David Bruce: Police Anecdotes

Police officers in small towns with little crime sometimes come up with creative ways to keep from being bored. In Fort Fairfield, Maine (population 4,300 at the time of this incident), a police officer discovered a chicken roosting on his police car. The police officer arrested the chicken for such crimes as criminal trespass, criminal mischief, resisting an officer, indecency (the chicken was naked), and littering. On the official crime report, the police officer wrote down the chicken’s name as Cee Little. Later, the police officer explained, “It started out as a joke and shouldn’t have gone as far as it did, but in a town like Fort Fairfield, you have to do something to keep from going crazy.” (The day following the arrest, the chicken was released into the custody of a person who liked to eat eggs.)

Back in the 1950s, police officers used to entrap homosexuals. Police officers would pretend to be gay, hoping that a gay man would flirt with them. If a gay man did flirt with them, the police officers would arrest the gay man. Most gay men were afraid of being outed, so they would not resist the charges. In June 1952, a gay man named Dale Jennings did resist the charges in court. His lawyer showed at one point that the police officer was lying, the jury could not reach a verdict, and the charges were dismissed. Mr. Jennings, a true American hero, was the first gay man not to let himself be intimidated by police officers.

In August of 2003, the Chicago Police Department released a bulletin about a rape suspect they wanted to arrest. In the bulletin, the police stated that the rape suspect resembled the rap singer Ice Cube. When he heard about the description, Ice Cube was not amused. His spokesman Matt Labov said that the rape suspect “had a headband, no beard, different facial structure. Both guys are black. That’s it.” (Another observer thought that the rape suspect resembled Ice Cube about as much as Eminem resembles Jack Black.) The police department apologized.

Ballerina Anna Pavlova greatly disliked Shanghai, China, after a disagreeable experience with a police officer. She had hired a rickshaw, but the owner demanded a little more than the usual rate, making so much noise that a police officer came over to investigate. The police officer listened to the rickshaw owner’s comments impassively, then hit him viciously on the head and rendered him unconscious. After that, Ms. Pavlova stayed in her hotel room, except for when she had to perform.

Babe Ruth was respected by everyone, including the police. One day, while in the company of sportswriter Grantland Rice, Babe drove the wrong way down a one-way street. A police officer stopped the car, and without recognizing Babe, said, “This is a one-way street.” Babe replied, “I’m only driving one way!” The police officer, recognizing the home-run slugger, said, “Hello, Babe! I didn’t know it was you. Go anywhere you please, but take it easy.”

Late in life, Spanish painter Francisco Goya lived for a while in France. Of course, for long periods of time—including during much of Mr. Goya’s lifetime—France and Spain have not been friendly, and the French police watched Mr. Goya for a time. Eventually, they decided that he was not a spy because he was so deaf, and he was not able to cause trouble because his command of the French language was so poor.

While soprano Emma Albani was singing in San Francisco, a problem developed when opera fans started sneaking into the theater through a window rather than buying tickets. To solve the problem, a police officer was stationed at the window. Unfortunately, whenever someone tried to climb through the window, the police officer forced him to pay a fee—which the police officer then put into his own pocket.

One day, Muhammad Ali was speeding on a Los Angeles highway. A police officer stopped him and gave him a $100 speeding ticket. Mr. Ali immediately wrote a check and gave it to the police officer, who looked at it and said, “Mr. Ali, there’s been a mistake. The ticket is for only one hundred dollars. You made this out for two hundred dollars.” Mr. Ali replied, “I still have to come back.”

Some convicts are wise guys. In 1986, police in Green Bay, Wisconsin, placed an order for license plates for their unmarked police cars. Wisconsin convicts made the license plates, and on each license plate they put the initials “PD”—short for “Police Department.” Deputy Police Chief Robert Langan rejected the license plates and sent them back, saying, “They were a dead giveaway.”

A friend of Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, tells her that when she is pulled over by the police for speeding, she should say something to arouse sympathy, such as, “There was a car following me!” Once, Ms. Cartwright’s friend was so successful in using this tactic that she received a police escort! 

Danny O’Mara, a baritone, once sang a role in Fidelio that required his character to be in prison. His family frequently saw him play the role, and on a crowded bus returning home after a performance, one of his children complained loudly, “Why is it, every time we see Daddy, he’s always in prison?”

In Texas, country music singer Willie Nelson was pulled over by a state highway patrolman for speeding. When Mr. Nelson opened the door and got out, smoke got out with him—lots of smoke. The highway patrolman coughed, then said, “Willie, when are you gonna grow up?”

While in Russia in the days when the Soviet Union still existed, actor Robert Morley was given a ticket for jaywalking. The police officer who gave him the ticket also gave him a receipt for the amount of the fine, saying it was “a souvenir of our dreaded secret police.”

Pianist Oscar Levant once avoided a speeding ticket because he was listening to Beethoven on his car radio. He told the police officer, “You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s Seventh, and go slow.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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