Humour in Uniform Police Part 1

Written by Harold McNeill on December 3rd, 2012. Posted in Police Notebook


December 11, 2012.  The above “Christmas Card”, prepared and circulated by the Abbotsford Police Department (Lower Mainland of British Columbia), will no doubt create considerable controversy. Destined to land in the mailboxes of several serial offenders and organized crime figures who have taken up residence in Abbotsford over the past several years, the card was signed by the Chief Constable and two Inspectors. In my view the card is a rather good example of black humour, police style, however, the fact it was circulated to members of the general public is rather unusual.

Police Humour, Practical Jokes, Mistakes and Misadventures that helped to Define a Career

Within police circles, as in many emergency service organizations, a mixture of humour, some of which is labeled ‘black’, along with a mix of practical jokes and assorted hijinks, was very much a part of the daily life of a police officer – at least it was during my thirty year career which took me to 1994 when I retired. Various incidents on the street also provided fodder for a good many laughs among police members, their families and friends, as the stories were told and retold.

Another aspect of policing which was sometimes, but not always, on the humorous side, was when a member made a mistake. If in the public realm, that mistake could easily go viral in short order.

If made in private, letting others know about the mistake could be deadly. In either case, the incident could lead to a nickname and/or joke being told about the incident for years, perhaps for the remainder of the member’s career.

Cartoon (web source as noted): Officer McNeill takes control of a potential crime scene where Humpty Dumpty accidentally fell or was pushed off a wall at the Uplands Estates. Early in their police careers, Oak Bay members learned to take this sort of ribbing from other Department members who sometimes considered their job to be more onerous and important. 

To the general public, the names and jokes may have seemed inappropriate, perhaps cruel, which, in some instances, was no doubt true, however for the men and woman often facing that dark side of life, it was (and likely still is) a means of dealing with the stress that other treatments such as alcohol, drugs or sex, failed to alleviate.

I cannot speak for the situation in policing today, but given the pervasiveness of video, the internet and a press corps desperate for a headline, police members seem to be under much greater public scrutiny than in my day or at any time in the past. Perhaps they still do the same things, but if they do, it will be at their peril. On the other hand, it also seems likely that members today are provided with many more stress coping mechanisms than was the case when I entered the service nearly fifty years ago (1964).

While these short stories generally involve Oak Bay PD members and their families, I have not shied away from drawing in members of other departments whose antics and adventures also became well known across police boundaries. In almost all instances the incidents written about occurred thirty to fifty years in the past (1960 – 1985), so only very few of the members mentioned are still in active service. Several more have already passed to that police club in the great beyond.

For police friends who happen to pick up on this post and who may have an anecdote they would like to share, please email it to harold@mcneillifestories.com and it will be posted in a future section of this series (under your name of course). I would also be interested in hearing if some of the same types of behaviours are present today.

Harold McNeill
Detective Sergeant, Retired
Oak Bay Police Department

Contents

1.   Getting Even
2.   Watch Your Step
3.   Monkey Business
4.   Constable Attacks Prisoner
5.   Developing an Accurate Photo Lineup
6.   Diligent Surveillance
7.   Unofficial Wiretaps
8.   Captain Red Dot
9.   Cement Head
10. The Goodwill Box
11. Seat Belts Save Lives
12. Stolen Police Car
13. Check your Transmit Button
14. How to Enhance Your Reputation
15. Sorry Chief, We ran out of Firehose

1. Getting even, oooh, it feels sooo good!

In the earlier 1970s, as we were putting the finishing touches around our new home on Viaduct Avenue in West Saanich, I was ready to pour the cement for the sidewalks. As usual in those days, a few police and fire department friends on a day off attended to help wheel the cement.

The RediMix truck of another friend who lived just down the street arrived and we began the two-hour pour. Anyone that has ever visited our little farm on Viaduct, will recall the steep slope away from the entrance driveway where the cement truck had to back in. For the five barrow pushers, it was a steady grind down, then back up the slope. We were glad it was not the other way around.

As each of four helpers pulled under the RediMix chute, the operator filled their barrows about two-thirds full, the maximum for a comfortable run. For the fifth volunteer, a police friend, the cement truck driver always filled his barrow to overflow, a very heavy load indeed.

