UP IN BLUE|
The guy who invented Mike Hammer, the toughest gumshoe of all, explains cops like nobody else can
by Mickey Spillane
I always had the notion that I would have liked to be a cop. There were some in my family, so I had a close-up look at the mechanics of the situation. Sheer economics steered me to crime writing, where I could enjoy the police environment, take part in their training activities, stay close to their maneuvers, yet make a far better living than they did. And that's one hell of a note. They do all the work and I make the loot. But just imagine the quality of protection we'd get if we paid them what they were truly worth.
After all, the man with the badge wears a lot of hats. How do you tell who you are looking for? Well, when there's trouble, you call a cop. When you're the one in trouble, you comb your hair and speak to the officer in charge. When you're young and exuberant and want to serve mankind, you take an examination to become a policeman. When you're young and arrogant and have no respect for mankind, a pig tosses you in jail.
Some people want to paint them all with a crooked label, but consider that even a cop on the take will go down a black alley with a service revolver in his mitt to nail some slob who mugged you. He might get himself killed, but he'll go, and chances are he'll nail the perp. He doesn't know you, but when you need him, he'll be there.
Also, how many suddenly expectant mothers have felt their contractions coming at 10-second intervals, dialed 911 and gotten a knowledgeable cop instead of a medic to midwife a baby into the world? No complaints about rough hands there.
Snow was coming down hard one Saturday afternoon during the rigorous holiday shopping season. I saw a little kid who had gotten lost in the maze of decorated windows in Radio City. He edged up to a huge patrolman, and with a trembling lip and eyes wet with uncertainty, he said, "I'm lost." And that big cop grinned down, took the kid's hand and told him, "No, you're not. You're with me." I didn't have to follow him to make sure the kid got to his family all right.
Cops give off an aura. Forget the uniforms. It's nothing you can put your finger on, but it's there. Regular citizens never see it, but anybody who wore a state or federal number in prison would spot it right off. Kids can see it, too, but it makes their eyes light up. A whore on the street or a small-time hustler spots it, winks seductively or tips a hat with an impish grin to acknowledge that they've both made each other, and they keep walking.
Sometimes the cop doesn't get spotted. Under the raincoat isn't an old man in a funny fedora hat. He's walking slowly not because he's old and tired, but because he's caught the attention of the four hoods who have had a mugging frenzy on the darkened side street off 8th Avenue. They've seen him coming, nudged each other before they crossed over, gone into attack formation. When they get near enough, the cop grins and lets them see the 9mm automatics in each hand. The sounds of their feet hitting the pavement are like drumbeats. No shooting, but one hell of a warning.
Where do cops come from? In the big cities, they seem to know what they were bred for. They've seen the terror and disruption, they've lived with the intimidation and corruption. . . and they're not afraid. They can read the papers and they know the odds; they also know that gunning down a cop isn't a healthy way to stay alive. The heat's turned up, but the cop-killer still shivers. There will be no letup until he is nailed.
The rookie's college education is the police-academy training. The professors are hard-core cops who have been there and done it. The courses range from judo to psychology to medical instruction and the firing range. Their diploma is their badge, yet even then they aren't just turned loose. The probation period is another time of learning with a cool old street hand. When the time comes for a cop to become another cop's partner, a team is formed with a stronger bond than most marriages.
There are small-city cops, too. Training comes the hard way, mainly by sheer experience. Their equipment isn't quite top-rate, their vehicles are not so new and they're forever getting wrapped up in domestic squabbles that can turn violent in a split second. They cover the convenience-store sites where hopped-up kids lose it during a stickup and start shooting, or some slob who needs a drug fix comes in with a knife. Backup protection isn't fast here, the cops don't ride in pairs and there's more danger in a high-speed chase than a face-to-face confrontation with an armed druggie.
And yeah, there are dirty cops. I live with them. There are dirty elected politicians, too, and the two can go hand in hand, with orders coming from the top down. Police corruption doesn't start with the badge. The mold has been set by those who went before the rookie officers, and they either step into it or get shoved aside.
