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“Paint it Black”

Hello, again dear readers. You may be surprised to learn that the two activities that Gumshoe tried to avoid when working in the uniform patrol were:

1.  Directing traffic at fatal crash scenes.  No choice for Gumshoe.  You don’t have to like it, but it was your duty to do it Gumshoe!

2.  Writing tickets, Gumshoe’s discretion with only warnings to my patrol watch sergeant’s chagrin.

Gumshoe will only address his first dislike and dread, “directing traffic at fatal crash/collision scenes”.  Blaaaah!

Some background police schooling is in order kind readers. Gumshoe readily acknowledges the importance and the necessity of maintaining the safe free flow of traffic along the highways and byways of our municipalities. Minor fender-benders; exchange of insurance info and begone. Stalled vehicles, call a tow and begone.  No worries and no hassles.  Gumshoe smiles. The driving public has to be able to get to where they have to go and the local gendarmes have the duty to get them there safely in a timely manner. Oui! Qui!

God bless pizza delivery guys and gals among others.

But of course, weather conditions  (snow, rain, black ice, oil slicks, fog) do inhibit traffic flow. Not to mention wayward cows, death wish rabbits, squirrels, deer, and misguided hitchhikers just to name a few roadway hazards.  Did I say, bicyclists? Additionally, road conditions such as never-ending construction and unplanned detours, malfunctioning traffic lights, and signals also played a significant factor getting a cold pizza delivered.

Major hazards are the DUI’s (driving under the influence) or DWI’s (driving while impaired) vehicle operators who have a very serious and deadly impact upon all of us behind the wheel and on the road. Vigilance is the watchword.

Okay, folks,  Gumshoe reiterates the list that works against you on the road: weather conditions, road conditions, unknowing itinerant beasts, clueless J-walking pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers texting on cell phones, alcohol/drug-impaired drivers, driver drowsiness, inexperienced drivers as well as drivers who can no longer operate a motor vehicle safely.

All of these factors coupled with the time of day (weekday rush hours) and even the holidays threaten our driving roadway wellbeing.   Sadly these proximate causes and contributing factors result in traffic fatalities as well as life-changing injuries for too many innocent victims and suspects.  God knows that life is just not always fair and that it is very fragile and fleeting.

The widely used term “traffic accident” is a misnomer. The correct term used in police traffic reports is “traffic crash” or “traffic collision”. Crashes/collisions occur due to driver error and to traffic law violations that were and are preventable. Crashes/collisions are not accidents when the police investigate the proximate cause/s and the contributed factors. These crashes/collisions result in unintended consequences for all parties involved. Some fatal.  That’s a fact.

Unsafe speed, unsafe turning, aggressive driving, road rage along DUI lead the top of the list.  Now you know.  Buckle up!

Okay, Gumshoe’s police traffic schooling class is over folks.

Apart from the aforementioned reasons that demand police traffic control, enforcement, and investigation, Gumshoe developed an “up close in your face” personal reason for disliking and dreading traffic control duties at these fatal crash/collision scenes:

The on the scene “Looky-Loo’s”.  Voyeurs of the downright ugliness in all its disgusting forms. The majority of the passing drivers, in either the on-coming or the opposing traffic lanes, would routinely slow down. This was out of safety sake and out of an abundance of caution as one would be correct.  Definitely regard for self and others to be sure.  However, there were always a few strange motorists who would arbitrarily stop their cars and occasionally get themselves rear-ended. (poetic justice) A pregnant pause due to genuine shock and alarm, nope!   A lack of judgment, no way. A sick curiosity? –without any doubt. Perhaps it was their schadenfreude revisited at its worst.  Absolutely, in Gumshoe’s opinion.

These deviant drivers appeared to Gumshoe to automatically transform themselves into “looky-loo’s”.  On a few occasions, Gumshoe actually witnessed a few of them taking pictures of the carnage.  Too bad Gumshoe was not able to grab them. These drivers temporarily underwent a “self-induced zombie hypnotic state” and displayed the “1000 yard, no blinking locked stare”.

This gazed-over-eye stare would not break in spite of the repeated loud shrills from Gumshoe’s officially issued police traffic whistle.   Gumshoe’s evil eye nor Gumshoe’s animated and exaggerated arm gestures did not have any effective results upon them either.  Frustration at its fullest don’t cha know. Gumshoe had to physically knock with righteous authority on their vehicle windows to shock ‘em back to consciousness and get them the $&!# moving!

“NOTHING TO SEE HERE FOLKS!”, in Gumshoe’s most strong and commanding voice that definitely echoed in their ears if their windows happened to be down.

It was especially shocking and heart-wrenching when Gumshoe saw that these gawking zombie motorists had children passengers inside of their cars, trucks, and minivans. Sometimes, even school bus drivers, as well as church bus drivers, were overcome by this bizarre state of mind and body as audience members to this theater of the macabre. Gumshoe figured that they just forgot about their unsuspecting passengers.

Unfortunately,  the child passengers had no choice. They became involuntary eyewitnesses to the mayhem. Their young and unbelieving eyes had captured the fresh and the ugly aftermath of the mutilated bodies; the blood and the gore.  Childhood innocence destroyed in a flash!  Tears and fears undoubtedly came forth. What was that mommy?

