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On Being A Cop | EXCUSES, EXCUSES, by Jay



All police officers run into individuals throughout their career whose stories are unimaginable, their alibis inconceivable, and their excuses are beyond ridiculous. Once you’ve heard it you’re certain you’ll never hear it again. I’m mean, how could more than one person come up with the same asinine story?

The first time I pulled a bag of dope out of a drug dealer’s pocket and he responded with, “Oh man…these are my cousin’s pants,” I just about fell out laughing. You mean to say you have been wearing these pants all day and you didn’t realize you had forty-seven bags of heroin in one pocket and more cash than I make in a month in the other pocket? Give me a break. Now every time this happens and they start with this excuse I just cut them off. “Let me guess, this is your cousin’s (enter article of clothing here)?” They just roll their eyes and stop talking. They know I’m not going to fall for it.

Traffic stops have to provide more excuses than anything else out there. Some are ludicrous, some bizarre and some are just downright outrageous. My personal favorite was not so much an excuse as it was just flat our denial.

I was fresh out of the academy and working 3rd watch with my field training officer. We were driving northbound on Clark St. and right in front of us pulls out a white Chevy Caprice that has two flat passenger side tires. We follow for a short period to run the plate and make sure the car isn’t reported stolen. The car weaves from lane marker to lane marker showing no signs of stopping. As he makes a westbound turn onto Pratt we hit the lights and siren. The Caprice slowly pulls up onto the curb right under the Metra viaduct at Ravenswood. We flood the car with light from our overhead takedown lights and drivers side spotlight. Suddenly, we see the driver turn off the car, take off his seatbelt, slide over to the passenger seat and fasten himself in securely. We both approach the vehicle with flashlights in hand scanning the front and back seats. The clear Dixie cup of brown liquid in the cup holder grabs our attention. As I requested the driver’s license the lies began to spew from his mouth.

“Why do you need my license?”

“Because you were driving.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“Yes you were.”

“No, I’m just waiting for my friend.”

“We saw you driving, pull over and slide into the passenger seat.”

“You didn’t see me driving, officer.”

“You’re the only one in the car.”

“I know, I already told you, I’m just waiting for my friend.”

I don’t know if I was so frustrated with the lies that were coming from his mouth or with the fact that he had me so engaged in this ridiculous conversation. As we had the driver exit the vehicle the smell of booze, the bloodshot eyes and inability to stand without holding onto the car confirmed what we had suspected. I placed handcuffs on this guy which seemed to shock him. He couldn’t understand why he was being arrested. As we drove him closer towards the station he became angrier and angrier. He even explained to me how in Haiti, his native land where he used to be a police officer, this would never have happened. Silly me just wanted to hear him say it.

“Listen; just tell me you were driving.”

“I wasn’t driving, officer.”

After processing him for driving under the influence I began to lead him into lockup. As our journey together came to an end he assured me that he would be placing a Haitian curse on me. I explained to him how much I appreciated our time spent together and bid him farewell. Ten days later while sitting at a red light off duty, I was rear-ended by a drunk driver who had passed out behind the wheel. I suddenly found myself sitting in the back seat of my car. Did the Haitian curse ring true?

Months after that incident I was working as a one man car on Sheridan Road watching traffic go by. It wasn’t long before I saw the black Jeep Wrangler misjudge the yellow light and sail right through the solid red. I curbed his vehicle near the Loyola El stop and flooded his car with light. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The driver, the one and only occupant in the car, climbed over the center console and planted himself firmly in the passenger seat. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. I approached the passenger side of the vehicle and shined my flashlight into the car. The driver just sat there and continued looking straight ahead. I tapped on the window and the driver acted startled. He rolled down the window and it began all over again.

“Can I have your license and insurance please?”

“Why do you need my license?”

“Because you were driving.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“Yes you were.”

After much back and forth I think he figured out I wasn’t giving up. He finally admitted that he was driving. He said he got scared because he didn’t have his license on him and didn’t know what else to do. He couldn’t stop apologizing and just kept telling me what an idiot he was. I let him know that honesty goes along way with me; I verified that he had a valid license and sent him on his way.

Now I would like to say that this next incident was the final time this happened to me, however, I cannot be sure that it won’t happen again. This was the third time it happened. My partner and I were driving northbound on Ridge Blvd and we pulled up behind a small silver Honda that was stopped at a red light. As the light turned green the Honda didn’t move. I tapped the air horn and still nothing. By this time the light had changed back to red. I exited my squad car and walked up to the driver side window. He was knocked out cold, eyes closed, head tilted back and mouth wide open. I went back to my squad and waited for the light to turn green. One thing I’ve learned is that you never wake a sleeping driver until he has a green light. You never know what they’re going to do when they wake to the air horn of a police car. Some immediately hit the gas and some get out of the car without putting it in park.

So the light turns green and I really lay on the air horn and the driver wakes up. He drives slowly from the intersection and makes a left hand turn onto a side street. We light him up and watch him slowly pull to the curb. Again, the sole occupant in the car puts it in park, slides over to the passenger seat and waits for us to approach. Same conversation. Again, bloodshot eyes and smell of booze. After failing the field sobriety tests my partner and I cuff the suspect and place him in the back of our squad car. Now I’m going to drive the bad guy in to the station and my partner is going to drive his car in but we have one problem. We can’t find the keys anywhere. We search the suspect, the car and the surrounding area. Nothing.

“Forget it,” I tell my partner.

We take the bad guy into one of the district holding cells and conduct a more thorough search. I have the bad guy spread his legs as far as he can, I grasp him firmly by the back of his belt and I give him a good shake. Sure enough the keys fall from his rear end down his pant leg to the floor. It gave me a bit of satisfaction to find the keys and realize I wasn’t going crazy.

That satisfaction diminished in traffic court a month later when the judge stated that I had no probable cause to pull over this poor driver. He had convinced the judge that he wasn’t passed out, his car had just died at the light and he was trying to start it up again. Now I know that judges aren’t supposed to consider anything after the traffic stop when trying to determine the validity of the initial stop, but come on! A drunk driver who climbed into the passenger seat and hid car keys in his butt walked out of court that day because the judge believed him over me. I’ve learned to sleep well at night knowing that I did what I was supposed to do.

So these are just a few examples of instances that I foolishly believed to be unique. Now it’s your turn to share in the comment section that recurring episode that you mistakenly believed to be one of a kind.

Showing 4 comments

  • John M. Wills

    The times when someone runs from the police and after you finally catch the person you ask him, “Why did you run?” Answer? “I was afraid.” Really? I’m in a marked car and in full uniform and you’re afraid? The reason he ran soon becomes evident when you find drugs or weapons on him. The next excuse, Jim, is your example: “These aren’t my pants.”

    • Jay Padar

      Exactly, John. This scenario happens over and over again on a daily basis in Chicago. Thanks for commenting.

  • Holli Castillo

    Being an attorney who occasionally gets pulled over, I usually just tell the truth. I didn’t realize I was speeding, the light was actually only pink, etc. The only time I really wanted to get pulled over was when I was on my way to the hospital to have my first child and was in extreme pain with hard labor pains and my husband makes that the first time in his life not to speed, run a stop sign, traffic light, change lanes, etc. I would have SO appreciated a police escort! Of course we didn’t get stopped.

  • Jay Padar

    So typical, Holli, never a cop when you need one. Thanks for joining us today.

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