(Cross posted to Working Stiffs)

Let me begin this second installment by mentioning one of the cool things I learned. The Pittsburgh police vehicles’ unit numbers have meaning. For instance, we were unit 3125. The “3” stand for police. The fire department would have a different number. The “1” was for Zone 1. Oddly, cars with the “2” as the next number indicate a single officer on patrol. Cars with a “1” such as 3111, indicates two officers in the vehicle.

The next call was for a domestic dispute in one of the public housing units. A mother reported her 20 year old on was out of control. I was permitted to participate in this one, provided the mother agreed. She did. After talking with her outside and getting her story, we entered the apartment, asking her to stay outside. Divide and conquer.

The young man had his own version of the events. He strutted and gestured and felt he was right and didn’t understand why the cops had been called in. I kept quiet and just nodded when he directed his extremely sincere diatribe in my direction. Officer Parker calmly asked questions and explained the legalities of the matter and the choices to be made. In the end, nothing was really resolved, but the volatile situation had been cooled. Mother and son made promises to each other. In the car, Officer Parker said he’d most likely be back. None of the promised changes would be made. But for the moment, peace had been restored.

Renewed my earlier insight about psychology classes. I’ve come to believe that police work is less about law or solving mysteries than it is about psychology. Uniformed therapists on wheels.

We were about to begin a circuit of Riverview Park (I did not know of this place when I named the main location of my first mystery novel Riverview Park!) when our third call came in. Report of shots fired. The address was in a less-than-safe neighborhood and someone had been stabbed at this address earlier in the day. “Revenge,” commented Officer Parker. And we were off, lights and sirens again through the narrow streets of the North Hills.

Other units were on scene by the time we arrived. Officer Parker said that if someone had been shot, it would have been reported over the radio by then, so likely there was no victim. Still, I was happy to comply with his order to stay in the car. Yes, sir! No problem. A group of young men matching the description given over the air stood on a second floor deck with bored expressions on their faces. Ho hum. Cops at the front door. Just another day in paradise. I heard one officer say, “No victim, no crime.” Before long, Officer Parker was back to report that nobody saw nothin’. This is frequently the case in this neighborhood. “They don’t like us much here,” he told me.

Nice to know.

That was the end of our calls for the day. For the rest of my shift, we patrolled. I had a lovely tour of the North Side. From the luxury of the townhouses in Washington’s Landing to the poverty of the projects. Note: while the apartment we were in for the domestic dispute was tidy and clean, Officer Parker told me that often you have to keep moving in some of those places so the cockroaches don’t climb up your legs. Ick!

I have always loved the Mexican War Streets houses. Built in the days before Pittsburgh was Pittsburgh, they remind me of Williamsburg, Virginia. Many have been renovated and are simply beautiful. Next door, however, the windows may be boarded up. The entire zone is one of contrasts.

During our patrol, we talked. I was told that when you see on the news that someone has been arrested on a drunk and disorderly, they really were disorderly. Most cops prefer NOT to arrest someone if they can just get that person to go away instead. Arrests mean too much paperwork.

We discussed the current hot topic of tasers. Tasers, he said, are used a lot. The rare instance where someone dies as a result is because of other circumstances. Usually drugs. He went on to say that when batons are used to subdue an actor, there are bruises and lasting pain. With a taser, while it hurts—and be assured, it hurts like hell—as soon as the current is shut off, it’s done. Over. The suspect could get up and run away if he chose to. No lingering bruises.

I survived my ride-along. It was a fairly average day, from what I gather. Reports of shots fired used to happen mainly after dark. Now they happen any time.

Only much later did I learn about the excitement that went on shortly AFTER my shift. In case you missed seeing the video of the big car chase on Route 28, click here.

I'm still not sure if I'm relieved that my ride-along ended before this happened or if I'm bummed that I missed it.

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