The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 9

That afternoon I met with the Chief of Patrol and the lead investigator. Since the department only had four investigators – other police departments usually call them detectives – there wasn't any need for an official "Chief of Investigations," but the senior investigator had the lead position. They sat in the hard uncomfortable chairs in front of my desk, and I sat in the fairly comfortable chair behind it – fairly comfortable, but nothing like the "judge's chairs" I'd left behind in Albuquerque, one in the study and one in the house that was going to become my office. Both were gifts from Cecelia, one shortly after we got married for my office, and the other coming with the study.

"Okay," I told the two men, one in uniform with captain's bars on his collar, and the other a sergeant in a suit and tie, "I've been reading reports since I sat down in here, not just today's, but going back about three months to give myself a feel for things. And y'all write good reports, both of you – they're not just copspeak. But there are always things that you can't get from a report. So every day when we're on duty I want to meet with y'all. If you're off that day, don't worry about it – you don't need to come in on a day off just to make me happy. And if I'm off that day, don't worry about it. We can play catch-up later. But when we're here, I want to talk to y'all first thing."

I looked at the Chief of Patrol. "Dave, how many of our officers are wearing armor?"

"Out of the total patrol force? That's about 50 officers, and I'd say not more than a dozen or so own vests."

"If I understand you right, the department doesn't have 'em to issue."


"Well," I said in disgust, "that wrecks an order I was about to give. I'll have to rewrite it. Meanwhile, I will issue this order – every officer who has armor will wear it on duty. I want you to put me together a list of your officers who've got armor, and the first time I see one who's got a vest but doesn't have it on while he's on duty, I'm going to put him through the wringer. I want you to make sure they understand that – better for you to chew on 'em beforehand than for me to do it after the fact."

The Chief of Patrol nodded. I knew his name – Dave Huntington – from the table of organization that I'd stuck to the wall with pushpins. The same was true of the lead investigator, George Nikopolous.

I turned to George. "How on earth did a Greek wind up in Oklahoma anyway?"

"Beats me," he said in a thoroughly Okie accent. "But I've never dove for a sponge in my life."

"Well, there's one stereotype down the drain. Meanwhile, I want you guys to wear armor too. I know, you're not as likely to get into trouble as the patrol officers, but you know how it is here – you sometimes roll on calls 'cause we've got such a small department, and since you handle a variety of cases you can't ever count on the people you deal with being tame."

"I've only got one guy who has a vest, Chief," he said.

I slapped the desk. "This is ridiculous. Fifty patrol officers, four investigators, and only 13 vests? What is the city council thinking of?"

"The budget," Dave said.

"Well, I don't have to worry about my finances. It'll get out soon if it hasn't already, so I'll say it like this: I've got more money than I know what to do with. I could be chief here without any pay at all, and still come out ahead. So the city council can't threaten to fire me and get anywhere – getting fired won't hurt my bank balance enough to notice. Vests go on the agenda for my first meeting with 'em." And I made a note on my pad.

"While we're talking about things this department needs," Dave said, "we need terminals in the cars. We're not a huge department, but asking dispatch to run things through VICAP or NCIC for everyone is asking too much. If we had terminals in the cars the officers could do it, or at least some of it, at the scene." He was referring to the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, which tracks characteristics of crimes so that if the same guy is operating in different jurisdictions the cops will know it; and the National Crime Information Center, a database of fingerprints and other information regarding criminals.

I made another note. "Those things cost money, I know – how much I'll have to check. If I'm gonna ask the council for armor for half a hundred officers, I'm gonna have to give 'em something ... man, I hate politics." I was just realizing that I'd gotten myself into a job that would inevitably put me into political situations. "I'll ask 'em for terminals, but I can't guarantee we'll get 'em – and I'm only gonna ask for a few. We'll have to try to outfit the cars a handful at a time. I'd say first put 'em in the supervisors' cars."

"That would be better than nothing," Dave said.

"Anything else while we're making a wish list?" I said.

"I don't need anyone right yet," George said, "but if we can't stop or at least slow down what's going on in the southwest, I'm gonna need another investigator to keep up with the caseload."

"Compared to places like the War Zone in Albuquerque, the southwest ain't nothin'," I said. "But I drove through it when I was visiting here, and it's worse than it was when I was a cop." I grimaced. "I hate drugs. Legalizing 'em wouldn't stop the destruction they cause – it'd just make it easier for more people to wreck everyone's life. I'll keep it in mind, George, but if my glance at the budget was an indicator, I've already got enough on the list to choke the city council."

"Yeah, I know. And if they start cutting, you know where they'll cut."

"I know what I'll tell 'em, too," I said. "Being richer than anyone in the county, probably, I can afford to stand up on my hind legs and tell 'em they can quit paying for soft chairs in their offices, and quit cutting things that are essential. They ain't been a politician in history that didn't cut the important stuff if the other choice was to make his own life a little less luxurious."

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