Of Jelly Beans, Chimneys and Such

Police officers and other first responders often find themselves working on holidays.  And while this inconvenience is understood to be “part of the job,” there is no denying that being on duty while others are celebrating with families can be difficult.

Cops, though, have a way of lightening the mood.  On Easter, for example, it was a common occurrence for the dispatcher to send a midnight shift officer to an accident where a vehicle had struck an “unknown animal.”  Further details in the radio transmission would typically run something like this: “ … uh, witnesses do not know what sort of animal but … uh, it is big and fuzzy … and, uh, there are numerous jelly beans spread around the scene.”

At Christmas, night patrol officers expected, at some point, to be dispatched to a call along the lines of: “ … report of a suspicious person on the roof … uh, caller describes the suspect as chubby and dressed in red … and, uh, he appears to be trying to climb down the chimney.”

Patrol officers had a way of getting a laugh at the expense of dispatchers as well.  Back in the “old days” when vehicle license information had to be obtained through a radio transmission to dispatch, cops would sometimes reach into their store of “special” license plates that they knew were issued to some recognizable names.

One such scenario involved an officer calling in an apparent abandoned car.  The cop would tell dispatch: “ … there is nobody around, but I found a complete set of men’s clothes on the floor of a phone booth next to the car.”  The dispatcher would then be asked to check the license plate on the vehicle which, naturally, came back to Clark Kent (the mild-mannered newspaper reporter who, when duty called, would turn into Superman).  Coincidentally, one of Clark Kent’s favorite places to change from street clothes to his superhero leotards was in a phone booth!

Another “abandoned car” prank began with a cop telling dispatch: “ … there is nobody near the vehicle, but the inside is filled with hamburger wrappers, french fry containers and soft drink cups …”  When the license plate was checked it came back, naturally, to Ronald McDonald.

The sorts of shenanigans mentioned above would, generally, take place on quiet overnight shifts when things were slow.  And while most officers looked upon these antics as harmless horseplay, there was not always universal agreement across a given shift.  Sometimes, senior officers – who wanted nothing more than radio silence – would make their views known by broadcasting on the car-to-car channel: “Knock it off … we are trying to get some sleep!”