The extra 75-100 pounds of cement made for backbreaking work as the man struggled to keep pace with the others. He was never one willing to sit back and let others outpace him and neither would he ever complain. We all noticed his loads and had a good chuckle at his expense. After the job was complete, the truck washed off and driver ready to leave, we took the time to share the mandatory case of beer.

Someone asked the truck driver why he always gave the man such a heavy load and without pause to consider, he stated: “Well, a couple of years back that asshole gave me a speeding ticket.” It was a hilarious response. Even the member had a good laugh.

2. Watch your Step Officer

Reserve Officers were not immune from the practical jokes that were played on regular service members as happened late one night during a property check. Part of our routine in Oak Bay was periodically checking the security of businesses, particularly those that were subject to regular break-ins. One such place was the service station at the Will-O-Way Shopping Centre on Cadboro Bay Road where the owner kept a large green, Smithrite garbage container. It was never locked.

Prior to doing an early morning check of the stores in the area, it had been arranged for another officer to go in behind the station with a three-foot stick to prop open the large metal lid on the nearly empty container. To the bottom of the stick, he tied some fish cord, strung it across the alleyway and tied the other end to the building. The cord was about knee high and was not visible in the darkness and even a flashlight was unlikely to pick up on the trap.

As prearranged, the regular officer with whom the reserve was riding booked off to check the stores and told the reserve to check the service station. Never one to do anything at half speed, the reserve, a bit of a nervous type, ran across and around the building. There was no way he would miss the string and when the lid came crashing down on the empty container, the noise could be heard halfway to downtown Victoria.

It was a good thing that reserve was not issued firearm, as that Smithrite container would surely have stopped at least a half dozen bullets. Worst yet, he might have saved a couple of shots for those of us who set him up. No one was ever safe in the bowels of any police department when the hunt was on for a good prank.

3. Monkey Business (supplied by Constable Herb Craig – Retired)

In the 1970s, marihuana became a king among University and High School students who would often share a joint or two at lunch or during class breaks. That this little indulgence often took place down by Bowker Creek (behind the East Block of Oak Bay High) was evident, for when the wind was blowing east, the distinctive odour would waft along the creek, over Hampshire Road and pass by the Police Station. One enterprising Oak Bay Constable decided to get a first-hand look at the students as they toked up under a large tree beside the creek.

Just prior to the lunch break, the officer parked his car, walked in behind the school, climbed the tree and hid among the leaves and branches.  Now this man was of no ordinary size. He must have been close to 6’3″ or more and of sizable girth. Add another 15 pounds for equipment and he was a formidable foe. It would take a strong branch to carry that mountain of a man.

It was not long after class let out for lunch that students began congregating beneath the tree as the officer waited anxiously in his perch for any sign of a pot transaction.  As his vision was often obstructed by the leaves and branches, he leaned over and grabbed a smaller branch to gain a better view. The rest, as they say, is history.

In full uniform, with camera in hand, the officer came crashing down through the leaves and branches, right into the midst of the startled students. Any evidence of pop smoking evaporated in an instance as the students scattered in all directions leaving the officer to limp back to his patrol car with his otherwise excellent plan left in shambles.

Now, the fact this plan turned sour is no big deal as those things happen, but the big mistake he made was telling another officer about what happened. It was in that instant an otherwise minor incident became part of the legend.

4. Constable Attacks a Prisoner

One reserve officer with whom I spent many enjoyable hours on patrol and who eventually went on to have a stellar career with the Saanich PD, was always ready, willing and able, to take part in an adventure. It seemed that no matter how quiet, we could always shake something loose such as we did late one evening during a dust-up with a couple of ‘near-do-wells’ in the vicinity of Cattle Point. One thing leads to another and we ended up arresting one party under the NCA (Narcotic Control Act) and holding a second suspect as our ‘invited guest’ when we returned to the station with the first.

While interviewing the guest, the reserve member was seated to my right and the guest across the desk. Of course, the man we arrested seem to think he had the upper hand, was generally uncooperative and his cocky, don’t give a shit attitude, was most irritating. The discussion was going nowhere when suddenly I saw the man quickly take his hand from his pocket and moved his hand to his mouth. The reserve, off to my right had not noticed the movement.

