swat away flies.

But it never really rained. And that’s kind of how it is for most cops, on most days. Always knowing that something might happen — always being ready for it to happen — when it usually doesn’t.

Since January, the Lynchburg Police Department has handled 1,124 major crimes, including two murders, 30 rapes, 63 robberies and 101 felonious assaults. Over the same period, city police have responded to more than 46,000 calls — never knowing which would be among the 1,124.  As it turned out, Tuesday, November 17, was a pretty slow day.

12:47 a.m. The first arrest of the day is recorded in the docket book, a dingy green-gray ledger that sits at the complaint desk. The charge is public drunkenness.

Wayne Wood, the department’s crime analyst, estimates that 75 percent of those arrested for drunkenness and drunken driving are repeat offenders. So, he guesses, are close to half of all the LPD’s arrests.

2:08 a.m. Officer Darrell Keesee cites a fellow for driving 80 mph on the Rivermont Bridge, where you’re supposed to go 35. He then arrests the guy for DUI and refusal to take a blood or breath test.

4:20 a.m. Keesee is called to back up Officer G.L. Marshall, who has a potential DUI of his own. As Keesee drives up Monroe Street, he sees a familiar green Monte Carlo parked halfway on 7th Street, halfway on the adjacent sidewalk. It’s the same car that he stopped on the bridge.

“I want you to hold up your left foot and count to 20,” Marshall tells the driver, who gets to five, loses his balance, blames the strange slant of the roadway, tries it on the sidewalk and asks if he has a right to lean against a telephone pole before finally giving in. Marshall takes the guy — brother-in-law of the Rivermont speedster — to jail, leaving Keesee to tend to the car.

Keesee wakes up an old man at a nearby wrecker service with a phone call, then does an inventory of the vehicle’s contents (e.g., dirty sneakers in the trunk, foot-long knife in the glove compartment) before getting back to his rounds.

On Beat 21, downtown, that generally means checking buildings for breaking-and-entering. ‘‘If nothing’s happening, you just keep checking for your B-and-E’s,” says Keesee, a former welder. “It can make for a tiresome night.”

But the midnight shift has its perks, too. “A lot of interesting people come out this time of night,” he says. “When you get something, you usually get something good.”

“But I’m always ready for the next shift when it comes up,” says Keesee. The three watches trade places every six weeks.

7 a.m. Cmdr. Bobby Williams begins roll call for the daylight shift. The room resembles a high school classroom, complete with chalkboard, desks and bulletin board. Only this bulletin board features composites of criminals.

The roll call is basically a memo-reading session; the subject matter ranges from newly escaped convicts to the department’s new dental plan.

7:35 a.m. As he drives along a particularly woodsy section of the Boonsboro beat, Officer Jeff Wood looks carefully out the windows of his squad car. He applies the brakes.

“There’s got to be some deer in there,” he says, squinting out the passenger side into a nearby field. Wood probably would rather be hunting today, taking his vacation as so many cops have this week, the first week of deer season.

Instead, he’s patrolling an upper-middle-class residential section in broad daylight. ‘‘I like the midnight shift better. You can always check buildings,” he says. ‘‘On daylight if there isn’t anything to do there isn’t anything to do.”

Except watch cars leave for work, and kids wait for school buses. Wood’s thoughts return to the season at hand. “The deer know where the city boundary is,” he says. ‘‘All kinds of them are out here."

Wood jokes that he should be wearing blaze orange.

8:30 a.m. The roll call for police investigators sounds a lot like the one for the field officers. In one breath is mention of a nude, partially decomposed body found in Chesapeake. In the next, the dental plan.

8:50 a.m. E.C. Wingfield, Dennis Lariviere and Ed Burris have already started making their morning calls. Wingfield was a field officer until about eight years ago, when he traded in his uniform for a suit and tie and became one of six investigators in the crimes-against persons unit.

“We handle more runaways than anything,” he says. “It’s unbelievable, really. We’re looking for close to 400 this year.”

Wingfield says the investigations bureau — which also includes six crimes-against-property specialists — is different from patrol duty, but not always better.

"There’s a lot to learn up here. If I was in the field and a person was back telling me, I’d only have to take so much before I could arrest him. When you’re an investigator you’ve got to develop informants, you’ve got to establish a rapport.”

10:45 a.m. A warrant officer executes a capias arrest. A “capias” is a warrant issued by a court, generally for the arrest of someone who hasn’t paid a fine, or who stood up the judge on a previous date.

