The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 11

I followed Cecelia to the squad room – though I knew the way – and through the door. The watch commander was at his desk looking over some paperwork, and the Sergeant of the Watch was "reading the crimes" – going over the list of outstanding warrants, recent unsolved crimes, cars and people to be on the lookout for, that kind of thing. When Red Hawk first put its police department together back in the mid-1960s the town got its officers from all over – the largest contingents were from Los Angeles and New York City, but there were people from elsewhere too. The mishmash of terminology was still in place. I didn't know where "Sergeant of the Watch" came from, but "watch" and "watch commander" were, I knew, originally LAPD terms. I couldn't remember, offhand, which department the phrase "reading the crimes" had come from, though I thought it was either LA or NYC.

I stood by the door while the sergeant finished the crimes, and then walked over as he continued speaking. "Okay, you guys have had some questions, and so I sent Officer Carpenter to find the chief. Here he is, and I'll ask him to say a few words and then we'll go to questions. But remember, it can't take long – there are still bad guys out there."

Speaking of questions, it occurred to me to wonder why Cecelia was off the street, since the day watch couldn't come in until the evening watch went out. But I put that out of my head until later.

"As y'all know," I said, "I got swore in as the new chief this morning. And as you're learning, I massacre the English language most of the time. But I hope I'm a decent cop. I was an officer here back in the 80s, I've been a PI for 20 years or more now, and when the city council asked me to become the chief I agreed – not real eagerly, but I did agree. Have y'all got the memo about armor yet?"

"I read it to them earlier," the Sergeant of the Watch said.

"Okay, so y'all are just learning about it. Who here has armor?"

A couple of hands went up.

"Okay, tonight you're cool. But the next time you report for duty, you better have your armor on. Not in the trunk of your cruiser – on you. I'm going to badger the city council for enough armor to equip every officer we've got, but in the meantime those who've got it will wear it. I know that you'll probably never be in a shooting situation. I also know that if you're wearing armor and you're never in a shooting, it's better than not wearing it and getting shot. I am not going to bury any of my officers if I have anything to say about it.

"Other than that, I don't have any big changes in the works. I'll be looking over procedures, policies, organization, all that in the next week or two, but unless it's something that I think needs to change right now, I'll leave it as is. You've heard I'm only gonna be here a year – that's the truth. So there's no point in turning the department upside down, and then having someone else come in a few months later and turn it upside down again. Mostly what you've been doing, you'll keep doing, in the way you've been doing it.

"I do have three pet peeves, and I expect y'all to share 'em with me. First – drunk driving. If you have probable cause to believe that someone's DUI, you will pull him over, and if you don't, I'll have you standing in my office explaining why. There is from now on a zero-tolerance policy on DUI in this department."

I glanced over at the watch commander and the Sergeant of the Watch, and saw that they were both making notes. "If one of y'all will make a copy of those notes so I can issue an official memo, I'd appreciate it. I got buried in paper today and forgot to have Mary note this stuff down."

I turned back to the officers. "Second – speeding. I understand why y'all give people a few miles over, and I concur. But if someone's flagrantly violating the speed limit, you will conduct a traffic stop, or I'll have you in front of my desk. There are speed limits for a reason, and we're going to enforce 'em. If you think that there's a speed limit somewhere in town that's too low, come to me, explain your thinking, and if I agree I'll go to the city council with it. But don't ignore it just 'cause you think it's too low.

"And that brings me to the third thing. We have, as of this minute, a zero tolerance policy on speeding in school zones. If you see someone driving just one mile over the limit in a school zone, you pull him over and you write him, and if he's got a problem with it tell him it's on direct orders from the chief. You do not have any leeway on this."

I took a breath. "Okay, enough hard nose stuff. Y'all have to get out on patrol, and I need to answer at least a couple of questions."

An officer in the back raised his hand. "Chief, I understand this new officer is your wife. Did you get her on just because you can?"

"No – though obviously it's true that I can. I'll tell y'all the same thing I told Mary earlier. We did a maximum age waiver, since she's past 35 – not a terribly common deal, but not unknown either. And she passed the written test with a high score, and came out of the physical fitness test better, probably, than anyone else in this room. She's a cop legitimately, even if I did bully the city council into letting me hire her.

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