I sprang from my chair, jumped across the desk and landed on the man with both hands firmly planted around his neck as I hollared something along the lines of “no you don’t asshole.” The man’s chair crashed back against the wall, crumpled and we both fell to the floor with me on top. The young reserve jumped up and was standing wide-eyed, obviously wondering what in hell was happening and whether Officer McNeill had lost his mind. As I continued to choke the man, the reserve was clearly uncertain as to whether he should come to assist me or to assist the man I was choking.

Only a few seconds passed and needing a little oxygen, the man coughed up a balloon containing capsules of what would no doubt analyze to be a narcotic. Once the reserve understood the circumstances it still took a few minutes for him to get his heart rate back to the normal. Such was the nature of the calls we often managed to shake loose on a ‘quiet’ night in Oak Bay.

On another evening, with the same reserve and while attending a prowler call on Denison Road in south Oak Bay, the same reserve nearly met his maker behind one of the old homes. While driving up the road with our lights out, we observed a shadowy figure run behind a large house on a heavily treed property. We baled and commenced foot pursuit, the reserve went around one side while I took the other.

We expected to meet at the back but my side was blocked by a large rock wall. It was then I heard a muffled “holly shit”, followed by a crash and then silence. I hollered to see if the reserve was OK but did not receive a reply. I drew my gun, quickly retraced my steps, went around the other side and found that the reserve had fallen over a small cliff and was laying at the bottom of the fifteen foot drop. Fortunately, he was only winded and nothing broken. It appeared a number of shrubs along with the moss covered ground had helped to cushion his fall. Where in hell the prowler went, we had no idea.

5. Developing an Accurate Photo Line-up.

On another occasion while on patrol with another reserve member and while assisting the Victoria PD in the area of Stadacona Park, we were on the trail of a ‘flasher’ who had been harassing women at dusk and just after dark. The calls usually came in around the time the tennis courts were closing.

On our arrival, we observed a suspect on a side street and jumped out to make the check, however, the person took off. We took up the chase on foot and, again, we went separate directions to try and intercept. As we continued, I heard the reserve holler and a minute later found him at the bottom of a ten foot deep excavation that had not been barricaded. This time there was no shrubbery to break the fall and it was indeed fortunate the man was not seriously injured. (Note: these two cases, brought up the issue of Workman’s Comp for auxiliary members).

As with the prowler in the last case, the flasher was able to streak away without a trace. I also noted that after this second instance, reserve members seemed a little less inclined to partner up with me.

As for the flasher, he continued to elude Victoria and Oak Bay officers for several weeks as he continued to harass women around the area. The descriptions provided were seldom of much use as the man practiced his trade when it was nearly dark and, in any event, when the women got over the surprise of being accosted, the descriptions provided were typically vague. Adjectives such as long, short, thick, hard, etc. were of little help.

One day two Detectives from the Vic PD, a male and female, (names withheld to protect in innocent) attended our office stating they had narrowed down the suspect list to about ten persons and wanted to leave one of their Photo Line-up packages with our office as we had been dealing with a similar problem around Redfern Park and even though Redfern was so close we covered many of the calls. Having the photo lineup readily available made good sense.

The Vic PD female Detective handed over the line up which consisted of an 8″ X 14″ manila file folder with ten small sections cut in the jacket face. She asked us to take a look and see if we recognized any of the suspects. Well, low and behold, the folder contained ten pictures of the nude mid-sections of male suspects (some long, some short, some thick, etc). It was hilarious, but only a female member could (or would) have made up that practical joke.

A few weeks later we apprehended a suspect and turned him over to Vic PD where he was charged with several offences. We never did hear whether the man’s picture was actually in the photo lineup. I would suppose no one in the Vic PD cared to check.

Which reminds me, did you hear the one about another Victoria flasher who was thinking of retiring? He decided to stick it out for another year.

6. Diligent Surveillance

I had the good fortune to spend many hours on surveillance with Don Russell. a Saanich Police Sergeant, while we worked at Co-oridnated Law Enforcement Unit (CLEU). On follow-up one day, we had set up an OP (observation post) on top of the old fish packing plant in James Bay in order get a few pictures of our suspect as he entered his boat which was moored at the Fishermans Wharf.

While laying down, partially concealed and looking over a ledge, we started popping off a few pictures as the suspect went about his business. On this particular day, it happened that a couple of young ladies dropped by, doffed their clothes and, ‘sans’ bathing suits, settled in for a little sun tanning on the upper deck.  Now, being the professional, dedicated men we were, Don and I stuck around a little longer than usual just to see what else our target might be doing.

