Saturday, January 12, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Midnight Madness, part 2

I am reminded of a similar occurrence that involved psychology, in this case the psychological power of the badge.


My partner and I responded to a domestic dispute that we had been to time and time again: same call, same location, same players and the same reasons. Again, the dispute was over something trivial, and neither party clearly remembered what they had been arguing about. We tried to remedy the situation, but we could see we were not getting anywhere as usual.


The husband said that they simply could not get along --- ever since they got married.


The wife agreed, “I wish we never got married. After we got married, all we do is fight.”


Neither of them wanted to move out or separate. Each claimed to still love the other.


I decided to give some psychology or social science a try. I told both of them to stand next to each other, facing me. I then instructed each of them to place a hand on my badge. With one hand on top of the other, atop my badge, while looking at each other, they were told by me, “By the power invested in me by the State of New York, I hereby divorce you.”


We all shook hands. They both thanked us. We never got another domestic call from that home, a tribute to the psychological power of the badge.


Civilians are not the only ones who get to be a little daffy.

One night on the midnight shift, my partner and I came into the precinct lunchroom for our meal break at 3 am. As we usually do, we removed our gun belts in attempt to get somewhat comfortable. A call of “Shots fired!” came in over the radio from another unit in our precinct. Because we knew that the call had come from a patrol car, we were sure that it was legitimate, and we wanted to be able to assist our comrades if they needed us. We got to the scene in record time, jumped out of our car, and reached for our side-arms. Not there. Neither of us had remembered to bring his gun belt and weapon.


Fortunately. those of us on the police force typically have a second gun, often worn at the ankle, sometimes worn in a shoulder holster. We learn in the Police Academy that the fastest reload of a weapon is not to try to put bullets in the weapon you’re using, but to pull out your backup gun.


Early in my career my weapon of choice was a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver with a 4-inch long barrel, a reliable and accurate handgun. My backup weapon, usually worn in an ankle holster, was a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver with a 2 inch barrel. Revolvers have the advantage that they are almost foolproof. They do not need to be meticulously cleaned to prevent jamming, the way a semi-automatic pistol must.


Although highly reliable, the revolver does have one shortcoming: if one grabs the gun by the barrel so that it cannot rotate to put a new bullet into the firing chamber, the revolver will not fire. That’s not a shortcoming, but a feature, if the revolver is pointed at me, and I have prevented it from being fired by grabbing the barrel.


Later in my career, I traded in my revolver for a Glock semi-automatic pistol. The Glock was mostly plastic, except of course for having a metal barrel, and was much lighter than the all-metal semi-automatics or revolvers that were my other options. Revolvers typically have five or six bullets in their barrels, but the modern semi-automatics typically had 15-shot magazines plus one bullet in the chamber, giving you a total of 16 shots before you had to reload.


Reloading is a scary procedure. For a brief period, you are effectively without a weapon. Studies done by police departments around the nation have shown that most of the time when a police officer was shot he was looking down at something, almost always looking to see where to put the bullets while reloading. While you can learn to reload the gun simply by feel or by looking down and then looking up while loading only one bullet at a time, the best solution is to have a backup gun.


From THE SHIELD OF GOLD: A Candid Memoir by a Former NYPD Detective, by Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press, fall 2012, available from OP and from in paperback or ebook.

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