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Tales From The Hood - Chapter 1 - Evelyn

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By Ron De Laby

"The last pleasure in life is the sense of discharging our duty" - William Hazlitt

As the city grew in population, so grew a need for additional officers on the police department. Recruitment had reopened in an effort to fill vacancies created by retirements and other forms of attrition. The complexion of the department was on the cusp of change. There were new forces on the horizon and they had their eyes on the former fraternities of the police and fire service.

With the expansion of the civil rights movement, all manner of previously unclassified groups now felt free to place demands for recognition. The black freedom coalitions were muscled aside by the eventual incursion of others who felt their day in the sun was long overdue.

There was no shortage of victims of oppression. Everyone who could get a television camera to hold still long enough, had a tale of woe to tell the American public. People watched the news reports at night and cluck clucked at the pathetic stories. “Someone should do something about that,” they said -- little realizing that the “someone” was them.

The door was opened at the Riverside Police Department when a former local Mexican gangbanger came in to apply for a job in law enforcement. He was turned down because the minimum height requirement at that time was 5’9.” It was believed shorter people would not be able to adequately handle the type of work required of policemen, nor would they command the respect so needed to carry out the job. He left the department and announced to a waiting reporter, who just happened to be standing by, that he would never again be the same. All his life he had dreamed of being a policeman and now he was being turned down because he wasn’t quite tall enough. He was being discriminated against because of his race. Many otherwise qualified former gangbangers, he maintained, would not be able to seek gainful employment in law enforcement because of a genetic predisposition to shortness. He was 27 years old, 5’1” tall weighed 98 pounds and had a history of violent felony arrests dating from the time he was 11 years of age. He was a heroin addict and had the track marks up and down his arms to prove it. But, not wanting to dilute a perfectly good sob story with facts, the article with this harangue was run. The dreaded accusation of racial discrimination had its intended effect.

Various groups read of the tragedy, dried their collective eyes and went on a holy quest to right the wrongs of American law enforcement. As a result, height and weight requirements were dropped. The ranks of previously white male defenders of truth and justice were rapidly being filled with all manner and shape of aspiring super heroes. Soon women were encouraged to apply. No longer would a woman’s place be in the home. It would be on the street, rolling around in a freezing gutter at four in the morning with a drunk twice her size intent on gutting her with a knife. It would be on a hospital gurney in an emergency room somewhere in the country seeping blood from a bullet wound in her belly. She would join her male comrades in the ground while flags were lowered and taps were played on mournful bugles. Progress and enlightenment had finally arrived.

By 1988, Evelyn Roggs was one of the new breed of cops who had come forth to save America from itself. The term “police officer” had now taken on a unisex connotation. Badges all over the country were changed from the sexist term “policeman” to the more enlightened “police officer.” Not satisfied with their accomplishments, the hearts and flowers coalitions continued to strive for uniformity until there were virtually no restrictions for admission into one of the worlds’ most exclusive clubs. Oh sure, violent felons need not apply just yet, nor child molesters, but wait until next year. Why should we, as an enlightened society, discriminate on ANY basis?

Problems occurred in training when it was discovered women were, gasp, “different” from men. They had virtually no upper body strength. No problem, said the hemorrhaging heart associations; we’ll just eliminate that requirement from the physical agility tests. Women had no endurance. Not important, said the Simple Simonettes. Their natural ability to sooth the savage beast would overcome their need for brute force. After all, who would strike a woman?

As it turned out, a goodly number of people would indeed strike a woman. Not only strike, but stab, shoot, crush, mutilate, and kidnap and rape them, so much for equal opportunity. But the floodgates had been opened and would not soon close.

Evelyn would have a great deal in common with her brothers in arms. They both had an unusual fondness and affection for the female of the species. Evelyn’s biggest problem was her lack of the appropriate appendage needed to consummate romantic relations. Nevertheless she was undeterred in her quest for the opposite sex, or in her case, the same sex.

Officer Roggs was the embodiment of the new age woman. A short, stocky, no nonsense, card-carrying member of NOW who sported a rainbow flag decal on the windshield of her personal vehicle. “Rugs,” as she was soon affectionately tagged, was so named in honor of her carpet munching proclivity. Although it was widely rumored she was a militant lesbian, not to be trifled with, a curious patrolman changed the course of that belief system one fine spring evening.

It was one of those nights when everyone stayed home and watched television. No one beat his or her spouse, no one got drunk and disorderly. In short a dead and uneventful night. A night in which you continually checked the squelch control on your patrol car radio to ensure it was still working. It was the kind of night feared by most police types as the lull before the storm.

