February 19, 2009

Opie in pursuit

The deputy's real name is John but because of his boyish looks the
other deputies call him "Opie," after Sheriff Andy Taylor's son in the
popular old television series.
Opie is a member of the Sheriff's elite Traffic Corps. This day he's
running radar on Edmund Highway out past the airport. Opie is giving
motorists a generous 10 miles over the speed limit before handing out
four-point tickets.
An experienced officer, he's heard every excuse ranging from, "I've got
to get to the hospital and have my nervous system x-rayed," to whining
about a broken speedometer.
One driver said his wife was trying to get pregnant and she'd called him
at the office and told him to "come home right away."
To set the scene for what's about to happen, you must understand that
these traffic deputies are the best of the best. They are bright, highly
trained, well motivated and extremely dedicated. But they are also
high-spirited young men, each with a remarkable sense of humor. One
deputy purchased a sound effects box that, with the press of a button,
emulated sounds such as a Star Trek phaser, a fighter jet machine gun,
or a rocket launcher. Get the picture?
The officer piped these sound effects through his patrol car's public
address system. But he did that only within the Sheriff's parking lot
behind headquarters. Deputies don't use these shenanigans on the public,
only on each other. Out on the highway they are "strictly business."
It's a Tuesday afternoon, and as I said, Opie is working radar when a
lady in a dark blue Crown Victoria crests a hill, crossing double yellow
lines as she passes two other cars. The radar clocks her car at 78 mph
as she flies by Opie's marked patrol car — in a 55-mile zone.
Opie tries to fall in behind her, but the minute he turns on his blue
lights and siren she picks up more speed.
Opie gets on the radio: "286, headquarters, I'm in pursuit."
Headquarters responds: "286, are you close enough to read the tag number?"
Opie is about 200 feet behind the fleeing Crown Vic and can read the tag
easily. Never without his sense of humor, it is at this very moment that
Opie chooses to deliver the line made famous by actor, Tom Cruise,
playing the part of Maverick during an aerial dogfight in the movie, Top
Gun: "I'm too close for rockets — switching now to guns." At this time,
everybody in the world knew that famous line.
There's a deafening silence on the radio. Seconds later the silence is
broken by the familiar voice of the High Sheriff himself: "286, see me
as soon as you get back to headquarters."
For weeks after the Sheriff's broadcast, all deputies work their radio
mikes "strictly by the book."

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