A handsome hunk of carelessness
There's something unique about the relationship between police officers and their partners because of the need they have to rely on each other for their safety. Having a partner who can handle himself in a crisis situation is vital, since your imminent demise might be the reason for the crisis.
As a cop in New York City for 20 years, I was often in situations that required a skilled partner to back me up. Just as often, I was the guy doing the backup. Before being assigned to plainclothes undercover work, I spent a few years in uniform. One of my partners was a guy named Ronnie. Ronnie was handsome, well-built and meticulously neat in his tailored blue uniform and hat, which he wore slightly cocked to one side, like a beret. His muscular, athletic good looks and perpetual tan drew women to him like bees to a patch of honeysuckle. We couldn't have a cup of coffee in a diner without being surrounded by the female wait staff, repudiating his obvious wedding ring as they shoved phone numbers in his direction.
Yet, with all of his good points, he had a serious flaw in his judgment when it came to his gun, or, more specifically his holster. We used to have a department issued holster with a prominent ridge inside that kept the gun locked tightly so it couldn't be easily taken away during a struggle. In order to release the weapon you would have to grab the stock and twist it sharply before lifting it from its casing. After a couple of years of use, especially in high crime areas where the gun would often be drawn, if seldom fired, the ridge would begin to get worn down.
"Ronnie, with that ragged leather sheath on your hip, you may as well just shove the gun in your waistband," I'd say, trying to shame him into a new purchase.
"C'mon Bob, do you really think anyone is going to be able to take my gun from me," he'd laugh confidently. It always amazed me that a guy who was so careful about his looks, could be so careless about his life.
Well, as sure as God makes little green apples, Ronnie's carelessness was about to be challenged. One night we were called to a small apartment to handle a tumultuous family dispute. As was customary, we would separate the parties and try to get to the root of the problem. The man was yelling bitterly about something the woman had done and she was vociferously denying it, while dabbing at a cut on her lip.
I was probably no more than 10 feet away, but it seemed like I had traversed a football field to reach him. The impact sent both of us over a couch and onto a linoleum floor as I grasped his wrist with one hand and punched at his face with the other. My partner leapt over the furniture and stomped on the gunman's hand, crushing his grip to force the release of the weapon.
Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.