Suddenly we were rudely interrupted by someone who had also climbed up on the roof for some reason and had clearly been watching us: “You f…ing perverts” the man stated, “you better get out of here before I call the police.”

Without missing a beat Don turned and replied: “Listen fella, we had this spot first and you can have it when we leave, but for now just leave us alone.”  Now, you must remember that Don was one helluva big man (perhaps 6’5″ and 280 pounds), not someone anyone would wish to mess with. The guy left without a further word, followed shortly thereafter by Don and myself as we had accomplished our photographic mission (sans film).

Not many years after he retired Don passed away, but he will long be remembered as the life of a party and as a popular speaker at police stags and retirement functions. His Quasimodo Jokes were endless and tailored to the topic or person at hand. For instance, once when speaking about a police officer who had an exceptional recall for faces, but not of names, he told the following joke:

Quasimodo, the demented bell ringer of Notre Dame, put an ad in the papers for a assistant bell ringer. One man applied for the job but he had no arms.

“How are you going to assist me?” asked Quasimodo.

“That’s easy!” replied the man and he ran at the bell and banged it with his head.
BONG!!!   Excellent tone.

“That’s amazing!” said Quasimodo. “Could you show me that again?”

“Sure!” said the man and he ran at the bell again but he missed the swinging bell and fell out of the bell tower. A crowd huddled around the hapless man lying in the street and a police office asked, “Does anyone know who he is?”

An ever so calm Quasimodo came out and hollered down:  “I DON’T KNOW HIS NAME, BUT HIS FACE SURE HELL RINGS A BELL!”

Don’s son, Clark continues to carry the family police torch with the Victoria PD after having commenced his career in Esquimalt.

7. Unofficial Wiretaps

Another time, I had the pleasure of working with a Victoria PD Inspector, Einar Hemstad, whose investigative skill would have made Sherlock Holmes proud. In his earlier days of policing, his image was enhanced not only by his investigative skills, but by his lack of concern about taking a few liberties with the rules and regulations, if it could bring a bad guy to justice.

The fact that he also took a couple of bullets after a bank robbery in the busy downtown core, only added to the mystic.  In the latter instance, it was just his bad luck that he had to go to the hospital and get stitched up so he missed the massive chase that followed. Over several hours the police pursued the robber by car, boat and aircraft as the man tired to shake, but he was eventually captured in the waters off Brentwood Bay.

As another example of Einer’s panache, at one point when working as a rookie Detective, some 45 years ago, he and a a fellow officer were hot on the trail of a near-do-well criminal from the North Island who was heavily involved in trafficking hard drugs in the down town area.  When traditional means of gaining evidence slowed to a trickle, Hempstad decided a little wiretap might get things back on track.

Near the home of the suspect, he climbed a pole, installed a tap, hooked up a recorder and waited for the evidence to coming flowing in. Over the next couple of weeks dates, times, places and details of meetings provided additional confirmation of trafficking, but never sufficient to find the hard evidence to arrest and charge. Information from the wiretap, of course, could not be used in the manner it is today.

Due to a lack of progress, Hemstad and his partner were pulled from the case and assigned to other more pressing matters. Of course, it irritated the men to no end that a known trafficker had walked away scott free. One day while listening to one of the old tapes Einar heard a repeating call that peeked his interest.  Like clock work each Saturday morning there was an incoming call to the suspect home from an old Swedish guy who sold eggs and other farm produce. The conversation went along these lines:

 “Aello, Ole here, just vundering eff you needed any aggs today?

The resident would order a couple of dozen that would be delivered later in the afternoon.  From the conversation, it was clear the resident had become very fond of old Ole.

Sadly, one day a call was made that indicated old Ole had passed away and the caller wondered if the resident might wish to attend the funeral.  About two weeks after the funeral when life was back to normal and as the story goes, someone unknown to Einar, made a phone call to the suspect residence at a time when old Ole usually called. When the party answered and said “Hello”, the caller hit play on the tape recording:

“Aello, Ole here, just vundering eff you needed any aggs today?

There was a moment of stunned silence as the resident tried to digest the fact Ole was again calling after having been buried two weeks earlier. Suddenly the person hollered, “Oh, my God” and slammed down the phone.  One is left to imagine the conversations that took place in that household and wondering whether old Ole would show up later in the afternoon to deliver the egss. It’s the kind of stuff police reputations are built upon.

