The other night a two-man patrol car asked for a follow up on a car stop they had just made.
I wasn’t far from the stop and headed that way. When I arrived, I saw their patrol car in the middle of a narrow and old looking street. A beat-up looking white car was pulled over.
As I walked up, the officer pointed to a gun on the trunk of his car and asked, “Does that look real?”
It was actually a pellet gun that looked like a semi-auto handgun. It looked like the real deal for sure.
The driver had it under his seat at the time of the stop. Of course, he claimed he didn’t know it was there and said it belonged to his father and brother. After I looked at the gun I went to stand by with the driver and engaged him in small talk.
“What’s your name?”
The driver, who was sitting on the curb and in his early 20s said, “Frank.”
We talked about where he lived and what he did for work. I also asked him about the gun. After a few minutes I pointed to one of his passengers, who was sitting on the curb and asked, “What’s his name?”
Frank put his hands behind him on the ground as he leaned back to look at the guy. His jaw clenched slightly and his eyes squinted as he looked back at me and said, “I don’t know.”
“Really? How long have you known him?
“How can you have some dude in your car and not know his name? How do you know him?”
“He comes around.”
“You mean he comes around like a cat?”
Frank smiled at that and said, “No. I just know him from around.”
“What about the other guy?”
Frank looked over at the other passenger and said, “Ah, Larry or something.”
“How long have you known Larry or something?”
“Almost two years.”
Here’s the funny thing. I didn’t get the feeling he was being dishonest. Those were just his answers because he really didn’t know their names. Most regular people know the names of their passengers, but not out here on the streets.
When you’re driving around a rundown neighborhood with a fake gun under the seat and trying to sell a laptop, people’s names aren’t that important. It’s just the way it’s always been.
Editor’s Note: John Roman is a traffic officer for an Orange County police agency who writes a blog, Badge 415 (www.badge415.wordpress.com). His posts focus on the human side of police work and safety tips. Roman, a cop for more thsn 20 years, has handled more than 5,000 accidents as a collision investigator. BehindTheBadgeOC.com shares some of his columns.