It was during this lonely evening of traveling down lonely dirt roads in the vast orange grove region of Riverside, while purportedly looking for stolen and abandoned vehicles, that officer Jamie Bradley saw a glint of light; a reflection off a car bumper that would change the course of events for Evelyn as well as her hard earned reputation. Jamie had learned from his training officer, a veritable master of silent running, how to effectively advance on a parked vehicle. It was important; he was solemnly told, to approach quietly in order to avoid alerting the lurking criminals therein. The lurking criminals in 197% of the cases were lovers locked in impassioned and naked embrace.

The stalking officer must open his car door several yards before coming to within earshot of the parked suspect vehicle. He must attain a maximum speed of no more than twelve feet per hour. Slowly does it. Additionally he must utilize the services of the parking brake to avoid highlighting the police unit in a flash of red brake light thereby alerting the heretofore-unsuspecting rogue. Finally, he must exit his patrol vehicle and quietly slip up on the reclusive recalcitrant on foot. Jamie’s training officer had apparently acquired the unique ability to hover a half inch off a bed of gravel to avoid making noise. He was as silent as a deer in the forest. Finally, suddenly appearing at the side window of the vehicle and beaming in 20,000-candle power from his 12-cell flashlight he would administer the coup de grace. The shocked reaction usually resulted in the forced uncoupling of the startled targets and was good for a week’s worth of story-telling. What was never revealed in this training session was what to do if one of the lovers returned the compliment with shots fired.

No matter, the parked vehicle was now his. The suspicious movement of the car, accompanied by low moans emitting from within convinced Jamie that he was about to save the life of a terrified kidnap victim. Hurriedly he employed the appropriate steps and gleefully activated his Night Sun brand flashlight. The startled couple sat bolt upright. They were no more startled than Jamie however, as he recognized his beat partner Evelyn Roggs, in flagrante delicto with an actual male member of the species.

From that day forward the word went out that “Rugs” was actually AC/DC, thereby earning her the delightful sobriquet of, “Rugs, the indoor-outdoor lezzie.”

Evelyn was not to be trifled with and her expose was a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. The irony of a lesbian filing a sexual harassment suit was lost on the courts, who in their infinite wisdom, sought to defend all manner of creatures great and small.

It was widely known that her new 450 SL class Mercedes was a gift from the city of Riverside due to an unfortunate comment about the weather made by an unsuspecting patrolman. As a result, the officers of Riverside Police Department were reminded of the paraphrased old adage, “Hell hath no fury like, …”

The incident started innocently enough on an unusually humid August afternoon. The air conditioning had been on the fritz for at least a week and each day at precisely 2:45 p.m. the denizens of watch three would gather for their roll call ritual. Since the evenings in Southern California can remain uncomfortably warm, the interior of the police facility was not able to cool off as quickly as would be hoped. The temperature and humidity inched up each day until by the end of the week orchids were noted to be sprouting from the dust bunnies in the corners.

During the assembly in question, the collection of humanity clad in Kevlar vests, squeaking leather gear and poly-wool blend uniforms had upped the moisture content in the cramped roll call room to about 98%. Mouth breathing like spawning salmon and weary from the endless list of beat patrol requests and stolen car reports, the mood in the room was rapidly deteriorating. Finally, an old salt by the name of Johannsen who was seated next to “Rugs” made a fateful proclamation. “Hey Sarge. Can you hurry it up a little? It’s hot as hell in here and ‘Rugs’ is starting to smell like a Tuna.”

After the gales of laughter had subsided. “Rugs” was noted to be talking seriously into a cell phone. It was later learned that she kept a female (lesbian, of course) attorney on retainer, and on speed dial.

The civil suit came and went very quickly. Johannsen disappeared to a graveyard front counter assignment unhappily taking phone-in reports and the entire third watch crew was treated to a sensitivity seminar. Evelyn chose baby blue for her Mercedes. “Rugs” soon proved she was up to dealing with the worst the job had to offer. She had developed as demented a sense of humor as the most hardened vet. Even though she had been tormented as a new recruit with photos of blood and gore, she steadfastly refused to show they affected her.

Typically, new officers are assigned to a graveyard shift upon release from the field-training program. Newer officers, it was reasoned, needed to break in slowly and the 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift had fewer calls. One associated problem with the shift however, is terminal boredom.

Evelyn’s training officers had determined they had done everything humanly possible to discourage her from a career in law enforcement and, being unsuccessful, they pronounced her as fit as could be expected. She was assigned to a graveyard shift and allowed to go forth to mature and develop.

Officers going on shift checked their cars, loaded their gear and announced to the dispatcher they were “10-8,” in-service, and ready for assignment. Evelyn had followed the time-honored procedure announcing her availability as 1-Robert-30 for the morning watch.

