Every new recruit is bombarded with information in the police academy. They’re expected to learn countless criminal statutes, local ordinances and Supreme Court rulings. They learn the nomenclature of their weapon, how to break it down, clean it and reassemble it. Recruits have to grasp which offenses get documented on which citation, violation notice or complaint. The police database is filled with contact card information, licensed premise locations and offender data. You just have to know where to click. The information seems endless. To make matters worse, once they hit the street they’re expected to learn a whole new language. A distinct language spoken by those on the street and a distinct language spoken by fellow officers.
Years ago, a young rookie cop was riding with his FTO (Field Training Officer) on a hot summer day when the call came out.
“Fifteen-thirty-one—take the domestic at 4967 W. Washington, second floor. Husband got hurt fighting with the wife. Fire’s not going at this time.”
“Ten-four, on the way, squad.”
The two officers parked the squad in front, walked up to the second floor and listened at the door which was slightly ajar. Only the sounds of running water and a television were heard. With the butt of his holstered pistol in one hand, the FTO slowly pushed the door open with his nightstick. There was mama washing dishes at the sink and papa rocking slowly in an old raggedy recliner watching a black and white TV. A small stream of blood was flowing down his face from the lump on his forehead. The pair entered the hot studio apartment.
“You call the police?” asked the FTO.
“Yep,” said papa.
“What’s the problem?”
“Bitch bust me in the head.”
“What’d she hit you with?”
“The smooth, man—she bust me with the smooth.”
Mama never looked up and continued washing the dishes.
“What’s a ‘smooth’, sir?”
“Right there, on the floor! The smooth.”
Both officers looked where papa is pointing and saw a clothes iron with a small smear of blood on it.
“Is that what she hit you with, sir?”
“Yeah, that’s what I said. The smooth. It’s what you smooth the clothes with.”
“Okay. Why did she hit you with the smooth, sir?” said the FTO with the slightest hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Bitch said I was hogging the go-around.”
“The what, sir?”
“The go-around, man, the go-around!”
Confused, both officers looked at mama still washing dishes. Without ever looking up, mama gestured with her thumb to the box fan on the kitchen table.
“Okay, your wife hit you in the head with the iron because you weren’t sharing the fan?”
“That’s what I been tellin’ you, man.”
“Do you want an ambulance?”
“Do you want her locked up?”
“Do you want a report?”
“Do you want anything from us, sir?”
“Just get out, man.”
“Have a good day, folks.”
The FTO and rookie walk to their car each with a smirk on their face.
“A smooth and a go-around. Those are new ones to me, kid.”
* * * *
A new recruit was fresh out of the police academy and trying to decipher these cryptic radio calls. The dispatcher was spewing out gibberish and apparently the recruit was the only one who didn’t understand.
“Eleven-twelve—our heroes just scooped up a sidewalk inspector and ran him over to holy Tony’s. Check it out and make sure there’s nothing more to it.”
The FTO keyed the mike, called out “Ten four”, hit the gas and headed to the call.
“He probably got rolled,” said the FTO.
The poor rookie had no idea where they were going, what they were supposed to look for or what the problem was. Too embarrassed to ask, he just went along for the ride hoping to put the pieces together himself. The squad slowly pulled into the “Police Only” parking spot at St. Anthony’s Hospital.
“Ah-ha,” thought the rookie to himself. “St. Anthony’s… Holy Tony’s?”
The first piece of the puzzle. The FTO keyed the mike once more and asked, “Squad, what might our heroes be driving tonight?”
The raspy voice of the dispatcher responded, “They’re on ambulance fifty-six.”
“Okay,” thought the rookie. “Our heroes—ambulance fifty-six? Our heroes are the cross-trained firemen/paramedics on ambulance fifty-six. It makes perfect sense now. The police are the public’s bad guys and the firemen are the heroes. Just a couple more and I’ll have this all figured out.”
As the two officers proceeded into the hospital, the FTO called out to the receptionist, “Ambulance fifty-six?” She responded with, “Exam Room Three.” The pair continued on to exam room three and pulled back the curtain. There were our heroes transferring the subject from stretcher to bed. The FTO began the conversation.
“How drunk is he?”
“Oh, he’s three sheets to the wind,” replied the paramedic.
“Nope, just where he did his face plant.”
More pieces of the puzzle. “Drunk… face plant?” The rookie was getting close. “Ah-ha! Sidewalk inspector! They found this drunk face down on the sidewalk! He’s a sidewalk inspector!” It was all coming together—almost there.
“He get rolled?” asked the FTO.
“Nope, wallet’s in his pocket, watch on his wrist and chain on his neck.”
“Rolled,” thought the rookie? “Ah… robbed. He didn’t get robbed.”
“Do some paper on this kid,” said FTO. “I’m gonna try to find Juan Valdez.”
With a smile on his face the rookie thought to himself, “No problem, I’ll start the report while you look for some coffee.”
Street Talk is an ever evolving language. It’s constantly changing, almost impossible to keep up with. What’s some of the Street Talk you’ve encountered?