Officer Errol Cooper paused at the sergeants’ desk and looked out into the complaint room. Every desk console was occupied by the civilian new-hires, their nervous-looking training officers tethered at their sides. Cooper’s eyes settled on the young, blue-eyed redhead sitting alone at a desk, quietly studying her training materials. Today, Monday, was Judgement Day: Marley Fahlstrom’s first day of answering Crime Stop calls on her own.
To Cooper, she was as shy as they come. For the past two weeks, she’d sat shotgun while listening in on his calls. Monday through Friday, every afternoon, for two full weeks…she had barely spoken a word; just sat there, mute, studying her training materials and scribbling god-knows-what onto a notepad.
Cooper had serious doubts about this one. The job of a Com Op I required a level of confidence and assertiveness that, clearly, this one lacked. She, Marley Fahlstrom, personified the clawing apprehension tearing at Cooper’s gut: Handling Crime Stop complaint calls demanded the kind of insight and savvy that only sworn officers possessed. She, or another like her, was going to get someone hurt…or killed.
Assigned as her trainer, Cooper knew the next two weeks—tethered to her side and monitoring her calls for eight hours a day—were going to be beyond painful. It promised to be a long and abysmal exercise in futility. Cooper sucked in his dread and sauntered over to Marley’s side.
“All ready to jump into the deep end, I see,” said Cooper, with forced cheer.
She looked up at him and shyly nodded.
Oh, great, Cooper thought, cat’s still got her tongue. He smiled down at her as he set his coffee mug and paper down on the desk’s edge. Cooper pulled over a second chair and plugged his headset into the empty port, just beneath Marley’s. Easing into the chair, he rallied, “Well, then…let’s do this!”
With that, she punched in the phone button connecting her to the Crime Stop system. Cooper lit up a Marlboro and sat back in his chair. It wasn’t long before they heard the click! of an incoming call. Cooper waited for her to speak…and waited. He was just about to unmute his mic and jump to her rescue when she blurted out….
“Hello? Hello?” said the caller
Cooper pointed to the mute button on her headphone’s volume controller. “Oh, sorry,” she muttered, then switched it off.
“Hello?” the caller said again.
“Phoenix Police,” she said, feebly.
Cooper’s mind was reeling. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. This was surely a shit-show in the making.
The caller continued, “Yes, I need to speak to a detective.”
Cooper started to interject, but Marley had already forged ahead.
“Do you need to report a crime or speak with a detective about a crime you’ve already reported?” Marley looked to Cooper for approval. He nodded back.
“Regarding a burglary I reported last month. I’ve got a tip on who might have done it.”
Again, Cooper started to click in to take over the call but Marley was a step ahead.
“I see. Do you have the DR number?
“The departmental report number issued by the investigating officer.”
“I don’t need it,” Marley interrupted, “but you will when you talk to the detective handling your case. Hold on while I transfer you.”
Cooper opened his mouth to tell her the extension number of the General Investigations Bureau but she punched in the extension before he could speak.
“G.I.B.,” a detective answered.
“Transferring a call regarding a four-five-nine follow-up,” informed Marley. As soon as she heard the detective and the caller connect, she punched out, terminating the call. She quickly jotted down the details on her call-log sheet and punched back in.
“Good,” Cooper said, begrudgingly. “That was good.” He was pleasantly surprised by her quick thinking and command of the phone system. But in the back of his mind, doubt still lingered. Okay, he thought, so maybe she’d make a great receptionist or secretary—just wait ‘til she gets her first real police emergency; that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
The morning flew by and Marley had capably handled several calls—phone referrals, questions about city ordinances, civil matters—all of them non-emergencies, typical of weekday mornings. In between calls, Cooper quizzed her on radio codes, protocol guidelines and statutes. She knew it all. Had memorized every last detail. But book smarts is not the same as street smarts—a far cry from it, thought Cooper. She may have learned the theory, but could she think on her feet during a real emergency? Cooper thought not.
Another click! sounded in their ears and Cooper wondered if this might be the call that would spell her doom, confirming all his doubts.
Marley promptly responded. “Phoenix Police.”
“Ah, yes. However, you see, I, uh, I…However, I think there’s been a crime,” said the caller, a woman with a whining, nasally voice.
“What kind of crime?” asked Marley
“Well, however, I’m not sure…”
Cooper stretched back in his chair, grinning as if enjoying a private joke. Marley glanced at him, questioningly.
“…but I think there are people prowling around my house.”
“You think?” asked Marley. “Did you see anyone?”
“Well, of course not. They’re invisible. However, I know they’re there…”
Marley muted her mike and looked to Cooper for help.
He unmuted and greeted the caller, as if an old friend: “Gladys, how’re you doing?”.
“Well, however, I’m not sure,” whined Gladys.
“How about you just relax and go make yourself a nice cup of tea.”
“That’s a girl. I’ve got to hang up now, Gladys, okay?”
Cooper reached across Marley and punched out of the call.
“Gladys ‘However’ is a nine-eighteen one-oh-one; she’s on our list of nut jobs who call in on a regular basis.”
Marley’s memory recalled the police radio codes. ‘918’ was a mentally ill person. ‘101’ was code for ‘female in unit.’
“A mentally ill female in unit?” Marley asked.