Accident Investigation units are unavailable after three o’clock in the morning and any traffic problems are therefore assigned to the patrol officers. Peach-faced recruits listened with nervous anticipation each evening as the fateful end of shift announcement was made at precisely 2:45 a.m.

“Tom Fifty-One, 10-7.”

Traffic unit, Tom–51, was the sole remaining Accident Investigation unit of the shift. The virgin police officers took on the gloomy outlook of a troop transport crossing the North Atlantic during World War II, alone and unescorted, prey for enemy submarines. So naturally, as regular as clockwork, some drunk driver managed to wrap himself around a palm tree and afford a squeaky new graveyard patrol officer the opportunity to unravel the intricacies of a fatality investigation all alone. How the soon to be body bag occupants knew when Tom-51 was off duty was forever shrouded in mystery.

“Rugs” took each investigation philosophically and seemed to be able to work her way through almost any case, no matter how difficult. Accidents, to her, were much like any other call and she was probably the only graveyard trooper unmoved by the weekly announcement of yet another fatality.

During a particularly nasty winter evening when the morning temperature plummeted to nearly 32 degrees, frost warnings were announced and graveyard officers huddled in their patrol cars. Collective prayers were offered up to the traffic gods for an accident free shift. “Rugs” cruised aimlessly back and forth across her assigned beat vigilantly in search of nocturnal ne’er do wells. The night had thus far been free of radio traffic other than an occasional bored voice announcing a vehicle or business check. Suddenly, the entire graveyard crew was startled from slumber by the piercing voice of the dispatcher announcing the passing of yet another city resident. “Robert-Thirty, 1 Robert-30.” “Robert-30, Beech and Sand Hurst,” Evelyn responded from mid block.

1-Robert-30, 11-80 at Wayside and the tracks, Wayside and the tracks. Your call is code-3

“Robert-30 copy, enroute.”

Evelyn reached down and slapped the lever on the control unit all the way to the right, activating the overhead lights and siren. The unit siren pierced the air with a wailing shriek as she mashed the gas pedal to the floorboard. The unit leapt forward and raced to the scene of what was surely this week’s fatal accident.

“Robert 45, I’ll assist.” Came the voice of an adjoining beat partner, relieved at the prospect of directing traffic or laying out flares rather than actually having to write the report.

Robert-45, 10-4. Units responding be advised this is an auto versus train, Mercy enroute.” Mercy was the local ambulance company but the need of their service was in doubt. Automobiles rarely won in a game of chicken with a train.

Moments later Evelyn careened around the corner, announcing her arrival. The rear end of an old red pickup was lying in a ditch near the train tracks. The front end containing half a driver was a half block east on the other side of the tracks. Several train personnel were gathering around surveying the damage and speaking into hand held radios.

Evelyn exited her patrol car and walked to the front half of the old truck. She noted that the upper portion of the driver was still behind the steering wheel. Leaning inside what was left of the vehicle she sniffed and wrinkled her nose. The odor of stale beer drifting off the body was unmistakable. He appeared to be an adult Mexican male in his early forties. Since the SAN MIGUEL bar was about six blocks away, it looked like a bad end to a good night.

The driver had dutifully stopped for the flashing lights signaling an oncoming train. He apparently sat patiently as the train whizzed by. The moment the southbound train cleared the tracks; he proceeded across, only to be taken out by a second train traveling Northbound on a second set of tracks.

The bottom half of the torso was laying in a field a few yards away. “Rugs” was crouched down inspecting it when her adjoining beat partner came running up. She looked at him and looked back at the human wreckage on the ground. Steam was rising from the convoluted pile of intestines. “Rugs” began to sing, “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be…” She looped a strand of intestine over her baton and offered it to the new officer.

“Want some?” She inquired.

The officer, a young man with the appearance of a 12-year-old, stared at Evelyn in shocked disbelief at the desecration of the remains. He suddenly turned white and lurched over to the side of the road and proceeded to lose his lunch.

“I guess not,” suggested “Rugs.” Okay then, all the more for me.” She made chewing sounds and smacked her lips, “Ummm, this is good.” The baby faced policeman retched louder.

Evelyn’s career had its ups and downs. She was a loner, feared by the male officers and female officers alike. No one would socialize with her off duty and she was never invited to coffee during a shift. No one understood her and everyone was afraid to try. She was watched carefully by the police administrators who longed for a return to the days of intimidation without retribution, termination without litigation. Attempts were made to encourage her to seek other fields of employment, all without success. Evelyn loved the freedom of police work. She loved the adrenaline flow and the excitement of the unknown. Evelyn Roggs planned to stay around for a long, long time.