You see folks, in real life, there were too few officers at these scenes to assist and definitely a limited supply of plastic blankets to cover the bodies and the separated parts from the indiscriminate public view.

Gumshoe believes that many a nightmare, as well as an unknown number of night terrors, sprang from the young psyches of these hapless kids who were exposed to these horrid memory snapshots. Bedwetting abounded for some and some experienced wake-up screams that pierced their dreams and the sleeping household.

Gumshoe is sure of this and prays that God will bless every one of them and give them all the peace and comfort they richly deserve.

It seemed to Gumshoe that these few callous happy-go-lucky drivers just wanted to gape at the human carnage and debris with their collective wide opened eyes and with their collective mouths hung agape.   Why? Gumshoe would ponder this question, and never really get the chance to ask them. Gumshoe could only speculate.

Maybe, their viewing of these horrendous scenes gave them their own personal (false) sense of well-being?  Better them than I resounded in their quiet thoughts? Maybe, it would serve their next topic of conversation with their friends and family? They could proudly boast about being the first ones at the scene of the fatal crash.  Hear all about it!

Gumshoe can almost hear them say in their rapid sounding and excited and almost exuberant voices:

There were flashing emergency lights, the sounds of wailing sirens, bodies were everywhere with the acrid smells of burnt rubber and spilled gasoline!”  “I saw it all and that cop just yelled at me to move and he knocked on my car’s window;  I’m gonna call his boss and complain!”

They beat out the “Eyewitness News” cameras and crews.  “If it bleeds, it leads!” is the news desk editor’s admonishment. Gumshoe surmises that it is also true to some of these obviously “bent” morons as well.

Gumshoe thought, what did these folks gain by having these fatal scenes carved into their memory banks?

Gumshoe thinks that there was no gain to be had, just loss.

Possibly the Rolling Stones got it right in their lyrical laments in their titled song,“Paint it Black”?  Listen to the kazoos at the end.

Now, these misguided folks can play along with their own kazoos to the tune as they remembered slowly driving by the scene and looking at the dead and dying among the chaos.

On that sad note folks, Gumshoe asks you to always love the ones who love you and to especially try to love the ones who don’t.

Coram Deo!

PS:  Drive carefully, thoughtfully, and responsibly.  No personal nightmares for the kiddies.  “Looky-looing” be damned! They can shove those kazoos up their kazoos!

Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Dan another great article. I remember as a uniform police officer I hated the dreaded call, 56 Car, Sig 80, Fire Rescue Rolling along with Eastern Ambulance, be careful. Sig 80 meant Car Accident with injuries and when Rescue was sent it usually meant serious injuries. The saving grace of having Syracuse Fire Department Rescue rolling was the luxury of having the “Jaws of Life” if needed. When you get that call your heart rate jumps significantly. More often than not the Uniform Officer was the first on the scene trying to asses the situation and yes keeping bystanders from screwing up the scene. Depending on the severity of accident our job was to determine, if possible who might be at fault and write the report. The hardest part of a Sig 80 was if there was fatalities. More often than not it was the uniform officer making what was known as “Notifications” . Try going to a house at 2 in the morning, knocking on the door and notifying the parent(s) that their son or daughter was not coming home.
    During my time in Uniform I had that unenviable job several times.
    During my time as a Police Officer I witnessed two Sig 80’s. One was a Motorcycle Accident where the driver of the car ran a red light. Fortunately the motorcyclist survived.
    The second was on my way home at 8AM after finishing my shift. The car ahead of me hit a patch of ice on the bridge, slid across the median into the path of a Semi. I stopped, ran up to the vehicle and immediately determined that the female driver was dead. Now you would think that having been a Vietnam Veteran one might be hardened to death but it’s just not that way. It was hard to forget the condition the victim of that accident. Even more importantly calling for Law enforcement and asking that the ME (Medical Examiner) be notified.
    It’s like you stated “There’s nothing to see here”.
    So again thanks for a well written article.

    • Thanks again Tom for your comment on my posting. Your experienced insight echoes many of my patrol duty memories.

      Personally dealing with traffic fatalities, especially when the victims resembled my loved ones, was extremely difficult.

      I also had the unenviable task to deliver death notices to next of kin. For some damn reason, it seemed to always fall around the holidays.

      A few years ago I put my thoughts about this sad duty on one of my Bizcatalyst360 posting.

      These memories never ever escape me and come rushing back when I hear a siren in a distance.

      Peace my friend.

  2. People are curious humans who have no idea of the heart beneath the vest in many who protect and serve and who respond to carnage that can cause the heart to break and the tears to well up in the eyes as those who drive without regard for others can bring.

    • God always puts us where we belong Nightingale to do His will. He also gives us His grace (strength) to complete the task. We do right to give Him the glory as we remain humble. Thanks for your wise thoughts my Nightingale.

  3. How right you are my friend Ken. Given the choice, I would in a heartbeat erase all of the horror shows that I had to witness as a cop. However, there were enough good, beautiful, joyful happenings that I witnessed that kept the demons in check through the grace of God and by genuine good and decent folks like you my friend.

    • Your absolutely correct my brother. Many are called to serve in law enforcement simply because they want to make a difference. These folks are altruistic in their natures. However, they are not perfect or special, just guys and gals who give a damn.

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