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Welcome Aboard – Slap!

It was always a novelty for Gumshoe when he worked in uniform and drove a black & white “911 Uber” when a citizen or a family member wanted to go on a “ride-along”. Public relations at its best; your tax dollar at work.  A memory to be made for sure along with a future animated dinner conversation for sure folks.

Gumshoe always welcomed aboard any adult member of the public (after a criminal background check) to experience an up-close and personal perspective of the workings inside a real-life police cruiser with a blue-suited knuckle-dragger patrol beat officer such as Gumshoe. Mind you, this was decades before the TV on-scene “COPS” syndicated franchise became a hit program. The “Bad boys, bad boys, where are you gonna go when the cops come for you?” tune is really catchy and sometimes it can be an earworm though.  (I bet Gumshoe just had you belt out that refrain)

Gumshoe would have the ride-along wear a nylon jacket that prominently displayed “Ride Along” on the front and back.  Additionally,  Gumshoe would have them don a ballistic vest beneath the jacket.  Gumshoe always kept an additional vest in his go-bag just in case. It is good to know that there is no such thing as a bulletproof vest.

Once my ridge along was attired, Gumshoe could see in their eyes that this police adventure of theirs was becoming serious and not like a fantasy cruise on the jungle boat in Disneyland.

Funny, Gumshoe always thought of “Pirates of the Caribbean” while on patrol along with a bit of “Mr. Toads Wild Ride” for that unexpected adrenaline rush.  Ahoy Matey! Wheeeee!  Lights and sirens.

Once Gumshoe had the ride along as a captive audience of one inside the police unit, the following “boilerplate” admonishment was presented to them without compromise or conflict:

  1. You are NOT a cop but you could be targeted as a cop since you are not seated behind the rear cage. Situational awareness at all times.
  2. In the event of an emergency, this is the hand-held radio microphone.  Push the button to speak, but release it to receive messages.  No death grips.
  3. If Gumshoe is “down” for any reason, get behind the steering wheel and put it in reverse, and step on the gas to safety.  Then refer to instruction #2.
  4. Listen to all instructions. Specifically, Gumshoe’s order (not a suggestion) to remain inside the black & white.  I am responsible for your welfare.
  5. Gumshoe would give them a crash course about his sidearm, his backup weapon and the standard-issue Remington 870 pump-action 12 gauge shotgun, and how to activate the hidden release lock mechanism button.

What you don’t know can get you dead in a heartbeat.  Knowledge is power for survival pilgrim.

With all of that overwhelming information, some of Gumshoe’s ride-alongs requested a bathroom break even before we left the police station’s lot. Active bladder possibly? However, they all returned to my ride with a wee bit of anxiety coupled with a more wide-eyed look of possible doom.   Gumshoe would exclaim, “Relax, I’ve not lost a ride along yet and this is my first week on the job”.  This was mostly met with a perplexed and quizzical look from the ride-along followed by a half-hearted laugh while Gumshoe just grinned.

Carsick bags were not included by the way.

Everyday routine for cops is definitely not the norm for the uninitiated civilian.

Off we would go into the night as the 911 calls would flood the airwaves.

Gumshoe encouraged the ride-along to ask questions about anything that came to their minds.  Gumshoe would interpret the radio calls albeit, “who is who, what is what, and the why’s and the why not’s”.  The hows were demonstrated.

Gumshoe is happy to report that he never did lose a ride-along or have them suffer any injury in the decades that followed. However, Gumshoe did occasionally consider shooting a few when they did not follow the aforementioned Gumshoe protocols.  There is no cure for stupid! In those instances, the offending ride-along would be unceremoniously deposited back at the station with a hasty “see you”. Your ride-along scheduled time has expired (before Gumshoe expires you).

There was one instance in which a ride-along literally took matters into his own capable hands. The ride-along was none other than one of my real-life brothers named Mike.  He was one year younger than me and two inches taller than my 6’1” frame.  He was very strong and athletic.

It was a relatively slow swing shift on patrol when the radio blared an emergency call of an armed robbery that had just occurred inside a business situated within a large shopping mall that we just happened to be driving around. Timing as well as being at the right place is always a real street cop’s dream. Probably a nightmare for the non-sworn Gumshoe surmises.

The radio dispatcher put out the initial physical and clothing description of the two suspects as well as their last seen direction of travel as they fled afoot through the mall. Police units started to flood the area in order to establish a perimeter.

Gumshoe actually had one of the matching suspects in custody almost immediately.  The frantic and winded suspect ran out of one of the mall exits and directly to the side of Gumshoe’s unmarked unit that blocked his path. He was quickly cuffed in the rear, patted down, and placed in the right rear of the unit, seat-belted and directly behind my trusty and loyal brother Mike.

Note:  Gumshoe was assigned to a special uniform crime suppression team that drove unmarked plain police cars without cages or visible emergency lights.  

Before Gumshoe could put out on the radio, “One in custody”; there was another patrol officer who had arrived on the other side of the mall who put out a radio call in a loud booming voice that he was engaged in a hot foot pursuit of one of the robbery suspects. Simultaneously, the suspect that Gumshoe had in custody apparently was cognitive enough to hear this foot pursuit radio broadcast and he immediately started to scream out encouragement to his absconding partner to get away (but he used much more colorful words).

