I am not a revisionist historian. I write what really happened to my most honest recollection. If you are offended by ethnic accented speech, please stop reading right now and turn on MSNBC. You’ll feel better.
While detectives occasionally encounter humorous situations, they don’t witness as many odd things as patrol officers. Uniformed cops see people at their most vulnerable. I offer these vignettes from my time in patrol in Flint, Michigan in 1969-70.
CHILD OF GOD: My partner and I went to a supermarket on a shoplifting call. A middle-aged man had stolen food. While processing the paperwork, I asked him several questions. His watery eyes and odor led me to believe he had been swilling cheap wine.
Soon he started sobbing. I told him I knew he had been in jail before and survived fine. I assured him things would work out. “Ih ain’t dat, off-suh,” he said. “It jus at you so nice t’ me. Mos’ a dem poh-lices, when dey arrestes me, beat me, hit me, yell at me, and call me evvathin but a chil’ a God. You jus so nice.” Naturally the story got back to the squad room and I had to endure more ribbing about being almost a priest.
FILL ’ER UP: Another time I saw a car blow a stop sign without even slowing. I maneuvered behind and activated the lights. The car didn’t stop. I could barely see a gray-haired head above the seat. Oh no, an elderly woman. I didn’t want to hit the siren for fear a fire hydrant, fence or a few pedestrians would be demolished.
I continued to follow for four blocks, honking the horn, with the emergency lights on. We continued at speeds up to 20 mph. Finally the driver turned into a gas station. I pulled off to the side and approached her at the pump. I was in full uniform, and wearing the obligatory police helmet. The lady looked up at me and said, “Fill ’er up.” (Remember, this was 1969 when employees pumped your gas and cops wore helmets.)
Usually I have a snappy comeback. Not this time. I pointed to my badge and said, “No ma’am. I’m a police officer and you ran a stop sign at Levern and Woodrow.”
“I most certainly did not.” Oh boy. I knew where this was going. An attendant pumped her gas while I wrote the ticket. When I handed her the ticket she called me everything but a child of God. (See above.) I didn’t feel so bad about writing municipal greetings to that old bat.
THA’S HOW YOU DONE CAUGHT ME: Another time I was working traffic with a VASCAR speed detection instrument. (This is a device that computes the visual average speed, computer and recorder, hence the name.) I would measure out a given distance and time vehicles that passed through that distance. The computer would display their average speed.
A guy went barreling through at 25 mph over the posted limit and I took off after him. When he stopped I told him he was speeding and I had VASCAR. I started to explain how VASCAR worked when he interrupted. “I know y’ goss a
FAST CAR. Tha’s how you done caught me.” He accepted his ticket without complaint. (VASCAR is no longer used in Michigan.)
Basinski was a Flint patrolman for 17 months before moving to Chula Vista.