“The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers!”
– William Shakespeare’s, Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2
My late father was a hard charging real estate broker, and back in his day you had to sell MANY properties to get to join the real estate Million Dollar Club.
Not like now when an upholstered closet sells for seven figures in San Francisco.
The law enforcement club version that I un-happily joined in 1994 was predicated on being named in a civil lawsuit by the usual cadre of bottom-feeding- ambulance-chasers that wanted to help the “poor downtrodden victims of police-whatever,” all for the bargain basement fee of only $750 per hour, office expen$es, plus 30% of the judgement.
The back story before my trial:
The Potrero District in San Francisco is one of the most challenging patrol assignments in my city. Roughly 60 percent of the population receives some sort of federal, state, or city assistance. There were, (and ARE), a lot of very good, hardworking, decent people in the ‘Po.
And then there are the two-legged coyotes that pray on these people, and fester like so many open wounds dealing drugs and misery on too many street corners.
I had just finished a very successful and relatively complaint free three-year tour as a squad sergeant running a Public Housing Law Enforcement Team, when my number came up (literally) to promote to lieutenant.
It was a case of “don’ let dat door hit ya on the way-out, Bro!”
I got the going-away party, the new seven-pointed jewelry, and submitted my “wish list” of what I wanted in the way of desired future assignments to my commander.
I left on Friday and was promptly re-assigned back to Potrero the next Monday.
While I was looking for people to bribe, wheedle with, or threaten, I put on my big boy pants, and got to work running an entire watch of 40 veteran cops.
Five days later I was “nominated” for membership in the affore mentioned club.
Two of my very best experienced cops, Jolanda and Charlotte, caught a medical assist “with violence” run about 3 p.m. I was in my semi-clean command level radio car when I heard this, and knowing that exact area too well, decided to motor over and see what was what.
So did my field sergeant, and two other “floating” cars.
I figured that six cops, a senior field supervisor, and I could handle a simple, mid-week, afternoon back-up call for an ambulance crew.
I was wrong.
All of my blue suits were there, but so were about 100 other very vocally hostile loooky-loos. The circus was in town with a vengeance.
The victim of the medical callout was a tall, emaciated woman who had been snorting nothing, but crack cocaine cut with Tang orange juice powder for 2-3 days and didn’t want to go to the hospital that her family desperately needed her to go to.
Screaming and flailing windmill like, she fought all the demons that wanted to save her life, including yours truly.
She was not going quietly into that good night at all.
I checked with police dispatch and tersely inquired what the ambulance ETA was?
After a long (guilty?) pause I was informed that my rig had been “diverted,” and that while I was still at the top of the list, it was going to be “an extended response.”
(Translation: Everywhere else is more important, and we’ll get to you when we can.)
I told Jolanda to cuff-up Ms. Whirlwind to hopefully control some of the sidewalk gymnastics.
Suddenly, the whirling dervish was quiet. Too quiet.
She now had a blank look in her drug glazed eyes, and a slight white froth foam at the edges of her mouth.
I had seen this drug response more than a few times before and did not like where this downward spiral was headed. Desperate measures and all, I decided that my command car was now an impromptu medical transport lorry.
I told Jo and her partner to grab a body part and follow me. She and Charlotte pushed, tugged, lifted, and pulled our now completely limp victim into the back of my Crown Vic.
Four of my guys with riot sticks in their belt loops covered our withdrawal, while I heard my sergeant directing the other responding cover units to head to a rally point, while he quietly put his less-lethal shotgun back in its rack.
Jo was a substantial sized lady. I’d never seen her lose a street confrontation unless it was a running-away thing. Then her marathon-running partner Cha-Cha would easily run down most rabbits pretty quickly. They were a formidable team.
Accordingly, when Jo and Cha Cha and Ms. Crackhead got into the back seat of my car, it was crowded.
I drove away quickly while trying to monitor the crews I had left back at the scene, the non-progress of the ambulance, and the continuous scuffling in the back seat.
Jo: “Hey Dave, she’s seizing up back here.”
Cha Cha: “And I think she’s not breathing very well.”
Jo: “Ya, she’s gone out now. I’m not sure with her arms this skinny that I can find a pulse.”
Cha Cha: “I’m un-cuffing her so we can start CPR”
Jo: “Damm, I broke a nail!!!”
My team was now out of danger where this all had begun, while the ambulance was still not even ready to give me a location to meet up at. SFGH was about an eight-minute Code 2 drive away, while a full-bore red lights and noisemakers had me there in less than four.
I told dispatch I was coding up to C-3 and told the ladies in back to do what they could and hang on, that it was going to get rocky.
I slowed only slightly to toss a green-packaged plastic Red Cross CPR mask behind me.
We got to a skidding full stop at the ER entrance, and a friendly EMT jabbed our gal with a BIG Narcan needle. All was well, and she was back to swinging at phantoms and cursing people even before they gurneyied her into the building.
Two weeks later, I was “assigned” to the City Attorney’s Office to prepare to defend the city (and myself) in a $6,000,000 lawsuit alleging “Mistreatment, and Abuse of Law Enforcement Authority” in this incident.
Article One: I should have waited for an ambulance.
(“If I waited, she’d be dead! “I said.)
Article Two: I exceeded my authority by taking her to the hospital.
(“If I didn’t, she’d be dead!” I raised my voice.)
Article Three: By going code three I endangered her life.
(“If I hadn’t, she’d be dead! Are you freaking kidding me? I muttered)
TWO YEARS LATER…
(And about 200 hours of my time wasted…)
I had been “moot court trained” multiple times, quizzed six ways from Sunday, including a LOT of the “when did you stop beating your wife?” type questions, and racked up quite a sizable tab at Zuka’s Bar in the interim.
I was literally on the witness stand in federal court for two solid days, in a six-day trial.
The jury took 3 hours to acquit me.
(Extra bonus: “Plaintiffs court costs request denied.”)
In a show of professionalism that I didn’t feel, I refrained from sticking my tongue or extending a finger at the “victim’s” lawyers as I walked past them on my way out.
Jo gave me such a bear hug congrats that I think she cracked a rib.
I didn’t care.
I had put Jolanda and Charlotte in for a “Life Saving Medal” because of their actions. My captain amended the nomination to include me. The ceremony had been held back pending the trial, but we all eventually got the ribbon, and the $100 check.
I paid off part of my bar bill, Cha Cha bought some new running shoes, and (of course!) Jo got her nails re-done.