Military and Police

Literally ‘Flying Through Life by the Seat of Your Pants’ Attracts Police

It is not every day that police get to even eat a meal, let alone go home on time, as citizens keep law officers quite busy. Albeit rare, being free from responding call-to-call means traditional police patrol is just the right balance. But it doesn’t last very long at all. A police officer with the West St. Paul Police Department (WSPPD) knows exactly what I am talking about, especially after he was merely patrolling his beat when a white SUV failed to stop at a 4-way Stop intersection. Didn’t even slow, just buzzed right on through. A moving violation which may amount to a simple traffic ticket can sometimes blossom into a litany of other pesky inconveniences for the driver, maybe the cop as well.

It remains static that most cops conducting so-called routine traffic stops stumble upon a wide range of other infractions and illegalities—a checklist—as you will witness in the following video posted by WSPPD:

If you're going to get pulled over, you might as well make it count.

When your day goes from bad to worse… to worse… to worse… to worse… to wor-… Well, just watch the video and you'll understand.

Posted by West St. Paul Police Department on Friday, June 8, 2018

As you can see, chomping on a sub sandwich can land you in the pokey while also cleaning up your footloose and fancy-free lifestyle. This traffic stop is likely not the first of its kind for that policeman, and it will likely not be the last one-stop-shopping vehicle stop either.

A Bevy of Indelible Firsts

Via this particular traffic stop I am reminded of my very first traffic stop as a newbie/rookie on my very first day shift within minutes of my very first roll call after which I logged in my very first multi-felony arrests in one incident. My field training officer (FTO) was a huge traffic guru, was a vigilant police officer, and knew the state statutes like a Supreme Court justice. Needless to say, even though we bunked heads from time to time, I learned a lot from him.

It was a mere three streets away from police HQ, heading north on our city’s main street, when I am jolted by my FTO asking “What’s in your rearview mirror?” I replied “A car.” Almost imperceptibly, the corner of his mouth raised and his tight jaw went askew. He stayed meek and squinted for a few seconds. The punchline never came. I figured I was a genius. In a way, I would hear about and relive that exchange for infinity. The FTO’s next commentary was the tell and the beginning of copious amounts of paperwork, even if I didn’t quite know it yet. He barked, “Tell me the statute number for ‘Following too closely!'” A man who is hyper-keen with laws is not very patient. Ego played a role, but I came to appreciate his brand of brilliance.

I guess I sputtered too long, so he admonished me to change lanes, let the vehicle behind me pass, and to get behind it. “Stop that vehicle!” my FTO directed. At that moment, it clicked. (Who knew it would come to me instead of the traditional other way around.) I did exactly as instructed and lit them up: a female driver and a male passenger, neither of whom were seat-belted, both of whom were seemingly intimates, were engaged in what in police parlance is known as a “rolling DV”—a domestic violence disturbance in a moving auto.

Too bad their domestic unrest caused them to drive with heads up ass (DWHUA), never really considering they were kissing the rear bumper of a fully-marked police cruiser during lunch-time daylight.

(Credit: Facebook/Meteorologist Josh Judge)

It took a few blips of the siren to get them to realize the police car formerly in front of them was now directly behind them, with red/blue lights ablaze, and motioning them to pull over. Now that I had their attention, their motions were not aloof and fluid but more abrupt, kicking up dirt as they slid onto the shoulder when a vacant parking lot was in immediate proximity.

Conducting the traffic stop was like a big ball of yarn: pulling one errant string rolled into many other things… culminating in a hefty arrest report and two folks off to county jail. I recall getting overwhelmed with the litany of illegal deeds these two had in their car and to their names. Both possessed cocaine, both had marijuana, they had several felony warrants apiece, neither had a clean drivers license, the male had a concealed ice pick, both were in possession of drug paraphernalia, and neither knew the whereabouts of the vehicle’s paperwork nor did they hazard to even look for documents (gee, I wonder why). The bracelets went on. I wrote out a stack of traffic citations and answered their stupid questions. “Are we under arrest? Are we really going to jail? Is cocaine a felony or misdemeanor?” Blah blah blah.

I contacted the auto’s registered owner and learned the car was an unreported stolen vehicle. Eureka! A recovered stolen auto, too!

I broke out my handy-dandy portable drug-test kits to test the veracity of the cocaine, cannabis, and an array of colorful pills strewn about the floorboards and on their persons. Even though they hadn’t been in illegal possession of the car for very long, they created what amounted to a campsite on wheels. Partially-eaten BK Whoppers sat in wrappers, balanced upon the center console. As mentioned, they were tooling around while suffering head-up-ass syndrome, noshing on fast-food and negating traffic laws and safety. Sort of lends a whole new meaning to “fast food.”

As the West St. Paul policeman said succinctly before effecting a similar arrest, “You are flying through life by the seat of your pants!” But that kind of pace will certainly arrive at a dead-end sooner or later. The laws of nature and the laws of the land sometimes get married and, albeit unceremoniously, the police are the officiators.

(Credit: Facebook/Bad Drivers)

The not-so-fun part? Writing it all up. Yikes! I never did receive a subpoena for a trial regarding that particular traffic caper. I did, however, learn that neither suspect was sentenced to prison and that both failed to adhere to “probation stipulations.” Probation! Whenever you hear or read any cop say the term “frequent flyer,” they are not necessarily talking in jest but more-so out of frustration regarding well-oiled justice doors.

One more thing—it is not lost on me that I, too, was DWHUA…and failed to notice the other DWHUA contestant “driving too closely.” My FTO dinged me for it, and I surely deserved the stain. Lessons in officer safety and situational awareness clanged my bell; my game expanded pronto. These indelible lessons I passed off to rookies when I became an FTO. Now, in my police retirement, I read lips and observe mannerisms of people in vehicles behind me all…the…time.

If any government entity or university thinktank is conducting a study pertaining to drivers texting while driving, I have numbers to contribute. Once a cop, always a cop.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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