11:30 a.m. It’s right around lunch time for Geoff Brown, laboratory and evidence technician

"If I were to take a two-by-four and came down on you with six or seven blows, he says, explaining one facet of his work, “through blood-splatter analysis we can tell from what point in space the stains came."

Brown, one of four state specialists in blood-splatter analysis, also dusts for fingerprints, collects blood and telling other body fluids for comparison, examines firearms and bullet casings and takes photos at crime scenes.

“I was at Amherst,” he says, referring to the recent Naola quadricide. “They had it there — shell casings, weapons, blood. I worked Haysom in ’85, and the Mayhew murder.”

Brown, who works nearly every major crime in Central Virginia, routinely flips through scene snapshots that he keeps in his desk. He says he can’t let it get to him.

“I don’t let it bother me, because I know I’ve got a job to do and I do it. The really brutal scenes make my adrenaline pump — they make me want to work that much more.”

12:55 p.m. The parking-ticket man is chalking tires on Court Street. Bud Coleman of the special enforcement unit does not feel guilty.

“I don’t put my feelings into it. It’s just a job,” he says.

Coleman and one other officer take turns riding in the jeep. He says they’re usually pretty generous to violators.

“In the two-hour zones, we’ll give them an extra 15 minutes."

1:15 p.m. Officer Dennis Cruise is dispatched to the Weenie Stand, where three intoxicated subjects are being disorderly. When Cruise gets there, nobody's around.

“You have to prepare yourself, mentally and physically," he says. “If nothing’s there, you still have the adrenaline going. That’s where the stress of the job comes in."

2 p.m. Cruise is sent to an old, beat-up house to investigate a complaint of threatening phone calls. He knocks on the door once, and again.

"Come in,” says an elderly woman inside. Cruise asks her to come to the door. “It’s unlocked,” she says.

Cruise’s face tightens. He edges cautiously beside the door and slowly pushes it open. Nothing. He walks in and listens to the lady’s complaint. She decides not to press charges against the person making the calls.

As he heads back to the squad car, Cruise is slightly unnerved.

“Door’s open.’ God, I hate that," he says.

3 p.m. Evening role call. Be on the lookout for a murder suspect from someplace carrying a submachine gun and wearing a bulletproof vest — he’s mentally unstable. Also, there’s this new dental plan...

3:55 p.m. On a complaint to the magistrate, a warrant officer makes an arrest for assault and battery and assault with a knife.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, really. “Assault” means the threat of physical harm. If somebody cut somebody, they’d call it “malicious wounding.”

5:15 p.m. Cmdr. H.L. Shockley, the night watch commander, settles back behind his desk. His day’s about to begin.

“After 5 p.m., we’re it," says Shockley of the evening shift. “We’re the busiest."

Shockley spends about half his time at the station and half in his cruiser. “I respond to all the major calls,” he says.

7 p.m. Shockley, along with Officers Ken Frederick and Valerie McIvor, attends a meeting of the White Rock Neighborhood Council, which supports one of the most active Neighborhood Watch programs in the city.

Mclvor, who helped organize the watch a little over a year ago, was awarded a plaque for her efforts. Then the meeting ended, and she went back to working radar.

8:40 p.m. Officer Mark Wood is dispatched to a convenience store where a fight is said to be in progress. Nothing there. “Another one of those ‘gones-on-arrival,”  says Wood. “We get a lot of those.”

9:55 p.m. Wood was just complaining what a slow night it was when he got a call to hit Big Star. A shoplifter. “We’ve got trouble here,” radioed a cop at the scene.

Wood was ready for anything when he got there, but what he found was a man who had apparently stolen a carton of cigarettes. He was now answering the three officers there with “yes, sirs” and "no, sirs.”

Wood took the man back to the station. On the way the accused explained that he was just carrying the carton under his arm. That was all.

When he arrived at the station, he was fingerprinted, got his picture taken, and had his name put in the book. It was, it turned out. his third offense.

11 p.m. The midnight shift, refreshed after a good day’s sleep, is back for more. After their role call, the evening shift stumbles in to check out.

Shockley scratches out each officer’s name from a list as they come in. When the flow of cops slows to a trickle, there are three or four names left.

“Where are they at?” he says, looking at the names. The men joke about the stragglers, but they can’t hide the undercurrent of concern.

Eventually, all the men have come in but one. “Where’s Cardona?” says Shockley. “What’s he doing?"

The handful of cops around Shockley laugh about Cardona, whose nickname is “Doo Doo." But they wait.

Cardona finally comes in, to the embarrassing, irregular chant of his nickname. He gets a pat or two on the back. Then everyone goes home.

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