At some point in their careers, field supervisors are usually promoted to Watch Commanders. The promotion is accompanied by the awarding of a bright shiny gold lieutenant’s bar to be worn on the collar of the police uniform. Some take the promotion seriously and continue in their efforts to seek the eternally elusive answer to crime in their city. Others see it as a step to two gold bars, a captain’s promotion and the attainment of a division command. Sometimes these individuals trod on the backs of their charges in their quest for fame and glory. Such was the case of a new promotee by the name of James Ridgley. As a Sergeant, Ridgley was mediocre. As a Lieutenant he was a tyrant. Ridgley was one of three newly promoted lieutenants who seemed to belong to the same club. Their mantra was to seek out and destroy the careers of their subordinates. Patrol officers and Sergeants alike were subject to the irrational whims of the dreaded threesome.

Ridgley was unpredictable. He was demanding and unreasonable. On one occasion he had summoned a Patrol Sergeant to the station from the furthest reaches of the city. Upon reaching the Watch Commander’s office, the weary Sergeant was told by the imperious Lieutenant Ridgley,

“There is a unit parked by the gas pumps. It belongs to one of YOUR men. I want YOU to move it.”

The Sergeant proceeded to the gas pumps and discovered that the offending unit was down with a dead battery and couldn’t be moved. Returning to the Watch Commander’s office he informed the Lieutenant of his findings.

“I told you to move it,” responded Ridgley. “I didn’t ask for excuses. Now, go do it or go home on suspension.”

Furious, the Sergeant moved the unit by physically pushing it into a vacant stall. He then reported back to the Lieutenant that he had strained his back in the process and was leaving on a worker’s comp injury. He was out for three months. The message was lost on Ridgley and the city paid the disability.

Of the three Lieutenants, James Ridgley was the worst by far. He had racked up more disciplinary actions against officers than any of his predecessors. He was a sadistic, hateful person who saw his chance to get even for whatever past wrongs he had suffered in his own miserable life. He was so universally disliked that plots to assassinate him were openly discussed without fear of being reported. Had James Ridgley suddenly caught fire, there wasn’t a police officer in the city who would have walked over and pissed on him to douse the flames.

One particular evening, while on routine patrol, Evelyn was summoned to appear before her Watch Commander to pay homage.

1-Robert-30, 10-19 Watch Commander’s office.”

“Robert-30, copy,” she replied, puzzled since she had avoided him at all costs and considered contact with this particularly loathsome creature to be on the same par as contracting a case of genital herpes.

A “See the Watch Commander” call never boded well. These people were not known for handing out warm fuzzies. She wasn’t due for an evaluation and was sure she had committed no breach of policy. She rolled in, parked her unit and removed a small voice actuated tape recorder from her briefcase. She depressed the “on” button and slipped it into her right front pocket before entering the station.

Arriving at the Watch Commander’s office she knocked at the door. Lieutenant Ridgley pretended to be reading a report and ignored her. She knocked again and cleared her throat. He looked up and smiled. He reminded her of a snake contemplating its next meal.

“Roggs,” he said pleasantly. “Come in, close the door and sit down.”

“Disaster,” thought Evelyn. Alarms shrieked in her head. Little voices screamed “Shields up! Shields up!”

“I wanted to talk to you in private.” Ridgley’s words were oily and insincere.

“Yes sir?” Inquired Evelyn. She closed the door and sat across from the Lieutenant, hands folded in her lap.

“Roggs, I’ll get straight to the point. You’re a troublemaker. I don’t like you. In fact I dislike you so much I’m going to offer you the opportunity to quit, right here, right now. If you don’t I’m going to make your life a living, breathing hell. In short, I want your resignation. You’re not cut out for this line of work. You’re a broad, and a queer and no one likes queers, especially female ones.”

Evelyn stared at the lieutenant, stunned beyond response.

“C’mon Roggs. It’s no good for you here.” He waved a copy of a form in front of her face.

“This is a city resignation request form. I want you to sign it and leave. If you don’t, I’ll make you wish you had never gotten into this line of work.”

“Lieutenant Ridgley,” said Roggs, carefully annunciating his name for the benefit of the small whirring tape.

“I can’t do that. I love my job. I’m good at it. I have no disciplinary actions in my file. As a matter of fact I have three commendations.”

“Not any more,” Ridgley smirked. “Poof. They disappeared.”

Evelyn looked at him open mouthed, unable to speak.

“Disappeared,” continued Ridgley. “Just like that.” He snapped his fingers for emphasis. “Just like every commendation you may ever earn from now on”

“Ohh. There is one thing.” He leaned closer.