Footnote: Before the advent of rules relating to wire taps, many police members would avail themselves of the opportunity to target a suspect in a case that was bogged down by tapping into his phone line. While this was not a regular occurrence, it was most often used as an investigative technique within specialized squads. It was only after a few high profile cases of targetting federal political parties and high profile individuals that the laws began to change.

Even today, information now being released through various Freedom of Information Acts, suggests the practice had spread much deeper into the political realm than first believed. While today police may periodically complain about being unduly hamstrung by legislative restrictions, it was generally unfettered abuse by police and others, that brought about the rules in the first place. The recent press scandal in England revealed that the practice is still alive and well.

8. Captain Red Dot

While on a supervisor’s course at the BC Police Academy in Vancouver, we were deep into a series of lectures on stress reduction techniques. As the courses were made up of members from several different Municipal Departments and sometimes the RCMP, it did not take long before the anecdotes and jokes about dealing with stress begin to circulate. One member from the lower mainland, a Sergeant with a classic type A personality (he would run a Iron Man Marathon on the week-end just for something to do), spoke of one means he used to better recognize those points where he was becoming over-stressed.

As his story went, he had discovered a small medical device in the form of a small circular patch that he would stick to the inside of his wrist just over his pulse. During normal conditions (that of relative calm) the patch would be bright blue, but as his stress increased the patch would slowly begin to change colour and when at a point of maximum stress, the patch would become bright red. It was an interesting anecdote that he might have shared with a therapist or close friend, but not with a group of street hardened, senior police officers.

The next day, small red dots begin to appear around the classroom and other strategic locations (over bathroom urinals, etc.). His nickname became Captain Red Dot. We later learned that on Captain Red Dots return to his home department, those dots followed him, to his locker, on at his desk, in his notebook, etc. It was all in good fun (perhaps), but again demonstrated it was better not to share your little secrets with your comrades in arms.

9. Cement Head

Getting back to another cement related story, it was not long before the nickname of an experienced member from another force caught up with him after he moved to Oak Bay as the newly appointed Chief Constable. Being appointed Chief from an outside Department or the RCMP was always a challenge, but to bring a moniker, particularly a disparaging one, more than doubled that challenge.

In the present case, it was not long after the new Chief arrived that the story followed. Apparently, he had been very adept at recognizing an opportunity to get a little help when renovating his newly purchased, older home in West Vancouver.

Don’t get me wrong, this was all above board stuff, no strong arm tactics, no quid pro quo – just a simple opportunity. One must also remember that in the old days, members lucky enough to scrape together the money needed to buy, build or renovate a home often had to put in hundreds of hours of their own labour just to break even. As noted in the last cement story, when building our first home, dozens of family, friends and co-workers often rolled up their sleeves and lent a hand to get the job done.

Now back to the Vancouver PD. The nickname that stuck like glue since the event was “Cement Head”. It was applied not because the man was thick, but because of a little misfortune, he experienced while doing a home improvement job.

One day while on patrol, the member happened to spy a cement truck driver he knew who was just finishing a job at a construction site. The member pulled over to chat and learned the truck driver had about two or three yards of mixed cement left that the driver planned to dump when he returned to the yard.

Of course, it seemed silly to let perfectly good cement go to waste, so the member asked the driver to drop the cement in the member’s driveway.

“No problem” replied the driver, “I am going right by you place, but remember you can’t leave it sitting for long or it will be hard as a rock.

Sure enough, near quitting time, the member became tied up on a call and was two hours late getting home. Sitting smack in the middle of his driveway was two or three yards of hardened cement. Worst yet, his wife’s car was blocked in the carport. The next morning with a jack hammer in hand, three hours of hard work saw the driveway finally made passable. Now, his first mistake was not getting home in time to move the cement, the second, and really unforgivable mistake, was telling his colleagues about his first mistake. It was not long after being promoted to Inspector that the nickname “Cement Head” stuck like hardened cement for the rest of his police career.

10. The Goodwill Box: Yours for the Taking.

For many years there was a Goodwill Collection box in the corner of the Safeway Parking Lot at Fort and Foul Bay. One night around midnight while I was parked on Goldsmith (the street used to intersect Foul Bay at Cadboro Bay before the Oak Bay Rec Centre was built), when I observed an expensive car pull into the lot beside the box.

