By Michael Romain
~3:10 pm — As we’re riding down 9th Avenue, Curry recalls the moment he got dispatch of the big fight that happened hours earlier. He was getting his squad car washed on 4th and Lake. “You know when you’re at the car wash and your car goes in, you’re pretty much stuck there,” he says — yet another instance of how things can turn on a dime.
We cross the tracks, the mini-iconic Maywood water tower hulking in my periphery, but I don’t pay it much attention. Prompted by the talk of cars, I ask Curry about the proposal that had been brought up at the most recent LLOC meeting. The Village is considering leasing three new squad cars for the department. “How’s the present fleet?” I ask. As I say this, we cruise by the car wash where Curry had gotten momentarily stuck.
“Our newest cars are four years old,” he says. “They get no rest…they’ve got to constantly be repaired and replaced.” The repairs and the replacements, however, don’t occur as frequently as they should. Curry says that the cars are sorely needed, but the Village doesn’t have the money to buy them. So, at the LLOC meeting, Village Manager William Barlow announced a proposal “to pledge the Working Capital Fund as collateral” for the leasing of the cars.”
~3:17 pm — “Let me offer my condolences.” We’re on the north side of the Village, near the home of someone whose recently passed. He stops the car in front of the house and hops out. He’s back in less than three minutes. The funeral was today at Rock of Ages, but Curry couldn’t attend due to the fighting. His patrol of the north side is typically uneventful, a good thing.
~3:21 pm — As he’s approaching 3rd and Walton, Curry gets dispatch of somebody tearing down some signs at 244 S. 11th. “Vandalism?” I ask. “Not sure yet,” he says. It could be vandalism or the person could be removing the signs for legitimate reasons. “A lot of times, we’ll get calls, but the exact nature of the calls aren’t accurate,” he says. As we’re driving to the call, we hear over dispatch that Maywood police have gone into neighboring Broadview to assist with something. “Broadview helped us out, now we’re over there helping them out.”
~3:23 pm — We get diverted to 3rd and Oak for a more interesting call regarding open alcohol. But when we arrive at Oak, there doesn’t appear to be anyone on the scene. As Curry is surveying the vicinity, another dispatch about a possible mother-son dispute at Burger King on 1st and Lake crackles in the car. “We’re divvying all this up between 6 cars,” Curry says as he speeds to the scene. He notes that he typically stays behind on calls like this. The chief isn’t supposed to be the first to respond.
~3:24 pm — “23,” Curry reports into his receiver. “That means we’re here,” he says before jumping out of the vehicle. I stay behind in the SUV. After some minutes, Curry’s voice materializes on the dispatch: “Disregard. Nothing pressing going on, but the manager’s going to discuss something with me.” As I’m hearing this, another officer pulls up beside Curry’s vehicle and gets out his car to go inside. Just as soon as he enters, he exits and drives off. When Curry returns, there’s nothing much to report. The mother and son friction happened in the drive-thru. The two have long since left the premises.
~3:30 pm — We’re driving westbound on Madison Street. I asked Curry how he delegates his attention, since there can be so many things happening at once. “It depends,” he says. “You never know how you’re going to be surprised in this job.” We come up on a traffic stop on the corner of 9th and Madison. “I’m about to go on talk-around,” Curry says. ‘Talk-Around’ is short for direct dispatch communication with another officer. The Chief wants to know the cause of the stop. The driver was stopped for driving in a parking lane. This is an ordinance violation. (Read more on the details of this stop here).
As we’re leaving the traffic stop, Curry talks about a critical element of police procedure that often goes unnoticed. Reporting something as minor as a traffic stop can take between 30-60 minutes. A DUI might take an officer out of rotation for as many as four hours. “If something big happens, everything would have to stop,” Curry says. Hearing this, I wonder how anyone can cope with the chronic arrhythmia of policing in a place like Maywood, which has some of the homey aspects of a Mayberry intertwined with some of the sinister aspects of a Compton. And then it hits me that trying to keep some semblance of balance and order in a place like this is like trying to modulate the personality of a schizophrenic or a manic depressive. It’s a thankless job, about as hard to appreciate as swallowing a pill. VFP