“No, a crazy one-oh-one…a crazy woman,” he corrected.
Marley held the radio code sheet up to him, pointing at the definition for the code ‘101’. “Female in unit,” she read from the code sheet.
Cooper explained, “‘one-oh-one’ was originally used as a way for male officers to notify radio when they had a female detainee in their squad car, and ‘one-oh-two’ when the female had left the car. It’s used to protect the officer should the female detainee claim he sexually assaulted or raped her during transport. Over time, the code ‘one-oh-one’ has come to refer to all women, just as ‘three-ninety’ is a general term for a drunk, or ‘nine-eighteen’, for a crazy person.”
Marley scanned the list of radio codes. “I don’t see a code for ‘male in unit’ or ‘male out of unit.’”
“Not needed. Male detainees don’t accuse officers of rape.”
“What if the officer is a woman?”
This momentarily tripped up Cooper. “Hmm…well, the reverse isn’t likely to happen. I mean, less than ten percent of the force are women.”
Marley flashed a dubious look at Cooper, then punched her phone button back into the Crime Stop system.
Inga, sitting just across the conveyer belt with her trainer, Martha, had been eavesdropping on Marley and Cooper’s discussion. She leaned across the conveyor belt and whispered to Marley her opinion of Cooper’s explanation:
Cooper might have taken offense had he heard Inga’s stinging indictment, but his attention was elsewhere at that moment, distracted by the familiar hand that was tugging playfully on his collar. Daisy had ventured into the complaint room to size up the competition—all the pretty young things recently hired to work the phones. With the creation of the Com Op I position, she and the other radio operators were given a new job classification as well: that of Com Op II—a full pay grade above the phone operators. This gave the dispatchers a legitimate claim to superiority over the Crime Stop operators, and Daisy, in her tight mini-skirt and cleavage-baring blouse, was there to flaunt it. She singled out Marley, in particular, due to her close working relationship with Cooper, a prized Texas Longhorn upon whom Daisy had already staked a claim.
Daisy moved around to the front of Cooper’s chair, keeping her eye on Marley the entire time. She then hiked up a leg and placed her foot onto Cooper’s chair, pressing the toe of her spike-heeled sandal into his scrotum. Cooper sat, immobilized, a horrified grin plastered on his face. Marley, Ingrid, and Martha looked on, agape. Daisy pretended to adjust the ankle strap on her shoe before nonchalantly withdrawing her foot. As she swaggered back to the radio room, she tossed back a parting scowl at Marley, as if a warning.
Laughter broke out like hives.
“What the hell was that?” asked Inga.
“Was it something I said? asked Marley.
Cooper, whose face was turning ten shades of red, tried to explain but, really, there was no explaining Daisy. He threw up his hands in surrender, giving in to the ridiculous calamity of the moment.
“Phoenix Police,” Marley answered, muffling her laughter.
“This is Valley National Bank at Thirty-fifth Avenue and Rose Lane. We’ve just been robbed.”
Cooper, instantly serious, unmuted his mic and prepared to take over, but Marley had already sprung into action. Following standard protocol for all bank robberies, she punched in the phone’s red button, hot-lining the call and sounding the emergency tone.
“Radio,” the emergency dispatcher said, with a voice that sounded like she’d swallowed a bucket of gravel.
“I’ve got a two-eleven at the Valley National Bank, Thirty-fifth Avenue and Rose Lane,” then, to the caller, “Is the suspect still there?”
“No, he just ran out the front entrance”
“Did he have a weapon?”
“Yes, a gun.”
“What kind of gun—“
“Were any shots fired? Anyone hurt?”
“No, no shots. Everyone’s fine. Just shook up, is all.”
“Can you describe the suspect?”
“A white male, tall and skinny.”
“Any facial hair?
“No. Wait, yes, he had a mustache…I think.”
“What was he wearing?”
“Jeans and a green polo shirt”
The gruff dispatcher butted in, “Did he flee on foot or in a vehicle?”
“I didn’t see, I don’t know,” replied the caller.
“No vehicle description at this time,” the dispatcher relayed to the responding units.
Across the room, an officer working the complaint room’s alarm board, yelled out, “I’ve got a silent alarm at the Valley National Bank!”
Cooper yelled back, “We’ve got the bank on the line. Officers are already en route.”
Then Boomer, sitting with his trainee, Lina, called out, “We’ve got the security guard on the line with suspect vehicle info. Black Ford Mustang heading southbound on Thirty-fifth Avenue. Arizona plate David-Ocean-Nora, five-zero-two.”
Marley relayed the information to the dispatcher.
“Put the vehicle info on a card and send it to radio,” Cooper yelled back to Boomer.
“Units are on scene,” radio responded.
“The officers are here,” said the caller.
“Go ahead and talk to the officers,” said Marley, to the caller.
The caller hung up as the radio operator rasped, “Officers have the suspect vehicle pulled over. Good job, everyone.”
Marley punched out. She leaned back in her chair, let out her breath, and waited for the adrenaline to clear her veins. Inga and Martha both reached across the conveyor belt, offering her high fives. Marley then turned to Cooper…
Beaming beyond recognition, the veteran officer was happily swallowing a mouthful of crow—all his doubts, fears, and cynicism flushed down the proverbial crapper.
This just might work, he thought.