A stat’s a stat.
Every cop has heard this phrase. In my old stomping grounds, these words were generally spoken sheepishly, usually after a deputy had made an unworthy bust. For instance, a misdemeanor warrant arrest, or something the chippies could have handled, like a drunk driver.
“Hey man, a stat’s a stat.”
One night at Firestone
While I was booking an arrestee one night, a colleague came in with a uniformed security guard in custody.
“What’d you get?” I asked, puzzled at seeing a man in uniform wearing cuffs.
“A gun,” the deputy said, averting his eyes.
“You arrested a security guard for having a gun?” I scoffed.
“He doesn’t have a permit.”
Of course, he probably wasn’t even here in our country legally. How would he have obtained a state license to carry a firearm?
But he worked at arguably the most dangerous club in Firestone’s district, a place where our friends from south of the border still believed in resolving problems by yanking chrome-plated pistols and firing at one another across a bar or pool table. Who would work there unarmed?
The deputy defended his actions. Gun arrests were high on the chain of quality hooks—especially if the arrestee was a gangster, a drug dealer, or a killer of men.
The State of Lawlessness
It is true that California state law dictates that security guards need to have permits and licenses and training, et cetera, but let’s just be honest: there are places in L.A. that are not really part of America. There are regions where—like foreign embassies—our laws just don’t apply.
In Firestone’s district, there were scores of unlicensed vendors at any given time, people selling oranges at the major intersections, others barbecuing corn on the cob and selling it from carts on various corners. These people had no health permits nor retail licenses nor means by which the state could collect sales tax.
Parts of South L.A. feel like you’re driving through Tijuana.
You could buy counterfeit driver’s licenses, social security cards, and green cards.
There were medical clinics, “Dentistas” (it kills me that the illegals can’t figure out that “Dentist” means “Dentista,” yet I could figure out the reverse) that were not regulated by any medical board nor licensed nor insured.
In the south end, entrepreneurs washed your windows at red lights and pumped your gas, if they didn’t make you for the fuzz or you didn’t point your gun at them and tell them “No thanks.” (You’d point your gun at them because many were opportunists who, if given the chance, would take your car or wallet in exchange for their services.)
A great many drivers were unlicensed and carried no insurance. On a slow night, you might cite one of them and have their car impounded, if their attitude demanded adjustment. Otherwise, they were free to live the American dream unimpeded, so long as they didn’t plow through a medium-sized family in a crosswalk or bounce off a dozen parked cars on their way to the next watering hole. (I’ve witnessed both.)
About that Watering Hole
There was a place on Florence Avenue called Bahia de Noche (name changed to protect the guilty and also to avoid a lawsuit), for instance, where you would think you’d gone back in time to the wild, wild west.
One night, two men exchanged gunfire over a pool table. The patrons held their ground watching with only mild interest as both pistoleros fell dead on the floor. There were fistfights and stabbings and cocaine sales in plain view. Of course the minimum-wage security guard carried a gun!
But a stat’s a stat, especially a gun arrest stat, right?
Not so fast, Wyatt Earp.
That man—a dreamer, no doubt—was earning a (semi) honest wage, in a profession that—in his culture, especially—was an honorable one. He was likely feeding a family of six or more while sharing a small rental with another family, or at least offshoots of his own.
Give the man a break!
But a Stat’s a Stat
In the academy, we learned about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law.
If you pulled over a vehicle because the driver exceeded the speed limit by five—or even ten—miles per hour, you didn’t necessarily cite them.
One night I stopped a vehicle for a minor traffic violation and the driver was drinking from an open container of alcohol. I soon discovered he also had a loaded firearm in his possession. The man worked at a local liquor store and had closed up that night, taking the payroll with him. Of course he had a gun, and no, he did not have a permit. The beer? Well, let’s just say that—in the greater scheme of things—I didn’t think it a big deal. “Have a good night, sir,” was all I said as I returned his driver’s license and registration. He dumped out his beer and carried on.
Sure, a stat’s a stat, but cops should embrace the spirit of the law as often as possible. That does more for public relations than making stupid videos of dancing cops.
Within months after I retired and moved to Idaho, I got a ticket for 43 in a 35—the first citation I had received in 25 years.
The retirement badge in my wallet didn’t warm the cop up at all. I asked, “Don’t you guys believe in a little professional courtesy?” The officer, his pants a little tight, said, “It isn’t about professional courtesy, sir; it’s about doing 43 in a 35.”
I found out the man was a reserve cop, someone who had spent less time in a radio car than I had accumulated sliding through intersections in a four-wheel locked skid rolling code three. Reserves don’t get paid to work—or go to court. So I fought the ticket just to see if he would show up. He did, of course, so I had to pay my fine.
Because a stat’s a stat.
