A Night In The Life of A Harrisburg Police Officer- Conclusion

“I gotta get my rifle”.

Just after four AM we were at an all-night convenience store with two other patrols on a fifteen minute coffee break. (Yes, there were donuts available. No, we didn’t eat them. But the muffins…man did they hit the spot!)

“So the kid apparently showed a gun and said ‘I’m gonna kill you and your sister’” one of the other two patrols explained.

The incident happened within the city of Harrisburg but the kid (he’s 18) resides in Penbrook. So HPD volunteered to back up the Penbrook officers while they executed the search warrant- obtained based on the fact that the youths who were threatened knew the kid who pulled the gun.

We finished our coffee and got back in the truck, somewhat refreshed (as refreshed as we could be at 4:30 in the morning) and worked our way back to police headquarters.

“I’ve gotta get my rifle” X said. And went on to describe this beast of a weapon that, I assume, he only takes out for special occasions. Like a pre-dawn raid.

We went off-radio and communicated to dispatch the plan for the next thirty to forty five minutes and made our way up to the Penbrook police station on Canby Street.

[Remember the scene in Reservoir Dogs when Mr Orange tells the commode story? In the bathroom with all of the cops?]

X and I got out of the vehicle and went in the side-door of PPD. Inside were one of our guys who we had coffee with, another HPD officer and four PPD officers.

[Picture this, if you will- here comes three Harrisburg cops- Jersey Mike in tow- walking into a neighboring community's police department. The Penbrook police- how do I say this...look more like police than HPD. You know...the mustache...tight Army grade haircuts. And ten years ago, I probably would have had a different feeling in this scenario. But tonight, I was pumped.]

X introduced me to the group. They were polite. But some blogger riding along with the HPD shift supervisor was the least of their concerns at this point.

They made a game plan and assigned locations for the officers to enter the house.

“Okay, you two take the back door, we’ll go in the front. We knock for thirty seconds and then ram the door in. X- you brought the battering ram, right?”

“Sure did. It’s in my truck with my rifle.”

“Okay guys- it’s 5:53. Seven minutes. Let’s go.”

X’s rifle wasn’t a hunting rifle. This sucker looked intimidating. I’m not a gun-guy (and this is one of those peripheral details) but it was one of those rifles with the bright light attached like you’d see in The Matrix or some other shoot-em-up movie. I’m sure it packs a punch. Not to mention the intimidation factor of having that thing waving around your house at 6AM on a Friday morning. Halloween, no less.

We traveled in caravan over to the house and parked around the corner (for discretion, I guess) and assembled behind a truck.

“Alright Jersey Mike. You wait here until I come out to get you. The best place for you to stand is going to be behind the engine block of this truck…you know..just in case.

“Sounds good, X. I’ve got my flashlight. I’ll be alright.”

5:58AM

The officers take their posts around the house and wait. Two minutes til go-time. Two officers had the battering ram. X had his tyrano-rifle pointed at the door and one held the search warrant.

And I stood. On the quiet street in Penbrook just before dawn on Halloween. The cold air and adrenaline keeping me awake.

And right at the crack of 6….it began.

Police! Search warrant! Police! Search warrant! Police! Search warrant!

They banged on the window next to the door and I was flooded with thoughts. What were the people inside thinking about at that very moment? What was going through the officers heads? Were they at all afraid? Anxious?

Police! Search warrant! Police! Search warrant! Police! Search warrant!

Continued for about thirty seconds and X gave the signal to battering-ram the door for them to enter the premises.

From my vantage point (behind the engine block of a truck, freezing my nuts off and clutching a two foot mag light) I could see lights turning on inside the house along with frenzied “Put your hands where I can see them! Put your fucking hands in the air!” Amid screaming and screeching and things being knocked over. Two or three dogs in the neighborhood began a chorus of barking.

Things inside began to settle down and it sounded as if everything was under control and I was given the go-ahead to come in.

Mag light clutched firmly in my hand, I cautiously walked into the house- anticipating what the scene was going to look like.

And it was somewhat depressing. To my left on the couch looked like Dad, Sis, and maybe a cousin. Directly across from me was the kid’s Mom. And at my feet to my right was an adorable six year old girl. All awoken by a search warrant.

“Man, I told you to get rid of that thing” Dad cautioned the young boy- eighteen years old sitting in the chair next to the television set in boxer shorts and handcuffed behind his back.

“Yo. I don’t know what y’all is talkin’ bout. I ain’t done nothin….mama…it’s cold!”

The temperature in the living room had matched the outside temperature at this point.

And the little girl to my right sat- wide eyed and bewildered as her big brother sat in handcuffs while a joint police task force searched the home for a weapon.

Minutes later, X came down the stairs “Got the camera?”

“Yeah- did you find it?”

“We did.”

X and co. found the gun they were looking for. It was in a shoebox in the kids room. They needed to photograph it before removing it from the house.

A big sigh of disappointment washed over the boy- administered from what looked to be his entire family. And he was taken away by the Penbrook Police department.

And the gun they found?

It was the kind that shot…pellets.

