By Wyatt Earp | August 29, 2009
The Philadelphia Police Department ranks its crime classifications in order of priority. Homicides are at the top, then rapes, then robberies, and so on. The Homicide Division handles (you guessed it) homicides, and the Special Victims Units handles all rapes. Detective Divisions like mine handle everything else, but our biggest “priority” job is the aforementioned robbery.
Since robbery is given such weight, every member of the department can define it in simply, easy-to-understand terms. Or so I thought before last night.
A police officer from a district in my division calls, and I have the utter misfortune to answer the phone. This, in its unedited glory, is what the officer told me:
“Yeah, I’m out here on a job. The victim was selling items out here when a black male came up to her. He said, ‘I want that bottle,’ and then punched the woman in the face. The woman held on to the bottle, but her cellphone dropped to the ground. The man picked up the cellphone and fled the scene.”
Now, pretty much everyone reading this knows what the officer has here. A theft that involves a use of force, however slight. Simply stated, the woman was the victim of a robbery. Follow me? because the officer obviously did not. He continued:
“So, should I just write this up as a disturbance and let it go at that?”
Um, no. I told the officer that the woman was the victim of a robbery, but apparently, he knew better than I did:
“No, the man wanted the bottle and he just got her cellphone!”
Um yeah, jerkass. The man punched the woman in the face and took her cellphone. It’s a frakkin’ robbery, you idiot! Thankfully, my sarcastic tone eventually started to sink through the first few layers of his skull, but it was a slow process:
“Okay, so should I bring her up there or just tell her to go home?”
Jeebus. I wanted to tell him that he should have shot the woman for calling 9-1-1, but I was afraid this brain surgeon would actually do that. Instead, I reaffirmed a basic rule of police work: If you have a victim available, it’s best to get her statement. The officer said he understood and he would bring the victim to the division shortly. End of story, right? Well, maybe for a guy who has that kind of luck. For me? Not so much.
An hour passes and still no police officer. The vehicle status screen shows that he is enroute to the division, but he must be coming by way of Tibet. An hour and a half passes. No officer. Dismayed, I start clearing my desk, since it is almost time to go. Guess what happens?
Officer Einstein comes into the squad room, drops off his paperwork and leaves. The best part? HE DIDN’T BRING THE VICTIM UP WITH HIM!!! I mean, you can’t blame him, since I only told him about 100 times that she was needed, and he said he understood.
These are the types of stories they don’t show you on Law and Order, but sadly, they occur all the time.