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San Bernardino County SD had a real winner assigned to Big Bear Lake back when I was in High School. Tiny community then, no one locked the doors of houses or cars. This deputy used to pick up kids for hitch hiking & minor offenses like that. One night my best friend & I got off work at a local fast food joint, were walking home & took a ride from a couple of guys from school. They drove us out somewhere & gave us the choice to put out or walk.
So we were walking home, when everyone’s favorite deputy picked us up for violating curfew, & took us to the local station. The SBCS deputies were trying to talk him out of it, but Depty Do Right was going to send me down to San Bernardino Juvie, because he couldn’t reach my mother. This was pre cell phones & mom had gone out that night.
My friend’s mom showed up & said she take both girls home. But Depty Do Right STILL wanted to send me to juvie. I was a straight A student, played sports, was a pretty good kid & would’ve been eaten alive in juvie. My friend’s mom was a funny, smart, tough gal. She stood in the center of the station, her arms akimbo, & in her deep, raspy smoker’s voice, loudly announced that maybe MRS. Do Right would be interested to know how often Depty Do Right’s patrol vehicle was parked down the street from my friend’s house at the home of a single woman …
The three of us were quickly shown out the door, with the rest of the station roaring in laughter!
RIP Mrs. Campbell, your astute approach to life helped make my teen years a lot of fun!
Now that is a great story!!! Thanks, Val.
I was in what was formally Long Beach Uniform, now Galls, buying something and an English, hopefully someday as a second language security guard, asked me if it was OK to buy star ranks for his uniform. I told him the more the better. He had a big grin and bought all the stars that was on the display. He may someday become Sheriff.
LMAO! That is hilarious!!! I love your sense of humor. Thank you for sharing that story. (:
The term, “Generalissi-Mo”, popped into my head.
Well told story. It’s probably a good thing I don’t know who embarrassed our station by booking the uniform security guard for carrying a gun inside his place of business. If I did, I’d remind him (or her) about that B/S hook every time I ran into him at a retirement event; and I’d wait until there was a group of retirees to hear me start the story with “remember when….”. That guy would avoid me…..
Hahaha well then I better not tell you who it was, Johnny. You could actually probably guess (privately) and nail it. Thanks for the comment.
“A stat’s a stat”……..”I’ll put my stats up against anybody”…..”Do you know how many Frank hooks I made last month”?
Everybody in the locker room, both the players and the coaches, know who the best players on the team are. They also know who the team leaders are.
The players who often uttered the above statements are neither, and they themselves know it. Consequently, their egos cause them to find it necessary to remind you that they are worthy of being on the team.
Brilliant analogy, partner. Thank you!
I think a lot of it has to do with the bean counters who sit behind a desk and tell the street cops under then what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. Understanding the spirit of the law comes with experience and common sense.
I agree, Mike. Thank you, brother.
Right after the legislature enacted 22435 B&P for shopping cart thefts, we had a “by the book” officer (Barney Fife I called him) arrest a turd of a homeless guy and actually drive him to county for booking 10 miles away. Never mind we had only 4 cops on duty on a Friday night, that our town was either Mayberry RFD or West Oakland on welfare check day with no middle ground and we were getting hot call after hot call, he had to make this arrest. The sergeant was pissed but for some reason didn’t have him 849b the guy. So a week later it was dead. Nothing was moving and Barney and his single bullet couldn’t find anything either. I saw the same homeless guy with a new cart. I stopped him and sure enough, it had the proper warning on it. I cited him for it and told him to take it back. I wasn’t about to book him and his property, which Barney had done the previous week. The kicker? My arrest was charged, Barney’s was not because the other cart didn’t have the required warning. He did this all the time in the “spirit” of a “stat’s a stat.”
Haha great story. Thank you.
Remember that kind of weak hook more than once.
I never minded that the Mo police were armed. Some were drunk but must were proud to be serving their community in uniform. I think one of the Mo bar owners actually owned a guard company and was working at getting them carded and semi-legal.
For most of us it was the quality of the hook, not quantity. As Deputies we strived to present a good hook to the W/C and a good report for the DB folks to file. When working stations other than FPK, the Stat cops were more obvious. Never respected them.
Very true, Mike. thank you.
You are so right, Danny. There are a few tight assed cops, thankfully a very few, on every department who think it is their sacred duty to enforce the letter of the law regardless of the circumstances. On the second night of the Rodney King riots, we tried to talk a deputy from arresting a man who had a gun in is car. He was going into the central area of Long Beach to pick up his wife from work right at sundown. My partner and I and another deputy tried to tell him how asinine this was but he wouldn’t listen, handcuffed the guy and drove off.
Great example. What an ass that cop was.
You’d think a LEO would have a bit of respect for a citizen just trying to keep his wife safe during the RK mess!
One would think. Thank you, Valerie.
Best line and some of the wisest words you have written (among many): “…cops should embrace the spirit of the law as often as possible. That does more for public relations than making stupid videos of dancing cops.”
Thank you, brother.