Constantly, I see records of "dismissed" cases where a hard-nosed offender is sent back to the streets. A lot of them claim to be "police informants," but that's garbage. Cops have their snitches. They hold something minor over their heads that can fall with a heavy thud if the snitches turn sour. But just let the badge and the snitch engage in a joint enterprise--try dope dealing--and the snitch is in the catbird seat. Or how about judges having investments in whorehouses, or magistrates and police chiefs being treated to an orgy, with the female participants having to keep their mouths closed or ride the jolly car to the slammer?
Now say it: Why haven't I done something about all this? At the least, why not go to the local newspaper? Ha. This has already been tried, and the results were to be expected. Politics, business and the dark world of crime are still holding hands.
Just remember, though, that the real cops are still there. And they're on our side.
I have a few good friends with gray hair and wrinkles on their knees. They have a strange sort of obscure knowledge and an odd way of looking at people. Oh, they're old and pleasant and they have funny eyes. They see more than they're supposed to. That look is plain to people who have crossed paths with their kind before. They're obviously retired, and they could be in a state where those retirees could legally carry sidearms. Like a .38, or maybe a standard Army .45. Sometimes a multi-hot 9mm. Of course, a .22 can do a credible job, too.
Luckily, those guys are recognized, and why not? They were cops. No, that's wrong. You never get it out of your system. They are cops.
(End of main text)
THROW THE BOOK AT 'EM
A dictionary of cop talk for the would-be streetwise
An influential person of importance who can help a police officer sweep matters under the rug. Also called a hook or a rabbi.
In general, extortion. Specifically, it refers to a con game where a female entices a male into a sexually compromising situation, after which an accomplice will come forth to blackmail him.
A major drug dealer. The term comes from Nicky Barnes, a major drug dealer in Harlem in the '70s and '80s.
Low-quality drugs. Other terms include "lemonade" and "Lipton tea."
Murdering someone, then cutting his throat and pulling his tongue down through the opening so it resembles a tie.
A pickpocket, one who is likely to "touch" you for your wallet.
Doin' the Houdini.
Cutting up a body and discarding the pieces so it can't be identified.
Motorcycles. The term is used primarily because cycles are so hazardous to ride that a lot of drivers end up donating their organs for medical use.
Father Mulcahy syndrome.
A response to an emergency situation that is based more on the movies than on proper training. Named for the chaplain in M*A*S*H.
A police technique of rolling a flashlight across the doorway of a dark room to illuminate the interior. Two officers will flank the doorway; one officer places the flashlight in the doorway, lens facing in, then turns it on and pushes it so it rolls across the doorway, beaming light inside. The officer on the other side catches the light and repeats the procedure if necessary.
A hospital ward for drug users who have had mental breakdowns.
Follow that cloud.
Search for drugs.
A gun. Also hardware, heat, heater, piece and twenty-two.
Get the button.
To become a "made" man in the Mafia.
A cop who takes small, insignificant bribes. If you're really corrupt, you're a meateater. A cop who's regularly taking bribes is on the pad.
Half a large.
Five hundred dollars.
Make a canoe.
Conduct an autopsy.
A con game in which two hustlers befriend someone. The con artists and their newfound friend then discover a bag containing a sum of money. They agree that the victim, or pigeon, will hold the bag until they're sure the owner is not coming back, then they'll split the money among them. The pigeon agrees, whereby the con men ask him to provide them with some of his own money to make sure he won't run away with the loot. Once he does, they distract him so they can switch the bag with an identical one containing strips of newspaper.
A useless bureaucrat. The term comes from the shine that develops on the seat of the official's pants from sitting around doing nothing.
A money launderer.
Tune 'em up.
To illegally rough up a suspect.
Up against the stem.
Addicted to smoking marijuana.
Exorbitant interest paid on a loan from a loan shark.
A roving band of con men who sell inferior home-improvement work.
Subject: "Cops, account of|Copspeak: The Lingo of Law Enforcement and Crime (BT) by Tom Philbin"
New Search | Search Tips | Fees | Help | More Info
Powered by ©ProQuest Archiver