Tactical freeze.

So, to finish a thought from the previous Lessons Learned #054 What comes after; I call a “Tactical-Freeze” and ask you to ponder what we will discover about the myriad of vehicles, shipping containers, and semi-trucks that weren’t stopped, contacted or investigated during the coronavirus pandemic.

The stay-at-home orders will result in a high birth rate of “Corona babies” and a spike in domestic violence cases. I think we will discover, too, that massive amounts of illegal drugs and humans were trafficked into and around our country while our LE professionals were tied up saving us and protecting us during the coronavirus lockdown. I have imagined scenarios where a police officer was forced to weigh the risk of personal contamination or infection against conducting the legitimate stop they initially intended.

That doesn’t make it right or wrong, just certain professionals are willing to risk more than others.

Sometimes officers are dissuaded from making a traffic stop or street encounter fearing an unwarranted complaint against them for illegal search, racial profiling, or some other contrived grievance or injustice. Sometimes they believe that, based on their experience, the ‘juice isn’t worth the squeeze’, even though they are well within their rights and suspicious of the person or vehicle.  

I can imagine that the same negative feedback loop repeated itself worldwide where a procedural or tactical stop was warranted but the officer passed on it and then placated themselves by imagining the vehicle that drew their attention was merely making a delivery of emergency supplies.

Sometimes in stressful times the cost-benefit analysis forces even the most stalwart defender of the US Constitution to look the other way.

It’s perhaps no different than a surgeon deciding she can’t save a limb or a combat triage nurse deciding who goes next, knowing full well that the decision he makes may result in loss of life.

I know it happens because I experienced it on the road.

There were times when fellow coppers would look with disdain at my tired, disheveled ass, dragging into off duty roll call after a night of chasing bad guys. They would laugh and speak in hushed tones, slapping hands and saying to themselves that they did nothing all night and got paid just as much as I did for the shift. Assuming, I imagined, that I gave a damn about their lazy, undisciplined asses. I considered them oxygen thieves and frauds, doing just enough to get by.

We will see if my prediction is accurate soon enough.

Late, Late Show.

Sleep eludes me yet again.

I sit here trapped between the glow of a gigantic full moon appearing over the mountains behind RMW (rogue manor west) and the glare of my computer screen wondering if I should have made a deeper dive in the previous Lessons Learned, especially after speaking to cops from halfway around the world that gave me the sense that they had faced similar hard decisions these past few weeks.

I’m sitting here musing about how hard I tried NOT to go to school as a kid. Feigning illness to stay home and watch Cat Ballou. I loved that flick. As an homage to String Theory, as I type this sentence, a Bobby and Pete Farrelly film is beginning on the Starz free movie weekend.

I don’t fear waking Shelly as I have closed captions on, but I couldn’t hear the sound unless it was maxed out anyway. As this bizarre time-space profundity is acting out in front of me, I think of a recent post between Brian Marren, Andy Riise and Jon Macaskill.

A LinkedIn conversation about the “The Pitch” (Seinfeld season 4 episode 3, 1992) where Jerry is pitching a new television show to NBC and George tries to sell Jerry on a TV show about NOTHING. With the television acting as the third light in the room, my mind turns to baseball and the fact that the trio of heavy thinkers are cleverer than they know as the Pitch could also refer to a baseball comedy bit called “Who’s on first?” from the 1930’s most famously done by Abbot and Costello.

I don’t know. Third base.

What caught my attention as I was spell-checking the first few paragraphs was a flash of a character familiar to me. Actor Michael Callan figures prominently in Cat Ballou as a love interest for Cat (played by Jane Fonda). A much older Callan was now gracing the screen in Stuck on you.

Callan trod the boards of Broadway, starred in many notable films and still retained his boyish good looks. I started to glance up more often now, wondering what other talent the Farrelly’s had brought to bear. Soon, actress Lin Shaye graced the small screen.

Lin is from Detroit and has appeared in films that span 40 years, many of them horror films or Farrelly brothers’ films. She’s the roommate in There’s Something About Mary, the slum lord in Kingpin, you’ve like seen her and laughed at her in a dozen films. 

Just a bit later, actress Jessica Cauffiel appears on the screen. Another Detroit native, Cauffiel was in Legally Blonde, another film offered during the free weekend.

And then I thought I was mistaken. I saw the current US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson shaking hands with the two conjoined protagonists. Who’s on first, indeed!

