Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Police work in the projects.

A copper never knew what to expect when going into the projects. The "jets", as they were known, were the most dangerous environment police officers had to work in. The high rise buildings were set up so no one could approach unseen. The gangs had look outs posted on the upper floors as well as in the lobbies. Officer's had been shot down by snipers while walking across the field between buildings. Police cars and officers were targeted as furniture, small appliances, cinder blocks, bricks, or bottles were tossed down from the upper floors. Just approaching the building was like a combat patrol.
Entering the building had to done cautiously. The job was almost never in a ground level apartment. Coppers learned from other's mistakes. The elevator was not a good option since a good sergeant took a bullet to the chest when the doors opened on an upper floor (luckily for newly issued body armor, he survived). Some guys used the inch worm method. One officer walked up a flight of stairs as the partner covered from below. The partner then walked up as the first officer covered from above. Both officers were never on the stairs between landings at the same time. This was slow and certainly not ambush proof but it was one of the best available tactics. Safety, safety, safety was always the primary concern.
Most of the residents of the public housing developments were good law abiding citizens trapped by poverty or dire circumstances. These were the people they were there to help. Their apartments were sometimes spotlessly clean and the families embarrassed but grateful for the police service.

The dope dealing gangbangers never called the police. When the circumstances called for a visit to these apartments a state of high alert had to be maintained. The heat was always stifling and the roaches everywhere. The thugs would disappear but there were always signs that they were there. Beer bottles, still ice cold and sweating, reefer stubs in the ashtrays or empty cellophane wrappers were definite clues.
The trio of coppers assigned strictly to public housing were known to be fearless. They were all over six foot tall and wore long duster coats like the old time lawmen and carried long barreled Colt .45's and .44 magnum revolvers. They were known to strike fear in the gang members. The legend was they "kicked ass and didn't take names". These coppers were a pleasure to have around when having to enter the jets for a disturbance.
Arresting a victim turned offender was sometimes the outcome. When explaining to the officer how the man had "called her all kinds of bitches and hoes" then "jumped on me" the angry woman pulled a gun and pointed it at him. Quick reactions from both officers prevented a tragedy. They were able to grab and wrestle the gun from her before she could fire a shot.
This incident earned the officers only an "Honorable Mention" for their personnel jackets since, as the sergeant put it, " What do you want? That's your job!" But as all coppers know , one "aw shit" trumps a whole file full of honorable mentions.

1 comment:

  1. In Houston our projects are only up to three stories, so we don't have the problem that y'all do. I have gone in some of the projects by myself to meet complainants as a detective. the other detective takes her sgt. and patrol officers to go in. I guess I am old school or stupid. I can see where up there you would need a squad or a platoon to hit the high rise. maybe the duster cops are fearless and that his what needs to be instilled in the punks. the other public housing has bars....



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