From the passenger door emerged a middle aged woman ‘dressed to the nines’ in an ankle length evening gown. She looked around the empty parking lot, walked to the box and pushed open the spring loaded door, After peering inside for a few seconds, she hoisted herself up and proceeded to climb partially inside. The driver, a male, stayed in the car.

The sight of this distinguished looking lady with an evening gown hiked up to her thighs, her knickers glistening white under a street light, was priceless.

I quietly pulled out of my partially concealed parking spot and with lights off came up next to the parked car while facing the Goodwill box. I turned on my headlights lights, engaged the overhead lights and climbed out.

The woman nearly had a fit as she scrambled out of the box and pulled down her dress. The male in the car, who I later learned was her husband, got out and walked over as I explained the Goodwill Box was to be used for dropping things off, not taking them out. She stammered as she began to explain. Her husband just stood there smiling as he savoured the moment.

The woman explained that earlier in the evening while on their way to a gala ball downtown, she asked her husband to drop several items in the Goodwill Box. Sometime later that evening it suddenly struck her that one of the boxes dropped off was supposed to have remained at home as it contained several precious, although not expensive, family mementoes. She immediately dragged her husband away from the ball, to Fort and Foul Bay to check the box. Still irritated when he arrived, he let her go search for the items on her own.

We returned to the Goodwill Box and with the aid of my flashlight, managed to reunite the woman with her mementoes. After a good laugh about the circumstances, the couple returned to finish their evening.

11. Seat Belts Save Lives

After the seatbelt laws were implemented in British Columbia, there was a concerted effort to get people to Buckle Up. In the early stages, many vehicles had only the lap belt which was not the retractable. Without being able to see the cross belt it was often difficult to tell whether a driver was in fact wearing the belt, so we just watched for subtle clues.

While observing cars traveling south on Foul Bay, I pulled over a woman and inquired as to why she was not wearing her seat belt. She immediately made the rather curt reply: “Officer, I just took it off when you pulled me over.” To which I stated: “OK, my mistake, it’s just that I didn’t see you open your door and drop it outside.” A very red-faced woman was warned that it was now law and also that she should be setting an example for her young daughter who was belted in the seat beside her.

Cartoon: Reference last anecdote in this section.

In another similar ‘seat-belt’ stop, I inquired of a driver why he was not wearing belt and he gave the same explanation of having just removed it when being pulled over. In the back were two children, about four or five years old. One of the children immediately responded: “No you weren’t dad, we told you to put on your seat belt but you told us to never mind.” Gotcha! Again, another warning to a red faced driver who may now think twice about fibbing in front of his children.

The emergency came from close by – officer needs help at the rear of the Oak Bay police office. Now, I cannot for the life of me think of who that member was, but given his history of getting into a tight pinch, I would have to guess, Constable Jones. While on patrol he had pulled over a vehicle, but after stopping he could not get his seat belt undone. After several tries and with an impatient citizen in front of him, Bob finally pulled up beside the driver, gave him a thumbs while stating “this one is on me” and drove back to the office. Well, it finally took the fire department with a pair of cutters to remove the belt. Now in all fairness to Bob this might not have been him, but this is the type of thing that just naturally happened to him (see next anecdote).

12. Stolen Police Car

Dispatched to an accident on Hampshire Road at Oak Bay Ave, Constable Jones booked off, engaged his overhead lights, parked in the proper position at the scene, checked to make sure there were no injuries and began to complete the AI Report (accident investigation). The next thing Bob noticed was his police car being driven away. It was last observed going north on Hampshire Road toward Bowker Creek by one of the drivers from the accident.

At the time I was driving an unmarked car West on Bowker Ave., as the broadcast of a stolen police car was received. Moments later the marked car, lights flashing (without siren), came roaring through the stop sign at Bowker, headed north toward Estevan. I engaged my dash strobe and siren and took up the pursuit. While the marked car did not exceed the speed limit by any great degree, the site of two police cars, one chasing the other around the Estevan area, did seem rather comical. Perhaps many citizens thought we had nothing better to do (now, no Oak Bay PD jokes folks).

At some point, the driver of the stolen police car just pulled over and gave up. I do remember it being a young man, but cannot remember what reason he gave for stealing the car in the first instance. He was cuffed and returned to the police office, charged and released. Another anecdote that Constable Bob would be living with for the rest of his career.