Ben is a Detroit native, too. The Farrelly’s must have thought themselves geniuses for featuring a young Dr. Ben Carson in Stuck on you. Ben, a famous surgeon, was showcased ten years back in a biopic called Gifted Hands.  Ben is the only surgeon in history who performed a surgery to separate conjoined twins where both twins survived the operation.

According to the liner notes, Ben’s wife and kids appear as extras in the film. Reading about Dr. Ben Carson made me feel nostalgic for Detroit.

Detroit can survive anything.

Just a couple of days ago WXYZ in Detroit reported that teachers at Henry Ford Academy High School in Dearborn, MI lip-synced a version of Gloria Gaynor’s (disco era) song, “I will survive”.

New Jersey-born Gaynor responded yesterday by sending a recorded video message to the students and teachers at Henry Ford which included Gloria telling them that, “I’ll survive, you will survive – we will all survive” and an a cappella version of her 1970s hit.

At around the same time, I saw a photo circulating on the internet which showed an industrious Detroiter making an impromptu face mask out of a paper birthday cone-hat so she could shop for essentials at a local store.

Then I was sent an article that tried to illustrate a brawl that broke out on a block in residential Detroit that included a lot of slapping, hair pulling and spontaneous, aggressive manual weave-removal.

I am here to tell you that the author of that story tried to tie the fisticuffs to the coronavirus, not understanding that Detroit has a rebellious spirit all its own and that scuffle was going to happen whether the Detroit Tigers won a game, the Lion’s lost a game or somebody mistakenly parked in someone else’s spot. Just a little extra energy, no COVID links required.

The resilient folks that live in and around Detroit live hard, work hard, love hard and sometimes melee harder than warring factions on the road to Dushanbe. It meant nothing. It was a fight, get over it. They will.

“Pain is just weakness leaving the body.”

The famous Marine Chesty Puller’s quote has been repeated, reprinted and misattributed countless times but it’s as true now as it ever was.

There was a time that I thought Detroit, Warren, Southfield, Dearborn – were all going under. Auto companies closed, jobs that paid well were shipped to Mexico, skilled labor was outsourced…but nothing hit Detroit and the suburbs as hard as crack cocaine.

Crack was too easy to make. You mix cocaine hydrochloride as a powder with water and baking soda (ephedrine, powdered baby aspiring, powdered laxative etc.) then reduce it by boiling it down. That’s it. People were making it in their microwaves and at home on the stove.

Once the suspension forms into a solid at the bottom of pans, pots, baking sheets – anything in the house – you cut it into small pieces that are referred to as “rocks”. People you would never suspect all over the city and the suburbs were either making it, selling it, buying it or smoking it.

While it went by many names, Crack cocaine was dubbed ‘crack’ because of the crackling sound it made while it was being ‘baked up’ by a user. Heated inside of a broken-off car antenna or glass tube, the crackling noise started as soon as you applied the flame.

Crack cocaine is so highly concentrated that it is extremely addictive and alarmingly potent. Stories of addiction after just one use were commonplace.

It hit me that southeastern Michigan was in deep trouble by 1985. The New York Times had published an article about this new hybrid of cocaine abuse, citing it as ‘crack’ for the first time that I know of in mainstream media.

By 1986 there were a thousand articles about crack and what it was doing to major cities and their metropolitan areas around the United States.

I was doing a sweet extra duty gig at the Pontiac Silverdome. It was a Depeche Mode concert and the opening band was Nitzer Ebb. Both bands were British synthesizer type bands that had a unique following.

‘The Mode’ was on their US “Music for the Masses” tour and I was being paid to circulate through the crowd to stop a boot-leg t-shirt ring that was selling unauthorized knock off concert memorabilia. There were probably a dozen of us, all sworn officers from different agencies in plainclothes working in tandem, confiscating the illegal gear and arresting the illicit salespeople who were working the crowds doing fast, hand to hand cash for shirt transactions. 

Every once in a while my attention would be drawn to an ‘in-progress’ event and I had to step out of illegal t-shirt harvesting mode and go back to being a real copper. I had just broken up a fight involving an ADW (assault with a deadly weapon) and turned a suspect and a menacing set of brass knuckles over to local law enforcement. I was leaving the secure area when I saw a group of Grosse Pointe kids, just teenagers, sitting around in the parking lot, butts on the asphalt, passing around a pipe, smoking crack cocaine.  

I was gobsmacked. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Crack had gone from the inner city to the suburbs, from the back alley to mainstream America in what seemed like record time.

I’ll give you another example of back alley to mainstream.

I was working the midnight shift in an unmarked car. My partner and I were in full uniform. The unmarked vehicle gave us the tactical advantage of anonymity, as criminals wouldn’t realize it was the police until we were virtually on top of them.

We saw a vehicle hastily parked in a tough area of the city, known for break-ins, prostitutes, and troublemakers. As we approached the vehicle on foot, we could see the interior of the vehicle momentarily light up every time the flint hit the steel of a lighter. A sure sign that someone was “baking up the rock” inside. 

Inside the car was a suburban real estate agent. The car was his personally owned ‘company car’ affixed with business placards. He was wearing the tell-tale jacket sporting the name and color of a famous company. He said he scored the rock (his first ever) on the way back from work, just to see what all the hubbub was about.

We arrested him and impounded his vehicle. He begged us not to call his wife and said he had things under control. He said he would never smoke crack cocaine again.

A few days later we saw his company car again. This time the magnetic signs were off the door and our real estate agent wasn’t driving. Suspicious, we approached the driver on foot to ask him about the vehicle’s owner. The new occupant/driver fled from us with the vehicle. While we hastily returned to our police vehicle, we ran the plate and it came back as a ‘fresh rip’, a stolen car.

After a short pursuit, the driver crashed and after a short foot chase, I apprehended him. He couldn’t mentally reconcile that the car was listed as stolen (he fled because he had warrants and a pocket full of crack rocks). He actually gave us the name of the owner and said that the owner “gave him” the car.

I think this was the first episode of a “Base Rental” in the Detroit Metro area. “Basing” was another term for freebasing or making cocaine hydrochloride into one of the many variations of crack. A base rental occurred when the vehicle’s legitimate owner (renter, lessor etc.) traded the vehicle for a rock of crack cocaine. Many times, for a 20-dollar rock.

That is how powerful the draw of crack cocaine was.

About two weeks later I was driving through an alley on the midnight shift, using my flashlight to light up the areas between buildings and behind dumpsters, when I saw a man engaging in oral sex with another man in a darkened area, clearly visible to anyone traveling on 8-mile road. Even when I shined the light on the two, the man actively engaged didn’t stop until the receiver fled the scene on foot.

It was the real estate agent, still wearing the now tattered and filthy trademark jacket, prostituting himself in the wee hours of the morning along baseline road to make enough cash to buy another rock of crack. He hadn’t returned home, gone back to work or bathed since we contacted him weeks ago while he was smoking the rock.

So What?

You’ve likely heard that humans use only 10% of their brains. That is what is known in the business as ‘horse shit’. Humans use all of their brains – just not all at once. Different parts of the human brain are activated for different purposes.

Crack cocaine stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers.

When smoked, it enters the bloodstream rapidly and causes a euphoria that users describe as other-worldly. Because this form of cocaine is processed and highly concentrated, each subsequent high produces a tolerance within the user, therefore the user has to smoke more crack to feel the same “high” that they experienced earlier from much less crack cocaine.

Their brain chemistry now ‘craves’ the high and, “rinse and repeat”, the user must remain in a vicious cycle of buy crack, smoke crack, find crack, buy crack, smoke crack until they die, there is an intervention or a police encounter forces treatment upon them.

What I am telling you is that Detroit, like your city, your hometown, has overcome huge adversities in the past. Detroit bounced back from crack and Detroiters never lost their faith or their determination.

COVID19 will be no different.

Resilience is all about bouncing back from adversity, but it takes resolve and perseverance. You can learn to overcome adversity. Wounds heal.

Training changes behavior.

–           Greg

Post Script, Mr. Tiger.

No, not the idiotic Tiger King series that has caught the fickle American appetite for boobery by storm, rather the sad but inevitable passing of ‘Mr. Tiger’, Al Kaline.

The year I graduated from High School in East Detroit, the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise retired Al Kaline’s number 6. As a right fielder, Kaline played 22 years in the MLB for Detroit. He passed away today at 85 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Thanks, Mr. Tiger for all the years of joy.

My father in law Lindell Ross’s shared his favorite memory with me, Al Kaline’s 1968 season.

Shon Clemons related this memory of Al Kaline; “My uncle was a friend of Kaline’s and took me to meet him at a Tiger game. We couldn’t afford a souvenir (much less the tickets he gave us to get in), Al Kaline went into the clubhouse, came back with a bat, signed it for me and told me something to the effect of ‘follow your dreams’…I remember being in such awe of his humbleness even though he was a superstar. Rest in peace, Detroit Tiger Legend No. 6”. 



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