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Boredom, jokes and training, all rolled into one.

Because a Police Officer's job involves a lot of waiting for something to happen, they often look for ways to over-come the boredom. Often we played tricks on each other. This served to pass the time, keep us on our toes and was just plain fun.

The Patrol Sergeants shared one large office with the Northern Division Lieutenant. We each had our own desk, so there were four desks in the office. There was a squad room where the Deputies were to write their reports then bring them to my office for review. However, the three empty desks in my office were a great temptation. Many of my Officers would sit at these desks and write their reports.

On his desk the Lieutenant had a wooden name plate which also acted as a pen holder. The county supplied pens and he kept one on his desk at all times. About twice a week I would hear about his pen being missing from his desk. He would grab me as soon as I walked into the office at the start of my shift. It was always the same thing, he would say that he didn't mind the Officers using his desk; but, please leave his pens alone.

I got tired of hearing about it so I told my Officers to leave the pens alone. However, his pens still kept coming up missing and I still ended up hearing about it.

One night, an Officer was writing a report at the Lieutenant's desk using his pen, so I told him to make sure it was still there when he finished. The Deputy stopped writing and looked at the pen, then started laughing and said, "Hey Sarge, look at this, he's got his pen marked so he can tell who takes it."

I walked over and looked at the pen, sure enough he had taken a pocket knife and put a notch all the way around the end of the pen. I took that pen and replaced it with another one which had not been marked.

The next afternoon when I came to work he did not say anything about the pen. Later when we checked, we found that the pen on his desk had been marked again. I went to the supply room and got a full box of pens. We marked all of them just like he had done his. We then took his pen and placed the identically marked pens all over the office.
 
Again the next day he did not say anything about the missing pen. We never again found a marked pen on his desk and either his pen never came up missing again or he just gave up and never bothered saying anything about it.

After the pen incident, the Deputies on my shift would try to think up new ways of messing with the Lieutenant's mind. The Lieutenant had this thing about motorcycle gangs. He had been to several classes put on by the F.B.I., about motorcycle gangs which operated in and around the southeastern states. After attending these classes, every time he would see or hear about four or more motorcycles being together he would be convinced that there was a gang moving into Beaufort County. He drove an unmarked patrol car and he would follow the so-called gang around for hours.

Still looking for a way to push the Lieutenant closer to the brink we decided that if he wanted to keep track of all the motorcycle gangs, we would help him. If we knew he was patrolling in his car and we saw a cycle or two we would call each other on the radio and ask each other if they had seen that group of bikes. It never failed, he would start asking where they were last seen and which way they were headed.

We would get him headed in one direction then give him another sighting in a completely different place. We would do this several times then let the gang just disappear into thin air.

All new Deputies learned quickly to lock their vehicles anytime they got out of them. We did this as a form of training, as well as a form of fun. Anytime we found a car unlocked we would turn everything on full blast so that when the Officer came back and started the car, everything would come on. If the poor soul left his car running and unlocked we would steal it and park it somewhere where he would have to go find it.

We did these things at the office or fast food places but never when a man was on a call. On a call you have enough to worry about just staying alive. After losing his car a couple of times new Officers would get the idea and it would become second nature to lock the car every time he got out of it. All of us carried two or three sets of keys to our cars. However, on several occasions this did present a problem. More then one Officer jumped out of the car locking the door with the key still in the ignition only to realize that, because his car was in the shop and he had borrowed this car, he did not have an extra key.

Another trick we would sometimes pull was at night, on a deserted road, we would wait until another patrol car came by then pull out and catch up without turning on any lights. We would follow the other car for a while then turn on our high beam headlights. After being caught and scared like that a couple of times, you learned to keep your eyes open and watch for anything and everything. Again in a fun way it was good training.

Along the same line, if we heard someone check out of the car to check a building, we would try to sneak up on him with no lights then hit the siren to scare him. All these things kept us on our toes.

One evening while I was working the four to midnight shift, one of my friends played a trick on me. It was about 8 p.m. and my friend called my house. He talked to my wife and told her that he hoped that I was feeling better. My wife asked what he was talking about, and he told her that he was just checking on me since I had called in sick and not come to work.

I would have had a hard time explaining that one when I got home from work except that I had a police radio scanner at home. After my wife received that phone call, she turned on the scanner and heard me out there working.

Ralph L. Dettwiler
(Former) Sergeant
Beaufort County Sheriff's Department
Beaufort, South Carolina

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