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Ride-Around: The Buffalo Police at Work

“There
is no better job in the world,” says Detective Kevin Biggs.  This is coming from a man who is on a
regular basis verbally and physically assaulted, yelled at, lied to, threatened
and the list goes on and on.  
But he really means it.  He
loves his job.  When I asked him if
it is a calling, he said, “No, it’s just a job.”

By
way of background, I first met Detective Biggs, fondly known as Biggsie, when
my garage and vehicles were broken into. 
The thieves got a bag of Canadian change, $5 US dollars and my old,
ratty bicycle with 2 flatter than flat tires.  Detective Biggs followed up on the patrol report to
fingerprint the scene.  I confessed
my secret desire to be a police woman and he invited me on a “ride-around.”  Any citizen can do it, and experience
on a first hand basis what Buffalo’s finest experience.  I took him up on his offer and spent
about 4 hours with him on a Saturday afternoon and another 4 hours on a Friday
night.   They were the most
emotionally exhausting 8 hours I have ever experienced. 

On
my first ride-around, we were investigating 2 different burglaries and a murder
for hire.  On the second ride
around we were looking for a thug who beat up his girlfriend and a guy who shot
and killed somebody. On the first trip I was literally his shadow as we went
into various homes to investigate, and on the second ride we were in the
car almost the entire time, hunting for a murderer.   The first ride-around was more action oriented and the
second was more of an open dialogue.

At
our first robbery, thieves removed a window air conditioning unit to access the
house and stole stereo and electronic equipment.  The victim then told us the cash he hides in a vase was
stolen, but the apartment had not been ransacked.  He confirmed that nobody knew about his hiding spot, but
thought his neighbors may have seen him accessing the hiding spot.  Furthermore, the victim told us the
neighbor’s dog did not bark the night of the robbery although the dog barked
ferociously when Detective Biggs and I approached the house.  We all agreed that it appeared to be an
inside job.

Detective
Biggs swabbed the electrical wires for DNA samples to send to the lab, but was
unable to lift any usable fingerprints. 
Unlike CSI: Miami, the lab doesn’t process the DNA in a matter of
minutes, and the crime isn’t solved in just under an hour.  The victim thanked Biggs numerous times
for his efforts, and Biggs suggested the victim tell his neighbors that the
police found some good fingerprint samples in order to gauge the neighbor’s
reaction. Biggs cautioned the victim against taking the law into his own hands.
Again, the victim thanked the detective, and we left.  As he pointed out to me, by the time he arrives on the scene
something bad has happened, yet most people seem to genuinely appreciate his
efforts. 

Our
next visit was to another burglarized home, but this was a much different
scenario.  After the initial report
was taken and the victim learned the details of her renter’s insurance policy,
she called the station back  to add
numerous items to her list of stolen goods including a flat screen TV, a
computer, a stereo and a gaming system that she noticed were now missing. Even
to a novice like me, it was obviously an insurance scam, but none the less
Detective Biggs swabbed for DNA samples to send to the lab.

Finally,
it was time to investigate the murder for hire, and this was a real murder for
hire, not the idol threat I mutter when a broken car alarm wakes me up at
night. We drove to a house deep in the West Side on a stretch of road that
gives new meaning to the word blight. 
Residents were sitting on porches and obviously recognized the vehicle
as an unmarked police car.  The
tension was palpable.  I naively
thought the law-abiding residents would welcome a police presence, but
Detective Biggs assured me I was wrong. 

Sure
enough, throughout the day, people spit on the road as we drove by, and exuded
hostility. Biggs explained that the good
people, for the most part, are
prisoners in their homes.  As we
approached the house the neighbors in the yards next door literally melted into
their environment, leaning against fences and hedges, even getting off their
chairs and going inside their respective homes.  We parked and approached the house, and although I was
terrified, Detective Biggs was calm and in control of the situation.  He knocked on the door and called out
the man’s name.  He did not
hesitate, he had no fear and he took control of the situation.  His attitude straddled the fine line
between confident and cocky, assertive and aggressive.

Detective
Biggs knocked on the door and, after a minute or so, knocked harder and called
out the name of the man we were looking for.  As Detective Biggs stood in front of the door calling the
man’s name, I saw the neighbors look over the fence to see what was going
on.  We walked down the side of the
house to knock on the back door. 
In the lot to the left, there were 2 pit bulls harnessed to a metal
spike with chains the size of those used to secure a car to a flat bed.  These dogs were weapons, not household
pets.  The yard looked like a
prison yard scene from a movie. 
There was a couple of workout benches with multiple 50 pound plates on
either end.  A car literally sat up
on blocks.

We
walked around to the front of the house, and again Detective Biggs knocked on
the door and identified himself. 
He called out the man’s name, and shouted that he wasn’t in any
trouble. 