Gumshoe’s prisoner’s deafening verbal tirade prevented Gumshoe from hearing the radio broadcast of the officer involved in the foot pursuit of the other bandit. Instantly and most probably instinctively, my brother Mike rapidly turned towards the suspect and Mike used his wide-open right hand that he swung in a blur that struck the left side of the shrieking open mouth suspect with a resounding slap that seemed to vibrate. Mike shouted, “Shut up! My brother is trying to listen!” as the suspect’s head turned violently to his right just like it was on a well-oiled swivel.  Brother Mike’s forceful meaty blow got the suspect’s attention. Mike withdrew his large palm, and he held it “cocked” at the ready at the eye level of the suspect, just in case another blow was necessary.   Brother Mike glared at the stunned suspect. Obviously, once was enough for the suspect to taste the righteous wrath of brother Mike’s bear claw.

Gumshoe was shocked and the suspect was momentarily dazed. You see folks that the rule for all street cops is that once a suspect is cuffed the use of physical force by an arresting officer is a definite, NO-NO.  It’s against police depart policy not to mention a crime. So be it! Gumshoe thought, well it was my ride-along brother who demonstrated his brotherly love for Gumshoe as well as for the welfare of the foot pursuing officer who need to be heard to be helped. My brother Mike was not a street cop and he did what was right at the time.  So be it! Nevertheless, the slap produced the intended result.  The suspect stared “bug-eyed” at Mike’s ready open palm as he meekly sat in the back seat.

Gumshoe firmly believes that this wayward, misguided, suspect saw the light and he instantly became a monk who took practicing his vow of silence seriously.

The wrath of my brother Mike’s slap had spoken. Amen, peace be with you!

Ultimately, the other suspect was apprehended without incident.  He had a toy gun along with a small amount of ill-gotten cash for his efforts.

As for my prisoner who maintained his vow of silence, he kept his vow all through the prisoner processing and his jail booking. He along with his partner in crime later pled guilty to the armed robbery. They ended up doing time to do their penitents in the penitentiary.  Monks are us they are— inside the taxpayer-supported locked-down monastery.

My brother Mike never had the opportunity to accompany me again as a ride-along, but we both know that once was enough for each of us.  In the years to follow, he later became a high-level prison administrator who was well respected for his words and for his wise counsel. He instituted innovative rehabilitated programs that were very successful and copied throughout the prison system.

No slaps were ever necessary.  He definitely took a “hands-off approach”.  God bless him always for having my back.  He knows I will always have his.

Remember folks to always love the ones who love you, and really try to love the ones who don’t.

Coram Deo!

Danny Pitocco
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. Hey Gumshoe great article. I had a few ride-a-longs back in the day. Some of passengers included Syracuse University students as well as the occasional Newspaper reporter. I wasn’t all that fond of ride-a-longs. My spiel was a lot like yours.
    I worked on the south side of the city and most nights there was always something happening. Back in the 70’s there was still a lot of unrest because of Vietnam and our Chief of Police who was a firm believer in Community Policing felt it was necessary that any college student that wanted to ride should ride. Believe it or not I did get to be good friends with a reporter who gave me some good press.
    Given the state of affairs with defund the police and the criticism, I am a firm believer that those that want of criticize like the AOC’s, Talib’s of the world need to ride with the police, not for one night but for at least a week. It still grinds me that there are people out there that have no idea what the job entails but yet feel free to keep on with their same old talking points.
    The same ones that have never slapped on a badge and gun, kissed their loved ones good bye not knowing what the day or night will bring. Your article reminded me of the good old days so thanks again.

    • Right on Thomas. I always used the opportunity to educate my uninitiated ride alongs about the honest (sometimes brutal and sometimes soul killing) aspects of life on the streets.

      Just like you mentioned striking up a friendship with a reporter; same here. My article “The Gumshoe Retires” was written by her.

      Semper Fi Jarhead!

  2. The few ride-a-longs I had in my time on the streets were few because of the policies implemented by the department due to the security for those ride-a-longs. However, the one’s I had were from other agencies, especially from the jail, and needless to say, that is a story on its own…..Good strong ink on paper dear husband of mine.

    • Ride alongs were always for the most part “challenging” simply because you had a non-sworn individual watching you and judging you by their own personal (biased) standards.I always kept in mind Linnie that the ballistic vest had a front for the threats I could deal with. The back had me covered for threats I could not see.
      Thanks for your comment Officer Smith.

  3. My first instinct upon reading the latest from my bro ‘Gumshoe’ was to respond with, “I can neither confirm nor deny…”, but instead, let me say this about that……..if there was ever any doubt in my mind as to whether pursuing a carreer as a street cop was something I should consider, this experience totally eradicated it! My brother Danny (aka ‘Gumshoe’) followed what was truly his ‘calling’ as a law enforcement professional. It fit him like a fine glove…..just the right blend of intelligence, common ‘horse’ sense, guts and compassion – along with a healthy dose of a great sense of humor combined to make him a perfect role model for the profession — as evidenced by that fact that he was selected as a FTO (Field Training Officer) and went on to enjoy an extremely successful career (detailed in his bio). Gumshoe was as tailor-made for a career in law enforcement as our sister Dee was for her career in nursing (only she was even smarter!!! : ). Our other siblings were equally gifted, however we were sprinkled around the country and, in the case of Danny and Dee I had the opportunity to personally observe them on the job due to our proximity. After my ride along I decided it was in my best interest to remain working behind bars rather than being incarcerated behind them; not everyone is meant to wear the badge and carry a loaded firearm in the midst of an unsuspecting public!! Thanks for the ride Danny!

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