“I understand you like to screw men from time to time. Is that true?”

Evelyn sat, stunned. She could not believe what she was hearing.

“Now instead of worrying about your career, perhaps we might work out a little deal, you and I. As long as you work the same shift for me I might be inclined to go a little easier on you if you show the proper respect.”

“Respect, sir?” Evelyn could see it coming.

“Yes, respect, Roggs. I’ve never screwed a dyke before. I thought I might like to add it to my list of experiences before I retire. Be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. Am I making myself perfectly clear to you, Ms. Roggs?”

The ceiling of the Watch Commander’s office opened. A burst of sunlight suddenly lit the office in glorious radiance. In the background the deafening refrain of the Halleluiah Chorus rang forth.

“Of course, if you think you want to raise an issue about our conversation you might remember that I’ll deny everything; and you, my dear, are still on probation, subject to termination without cause. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes, sir. I understand perfectly.” Said Evelyn. The little tape spun merrily away. Life was indeed good.

That very morning at 8:01 a.m. Evelyn’s attorney sat listening to the recorded conversation of the previous evening. The tinny voice emitting from the tape recorder carried with unmistakable clarity.

“Yes, respect, Roggs. I’ve never screwed a dyke before. I thought I might like to add it to my list of experiences before I retire. Be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you. Am I making myself perfectly clear to you, Ms. Roggs?”

The attorney stared disbelieving at Evelyn who sat back in her chair smiling like a Cheshire cat.

“You have GOT to be kidding me,” she said.

“Nope,” responded Evelyn. “It’s real.”

A deal was struck between the chief’s office, the city manager and Evelyn’s attorney. The city would be spared an incredibly expensive sexual harassment suit and horribly embarrassing exposure in exchange for the liver of one Lieutenant James Ridgley.

The resignation was quick and quiet. Citing personal reasons, James Ridgley elected to pursue other forms of employment. The fact he was 18 months shy of a retirement didn’t seem to faze him. The announcement rolled through the ranks of the police department like a rippling orgasm.

Two nights later Evelyn appeared at roll call. Everyone gave her the usual silent treatment. She took a seat in the rear of the room, long since accustomed to the avoidance. The sergeant began to read the beat assignments. She lapsed into daydreaming.

The tone of the sergeant’s voice changed and she mentally surfaced to hear the reading of a commendation. Puzzled, she listened more closely.

“…with complete disregard for her personal well being, and acting above and beyond the call of duty, this officer did accomplish her mission in the highest tradition of the police service. To this achievement, we hereby award this commendation of outstanding police service to officer Evelyn Roggs.” At this the entire roll call rose and gave her a standing ovation. Catcalls and whistles rang out.

“Speech, Speech, SPEECH,” they chorused.

Evelyn was unable to react.

“Evelyn,” the sergeant continued.

“This is our little unofficial award to you in thanks for what you were able to do for all of us. I’d also like to remind everyone that the term ‘Rugs’ will be stricken from use from here on out.”

Evelyn pulled herself to her feet, pushing back the chair.

“I, I don’t know what to say,” she said. “I didn’t really do anything special. I was just in the right place at the right time. Besides. I kinda like ‘Rugs.’ It has personal meaning to me.”

“Well,” said the Sergeant. “I think we’ve all been in similar situations in there but you were the one to make it happen, so if it’s rugs you want, it’s rugs you get.”

So “Rugs” it was.

The triad had been broken. The remaining two lieutenants had seen the handwriting on the wall, or in this case, the all points bulletin on the clipboard. One Lieutenant regressed into a state of zombie like existence. Treated for depression he sat like a stoned Buddha in the Watch Commander’s office, day after day, staring at the wall until his retirement. The other drifted into obscurity following his retirement a few years later. Neither was missed and the rules had been changed, for better or for worse, things would never be as they once were.

“Rugs” was eventually promoted to Sergeant and moved in with her attorney. Everyone seemed to take their unusual arrangement in stride. They were seen together from time to time at the awards’ banquets. No one ever really got used to the two holding hands and dancing but carefully refrained from comment. The trade off for the unholy threesome was considered a great exchange.

About the Author
Ron De Laby is a retired police sergeant from Riverside, California. He served in the Uniformed Patrol Division, Traffic Division, Communications, Personnel and Training and the Detective Division. He instructed at the basic and advanced academies and was a principal instructor in the Advanced Officer Survival courses. He holds POST advanced and Supervisory Certification. Ron graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. He has done post-graduate work in Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Ron has been married to his wife, Janet for 33 years, they have four boys.

 

 

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