At
this point, my fear had subsided a little and I took a step backwards from
Detective Biggs, when I saw a woman in the upper window peeking out behind a
curtain.  I motioned to Detective
Biggs, and he called out to her. 
He used words like, ” Ma’am”, “not in any trouble” and “please open the
door.”  The woman came down, and
opened the door.  She wore a dirty,
white tank top that was virtually see-through, and she literally had one tooth
in her mouth.  Her ID revealed her
to be in her mid-twenties, but she could have easily passed for 50.  She told us her partner, the man we
were looking for, was out of county lock-up and at work.  She wasn’t pressing charges on the
domestic assault he was previously locked up for, and didn’t want any
trouble.  Again, Detective Biggs
assured her that neither she nor her partner was in any trouble.  He just wanted to talk to him on
another matter, and gave her his cell phone number to pass along.  We returned to the car and as we drove
away Detective Biggs said he doubted we would hear from the man that day.

I
was in shock. No matter what bad choices this woman made, nobody wants or
deserves this kind of life.  She
lives in a house with not one single blade of grass in the front yard; it is
literally a mud pit.  Her significant
other physically assaults her and is addicted to narcotics.  She may at one point have looked like
an attractive teenager you might see wandering the mall, but now she has one
tooth in her mouth, sunken eyes and dirty, stringy hair.  She looks broken, beaten and terribly
sad.  

From
that call we drove to the East Side to check out what was going on at the
Juneteenth celebration.  We rode
around for a little while, and were on our way back to the station, when we saw
a woman motorist throw a plastic shopping bag stuffed with trash out of the window.  Detective Biggs turned on his lights and
siren, and pulled up next to the car. 
The driver rolled down his window, and the woman in the passenger seat
started shouting at Detective Biggs, “What do you want?”  Detective Biggs told the woman to pick
up her trash, and she asked, “What trash?” and he said the trash you just threw
out the window.  She started
screaming that she didn’t throw anything out the window, and the driver backed
up her story.  She was straining
against the seat belt as she was screaming these obvious lies.  Her temples were visibly throbbing, and
sweat trickled down the side of her face.

We’d
seen her, clear as day, roll down the window and throw out the bag.  There was not one ounce of doubt in my
mind about what we’d just seen. 
Detective Biggs wasn’t threatening her with a ticket, he wasn’t yelling
at her or demanding she clean up a mess she wasn’t responsible for, he simply
asked her to pick up the bag of trash she had just thrown out the window.  As the woman continued denying her
responsibility, a passenger in the back seat got out of the car and picked up
the trash.  Detective Biggs then
said thank you, and we drove off. 
He told me that he is lied to like that ever day.  This was not the fudging of the truth,
a slight embellishment; this was a flat out lie, no shades of gray in this
case. 

We
drove back to the station and went up stairs to do some paperwork, when our
murder for hire suspect called. 
Detective Biggs told him he was on his way over, and we flew out of the
station.  As we pulled up, the
suspect was unloading tools from his car. 
Detective Biggs greeted the man and told him he wanted to talk.  It was obvious that the man did not
want to talk to a cop and his sidekick in the front yard, and he invited us in. 

Detective
Biggs had earlier confessed that he hated the dirt and grime that is part of
his everyday life on the job and often wished he could use sink and soap more
often.  Watching these two grown
men dance around about where to talk was a bit like watching a couple on an
awkward first date trying to decide what size popcorn to order.  Finally, Detective Biggs agreed to go
into the house.  We both expected piles
of junk, over-flowing ashtrays and dirty dishes, but were pleasantly surprised
by a spotless home with a couch, a couple of chairs, a television and a dining
room table with 4 chairs.  The
house had beautiful crown molding, probably 4 inches thick, that was stained a
dark, deep shade of brown. The suspect invited us to sit down at the dining
room table. 

He
had a couple of tattoos on his arms, and a tattoo of a devil complete with
horns his ring finger.  Although he
was only in his forties, he had deep wrinkles much like migrant farm workers.
He has been in and out of jail all of his life.  This is his normal. 
Detective Biggs told the man what the jailhouse recording revealed, and
the man told his side of the story. 
Due to the on-going nature of the case, I cannot get into any details,
but I assure you this was no joke. 
Somebody had solicited him for murder.  The suspect told us he wasn’t interested in murder, and
Detective Biggs asked him if he was on heroin just as casually as I would ask
somebody how they took their morning coffee.  The suspect admitted to using heroin, Lortab and some other
narcotics on a regular basis, just as casually as I would say cream and
sugar.  The suspect was not happy
about his addiction and was trying to get into a program.  The waiting list was 6 weeks, and his girlfriend
tried to monitor his drug use so he wouldn’t get “dope sick.”  He explained that was what happened the
night he was arrested for a “domestic”. 

Throughout
the conversation, his girlfriend was in the kitchen cooking pancakes.  We could all see each other, and she
was participating in the conversation. 
After Biggs asked a couple more questions, the conversation ended, and
we left.  The suspect shook my hand
and walked us to the door

Detective
Biggs and I drove back to the station, and his shift was over.  As I got into my car and drove home, I
had to force myself to relax my shoulders, breathe, unclench my jaw.  The tension of the last 4 hours had
literally permeated my body, and as I reflected on the experience, I thanked
God that I did not live in the wretched despair that so many of our neighbors
live in. 

I
had asked Detective Biggs how he deals with the stress and he just shook his
head and said, “We don’t get called for the good things…that’s for sure.”  On our next ride-around Detective Biggs
explained his approach to the job to me. 
To be continued…

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