Bob and I worked together for several years and there was not likely a member of the department who was more humorous or better suited in working with people. Later as the School Liaison Officer, he was extremely popular with the students at Oak Bay High and had a real knack for working a crowd. Perhaps that is what eventually led him to a long secondary-career in the local political arena.

13. Check your Transmit Button

A common occurrence during the years of shared radio frequencies and old fashioned microphones with coiled cords, was dropping the mic on the seat after making a transmission. What occasionally happened is that transmit button would somehow get pressed and, voila, any conversation in the car would broadcast live to the rest of the city. When this happened, all other transmissions would also be blocked so there was no way of directly contacting the member with the open mic.

While this had the potention to cause danger in event of another emergency, it held the double danger that the member whose mic was open was with a partner or some other person in the car and would begin a conversation intended to be private.

Such was the case after two Saanich Inspectors grabbed a car and left the office after having had a heated argument with the Chief Constable. Unbeknown to the Inspectors, after reporting in that they had picked up a car and would be on the road, the mic somehow became jammed. Their conversation over the next 30 minutes was broadcast to the world as they railed on about the shortcomings of the Chief Constable.

Other members had the courtesy to key their own micophones during particularly inflammatory parts as doing so produced a squelch that blanked out all conversation. Eventually, someone came across the Saanich car and the microphone was quickly disengaged. One assumes the Inspectors then returned to the station to try and patch things up with the Chief Constable.

14. How to Enhance your Reputation

One week-end a Central Saanich Sergeant was completiing an equipment check and after cleaning the shotgun, took aim at a ceiling fixture and pulled the trigger. The deafening blast that followed was a sudden reminder that he had just reloaded the gun. On Monday morning the Sergeant was in the office bright and early to explain to the Chief Constable how there happened to be a fixture missing and a large whole in the ceiling.

In Saanich, an off duty Constable was ‘dry firing’ his handgun while taking aim at moving figures on his home television set. Again, the simple mistake of forgetting that he had just reloaded his .38 Smith and Wesson, resulted in the TV sceen imploding before his very eyes. This Constable had just set the stage for an endless stream of jokes that would follow him for his career.

Photo: Saanich Chief: “I looked at your TV and you were low and to the right. You need to be hitting centre mass. I am recommending you go through another series at the Firearms Range. Dismissed.”  

While punishment meted out by the Chief in each case was likely measured – perhaps no more than a verbal or written warning – the incident would live on in the hearts and minds of friends and coworkers for many years.

15. Sorry Chief, We ran out of Fire Hose.

As a final note in this section, and to let my Oak Bay Fire Department friends know they have not been forgotten, there was the matter of the disappearing fire hose.  Quick response is always the name of the game in the Fire Department, the sooner you arrive at a fire, the better chance of bringing it under control.

One afternoon after a call came in about a house fire in the Uplands area the trucks and police were immediately dispatched. For the firement enroute, it is standard procedure to catch a fire hydrant a discreet distance from the reported fire.  To do this the pumper driver, slows next to a hydrant while a fireman riding the tail jumps off while pulling out the first length of 2 1/2″ hose from the pumper bed. He wraps it once around the hydrant and the truck is off and running with mere seconds.

Photo (c2011). Oak Bay FD pumper truck with practice tower in the background.

The problem in this instance was a miscommunication between the driver and the tail rider.  When the truck slowed at a corner the tail rider thought he was to catch the hydrant. He jumped, caught the hydrant and the truck was off.  The hose continue to rack off as the truck gained speed, flipping from side to side until the bed was completely empty.

The truck continued to the location of the reported fire and only then discovered one of the men to be missing along with the entire rack of hose. Fotrunately, in this instance there was no fire or it had been put out, I don’t remember. In any event, the Crew Chief likely had to write a Dear Chief and so the story began and remains to this day.  I imagine my fire department friends will thank me for remembering this little incident.

Its OK guys for you may have noticed in the Fire Department section of this blog that my mates and I once managed to burn down our entire Fire Hall.  Now that is a feat that few firemen can claim and is one of the reasons I left the Fire Department and joined the police – I needed a fresh start with a clean slate. (Link here to the Fire Story).

Part 2 of this series will follow in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

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Comments

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold