Staging a vehicle burglary on a new officer’s police unit is a staple in the arsenal of pranks at our department. But when the officer doesn’t realize he’s been punked, duped, pranked, or whatever term you’d like to use, it takes the humor to a new level.
On a relatively calm Saturday morning, I received a radio transmission from the Newbie. “Sergeant, can you come over here? I have a little problem.” He just cleared an audible alarm call and was parked at the backside of a shopping center.
“Enroute,” I replied.
“Hey boss,” chimed in Old Salt on an alternate radio frequency, “I’ll see what he needs.”
I was immediately suspicious since Old Salt rarely volunteered to assist new officers with trivial problems. To confirm my suspicions, Old Salt told me, “He’s in a pretty bad area. Maybe his unit was ‘window smashed’ while he was checking the audible.”
“Copy that. If so, have him report to me at the station,” I affirmed as I decided to play along.
Old Salt arrived at Newbie’s location, feigning disgust at the shards of broken safety glass inside the passenger door of the new officer’s police unit. Newbie brokenheartedly voiced, “They took all my gear! Everything is gone.”
Since Old Salt staged the crime by rolling down the passenger window, spread broken glass on the interior of the police unit, and temporarily heisted Newbie’s gear, he relayed rather stoically, “You’re lucky. At least they didn’t get the shotgun out of the mount.”
“What should I do?” said a distraught rookie.
“Check the roof tops, trash dumpsters, and every nook and cranny behind the businesses for remnants of your gear,” exhorted Old Salt. “I’ll dust the door for prints.”
Thirty minutes later Newbie was aghast at the predicament. Upon returning to his unit, and failing to notice the wily veteran had not lifted a finger looking for latent prints, he asked for instructions. “Get to the station and report it to Sarge,” barked Old Salt. “He’s not gonna be happy.”
When the young buck arrived at the department, he told me about his victimization. He carried on by saying it would make him a much better police officer in the future.
Playing my role to the hilt, his story fell on unsympathetic ears. “Is that right? Well put your value lesson on hold. Confirm you let someone break into MY police unit? They shattered a window and stole your gear? Who cares about your gear, what about MY police car?” I bellowed holding fast in character.
“I’ll replace the window, sergeant. I’m really sorry.”
In the meantime, I instructed Old Salt and his co-conspirators to clean the glass out of Newbie’s car, rollup the window, and return his gear to the passenger compartment.
Once the vandals surreptitiously made their crime disappear, I told Newbie to retrieve the VIN and license plate number from his unit. Each would be needed for the crime report. He dejectedly walked to the parking garage. As he approached the car, he noticed his gear was in place, but apparently failed to realize the window was “repaired.”
At this point, most who’ve been duped usually realize it—but not this guy. On video we have him kicking up his heals saying, “Yippee! Oh happy day!” I kid you not!
“I can’t believe we hired such a gullible soul,” were my thoughts.
Newbie returned to my office to exclaim the terrific news. “Sergeant, you’re not going to believe it. My gear has been returned! Everything! It’s all there!” He was so happy, I felt guilty for a split second as I remained the stern disciplinary.
“You don’t say. Well good for you! What about the window? Did it get ‘returned’ too?” I asked.
With a lengthy pause, and quizzical look on his face, he finally said, “Wow, I didn’t notice. I’ll go look.”
Now I’m really getting worried. He’s easy to fool AND his powers of observation are lacking!
The fleecing continued as we shattered his innocence. With a video camera secretly recording the event, Newbie returned to his police car to discover the window was intact. “It doesn’t get better than this,” he howled.
Everyone in the building was privately snickering as Newbie returned to my office. “You’re not going to believe it sergeant, but my window is fine.”
“Son, did you ever consider that you’re getting punked?” I finally asked.
The light came on. His eyes rolled heavenward and a smile stretched across his face as he affirmed, “Oh they got me. They got me real good.”
Indeed they did. Newbie went on to become a fine officer once his naivety was broken, and Old Salt developed more creative ways to make “new boots” believe they had been victimized.
One purpose for this story is to help you laugh. It’s also to remind the Old Salts to go easy on the Newbie’s! We need them along with their creativity. And the Newbie’s need the wisdom garnered from the Old Salts who’ve efficiently and effectively learned to track wolves.
Law enforcement is under harsh scrutiny, and it’s taken much of the joy out of the profession. As we close ranks and unify the brother/sisterhood, let’s be mindful that we’ve all been punked at one time or another. It is through those experiences that bring wisdom and the ability to improve performance in the future.
But the greater reason for writing this story is to illustrate a biblical truth. Just as Newbie was deceived, Satan deceives people regularly. I found thirty-five places in Scripture that discuss this kind of deception. Here are two:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
In the story, Old Salt used cunning, yet believable measures to deceive. The truth was veiled from Newbie. His mind had formed an incorrect conclusion based upon the deception. It could not be altered, regardless of the fluid nature of the joke. Finally, Newbie saw the light and discovered he had been snared by Old Salt.
The truth is simple and succinct. Living in the light of God’s Word my friends, will help you avoid getting Caught in the Snare.
 2 Timothy 2:24-26
 2 Corinthians 4:3,4
This story originally appeared in the book, Jurisdiction: A Cop Discovers God’s Impartial Fairness