All of that for a pellet gun.

He’ll be charged as an adult (he is) and will be treated as if the gun were a real gun. For when he pointed it at the two and said “I’ma kill you and your sister”, they thought it was real. It was intended to intimidate and threaten two human lives.

And in a quick and relatively quiet moment of victory, the Harrisburg Police took one more criminal off the street.

Conclusion

Thursday last was one of the most eye-opening and exciting nights in recent memory for me. And these scenes play out every single day all across the country. We’re in a third-class city with an administration who seems to have priorities mixed up.

There are a few key points that I deducted from my eight hours in a squad car- they are:

  • The Harrisburg Police need at least fifty more officers. Our Mayor and Council must make them priority number one in the future. Forget tourism. Forget museums. Forget outlandish promises of a parking deal. Dedicate funding to ensure a well equipped and fully staffed police force. Period. There is no single excuse that could every possibly be heavy enough to warrant the laying off of police officers. No more binge-spending from the Mayor and maybe we won’t have this problem.
  • The “Residency Requirement” must be reformed or revoked. There was discussion on PennLive this week about this rule (prompted, presumably, by Part II of this series). X has been on the force for over ten years. He cares just as much about the well being of this city as you and I. And he doesn’t reside here. The notion that a cop wouldn’t care about the city enough if he doesn’t live here is preposterous. Police Officers don’t become police officers for the great salary. Police Officers become police officers to protect the citizens of a city or town. Plain and simple.
  • Crack is the biggest factor enabling crime within the city. Chances are, if you’ve been mugged or robbed or had your residence broken into, the proceeds from that crime went to support a crack habit. Remember in the eighties how there was all of the media attention paid to the “Crack is Whack” campaigns? Why don’t we see more of that?
  • The Harrisburg Police truly are the unsung heroes of this city. They respond to your noisy neighbor calls as well as shootings and murders. They save the proverbial cats from trees and secure the safety of thousands of attendees at the City’s three annual River Fests. And yet, despite being pawns in Reed’s game of financial chess, the mainstream media here in Harrisburg rarely sings their praises. But are often quick to point out occasional wrongdoings.
  • And finally- the Harrisburg Police are normal, hardworking people- just like you and I. But the difference is that when we’re concerned for our safety, we call them. And they respond. Fearless and proud.

12 comments

  1. 31flavors says:

    Haha! Best for last. Yay, that was great!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Awesome conclusion Mike!

  3. KathleenLD says:

    Mike, you did an EXCELLENT job with this three part blog. Your writing is engaging and informative. I hope I can learn from your style and apply it to what I do.

    Nerdy blog-speak aside, talk about eye opening! We watch a lot of police movies and tv but it’s really hard to tell how that relates to reality and how our city compares to NYC or the like.

    Thanks so much for writing up this experience for us!

  4. S10 says:

    Awesome job Mike… great read…

    It’s a shame you couldn’t “bump” (with your mag light) into that douche from the Hess station….

  5. [...] the final part will be my conclusion. The events and content of the eight hour program couldn’t possibly be summed up in one quick [...]

  6. Gail says:

    Thanks! I enjoyed it and I hope it opens some people’s eyes as to twhat these men and women go through on a daily basis!!

  7. LeonJackson says:

    Well done. I’ve enjoyed reading of your experience.

    My one point, although slightly cynical, is why does the Penbrook PD need our officers? Penbrook has unilaterally time and time again declared it’s independence from the city of Harrisburg. We are strained enough for resources that we don’t need to be sending our valuable men and women into a place that is pompous enough to declare that they don’t need us or want to be aligned with us.

    Harrisburg and the greater Harrisburg area would be much better served for regional growth if little “boroughs” like this were annexed by the city. We would receive Federal funding for being a city of truly the size that we are…not just the 47k on the books. In my travels, you see “cities” that are 200-500k that are 30 miles wide. They are by no means anywhere close to the population of HBG metro, yet they receive Federal money because of this. In addition, the pooled resources that these “cities” share and the reduced amount of repetitive city government positions also creates opportunities for saving. Finally, under one regional “city” umbrella, planning for logical growth because much, much easier.

    Thanks again for an informative piece. I enjoyed reading it.

  8. Rebecca says:

    I really enjoyed your article.

    When I see the SWAT raids that take place during the middle of the night on TV, I always think, “I have GOT to stop sleeping in the nude!” What a rude awakening that would be;)

  9. jerseym says:

    @S-10 : Ya know- I actually saw that dude’s truck earlier that day and thought the same thing.

    @Rebecca: I think that as long as you don’t threaten to kill anyone, you can sleep in the nude all you’d like.

  10. Rebecca says:

    Yeah, but I wouldn’t want to imagine being hauled out bed buck assed nekkid at 4 or 5 am by SWAT:)

  11. sneezy says:

    Well done! I hope that people will read this and understand that the police are hardworking people who frankly are treated poorly and who are not given the respect they deserve. May be if more people did what you did, there would be no budget reductions made at the expense of our police.

    Kudos to you, Mike for opening peoples’ eyes!