Military and Police

The Oddities of Police Work — No Monkeying Around

Ranging from mundane matters to bizarre behaviors, every single law enforcement officer has stories. The collection of material commences on day one of field training and continues throughout a cop’s career. Sometimes episodes are exponential whereby there is a story within a story. Some instances among police encounters involve highly unorthodox revelations that, in the telling, would seem like pure horsepucky. But…police body-cams neither lie nor embellish.

A June 8, 2018 traffic crash investigation handled by Pasco County, Florida sheriff’s deputies turned out to be a grand theft auto (GTA) case involving a male motorist crashing a stolen vehicle taken earlier in the day, from a driveway one county to the west. Once Pasco County sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Dendler arrived to investigate “a car in a ditch,” he soon realized a dime-a-dozen car crash had a unique twist: a Capuchin monkey donning a diaper was a passenger.

Having completed scores of crash reports in my police career, standard boxes on a Traffic Crash Report affidavit have the customary choices having to do with the human species: male or female, age of passenger, child restraint seats used, etc. There are no boxes for…primates. So it got a bit sticky.

As Deputy Dendler continued his investigation, warning signs arose. The most-glaring one was that the vehicle had been reported stolen and was already listed in the state database as such. The driver, Cody Blake Hession, was “seen leaving the scene of the accident,” ordinarily a traffic misdemeanor in Florida. When deputies caught-up to Hession, he had a self-qualifying story (surprise, surprise) as to having possession of the auto. As a general course under these circumstances, deputies contacted the car’s registered owner and were informed that her vehicle was unlocked and the car’s keys were left under the floorboard mat. Hession happened upon the auto, got in, and got lucky…going mobile with monkey, without owner permission, equating to grand theft auto. How darling!

With the probable cause arrest of Hession and his Capuchin monkey “Monk” clinging to him, Pasco deputies had to call wildlife cops. As Pasco Deputy Dendler admitted, “We get training on maybe dogs and cats but…not necessarily monkeys.” My career as a Florida cop handled mostly dog and alligator complaints—dogs bark and gators find their way into pools and under parked cars. No worries, since my agency’s policy directed to call state wildlife officers to take custody while we city cops secured the scene for public safety.

Similarly, Deputy Dendler requested state law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to respond so as to take custody of Monk. That launched a separate investigation.

State law enforcement officer with wildlife commission explains to grand theft auto suspect how his pet Capuchin monkey “Monk” will be handled and to which local primate sanctuary he will be transported. (Credit: Facebook/WFLA News Channel 8)

FWC police officers questioned Hession regarding how he obtained the monkey, from whom, how long he had been in possession and, naturally, the requirement of a license to own such a primate in Florida. In short, Hession admitted to having Monk for about three years after he “got it” from a breeder in South Carolina. He did not have his license with him as per statutory requirement, instead declaring he “already applied for it.” But, cops are fair. Officers with FWC granted some leeway, advising Hession that if he could not produce the license, additional charges would be forthcoming. Compellingly, Hession would not be able to reacquire Monk until legal affidavits were procured.

Oddly, in the police body-cam footage recording the arrest and custodial proceedings of Monk, a female shows up on scene to whom Hession claims “I didn’t think I stole your car.” She replies: “You did!” I get the feeling these two knew each other (as prior intimates) which may explain the extraordinary “luck” Hession had, stumbling on an unlocked car in which the hidden keys were also found, making the private-property heist easy and tidy. His persona and mannerisms indicate some level of comfort (familiarity) but, absent permission from the rightful owner, old ties may not always bind.

Monkey Business

As Monk is being stowed in a small pet carrier and Hession is about to be re-cuffed (removed so he could sign “monkey impound” property receipts), police ask him if he wanted to say his goodbyes to Monk. After Hession and Monk hug it out and exchange kisses, I’d swear that monkey placed one hand over his face as if to signify shame, embarrassment, or something similar. With his diaper re-positioned, Monk is placed in the state cop’s pet carrier.My mind kept acute focus on Hession whose partially unsecured handcuffs were a potential weapon to swing at law enforcers standing in custodial proximity. Ordinarily, that is a no-no…not even for a signature (“unable to sign” is narrated in the police officer’s report). But I can surmise that Monk somehow provided leverage for all parties, in that if Hession exacerbated his arrest situation with violence against justice…he’d be kissin’ that Capuchin goodbye for good.

Besides the alligator calls I mentioned, earlier in my career I was in pursuit of pink elephants who kept stealing brooms from a senior citizen’s closet. Call after call (with established pedigree of mental instability), “Mrs. P.” insisted solving the pink elephant caper. I am happy to say I failed in that mission.

I respect nature and believe it ought not be tinkered with. Despite some exotic species of animal life being marketed domestically, the balance is questionable. Here’s a guy tooling around in a stolen auto, with a diapered monkey in-tow, who crashes the car and flees on foot with his unlicensed/unregistered primate clinging with who-knows-what on its mind, while traversing through suburban settings during lunch-hour. There’s a reason police dispatchers ask 9-1-1 callers to repeat themselves; not because they’re deaf or want to waste time…but because many people monkey around and think it’s fun.

As Deputy Dendler said, “That is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve never seen a Capuchin monkey that close before and I don’t expect to again.” Indeed, it is uncommon for modern policing to engender an episode of  NatGeo. Yet all cops know there are no guarantees, and this happenstance is one such example that police work entails many oddities which make for great conversation, believe it or not.

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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