A Former Officer Confesses: Young Cops Can Be Dangerous

Colt Trooper Revolver

By Stephen ZColt Trooper MKIII .357, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

By Bud Harton

I became a cop in the spring of 1969 after returning home from Vietnam. It’s hard to imagine now, but returning Vietnam veterans were not really appreciated by the American public. I quickly learned that I should avoid the subject of Vietnam altogether and if questioned whether I had been there, mumbling an answer and walking away was always a good idea.

If there was any profession more intensely disliked than returning combat veterans, it was law enforcement. So already being an outcast, I decided to become double-shunned by joining a suburban Chicago police department as their newest probationary patrolman.

Out of one uniform and into another. But, wow, what a uniform! My department wore dark blue pants with a light blue shirt and a sheriff’s hat. Ohmigosh, I loved that hat. It wasn’t quite as cool as a drill sergeant’s flat brimmed style, but it really added to the swagger.

You used the strap across the back of your head and that meant you could cock the brim of the hat down over your eyes and coupled with really cool dark sunglasses, I was really something.

But even cooler was the fact that our uniform included carrying our duty weapon cross draw. It was supposedly to facilitate drawing the weapon while seated in a patrol car but I didn’t pay any attention to that because when I saw myself fully uniformed in a mirror for the first time, I almost couldn’t breathe. I was so way cool.

My firearm of choice at the time, was a Colt Trooper.

So, six months later, fully trained at the Police Academy and finally released by my Field Training Officer, I was out on my own. There wasn’t a lot of crime in our town, it was primarily a ‘bedroom’ community without many businesses or industry.

The very first homicide in 25 years of existence had just happened after I got hired and while there were frequent burglaries, I didn’t see one single armed robbery while on duty the entire time I was employed there.

But, I didn’t care. I consciously patrolled my assigned patrol area with strict attention to detail. I stopped and helped kids and old ladies across busy intersections, rounded up stray dogs and took them home and wrote a lot of traffic tickets. I liked working traffic because I got to turn the ‘reds’ on and there was always a chance that a pursuit might ensue.

When stopping a violator, I recorded his license number on my note pad in case something happened, advised my dispatcher of the location and the vehicle description and usually had all that done just as the offender slowed his vehicle to a stop.

I carefully pulled up behind just a little to the left of his bumper so that I had a protected zone to approach him. Keeping my eye on the vehicle I would pop my door open and carefully step out to approach the car.

After a while I got so good at this I was able to carefully position my chrome plated spotlight mounted on the pillar of the door frame so that I could check the angle of my hat and make sure that I was looking good. I really liked how I looked in that uniform.

One bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, I got a radar clock on a car doing 10 miles per hour over the posted limit. That was enough to trigger my predatory instincts and I quickly pulled out from where I had concealed my car, flipped the reds on, and hauled after him. He must have noticed me pulling out because he pulled over almost right away.

I quickly notified my dispatcher of my location and the vehicle description and popped the door open with my left hand as I grabbed my Sheriff’s Stetson and quickly tipped it on with the chin strap firmly across the back of my head.

I stepped out on the pavement while carefully checking my appearance in my cleverly positioned spotlight and looked up at the offending car only to find that the driver was already out of his car and approaching me. And he had a pistol in his hand.

Time stood still as I started to back behind my car door, but I decided I didn’t have time, so as my left hand released the restraining strap on my holster, my right hand found the grip of my Colt Trooper and I ripped it out of the holster…and threw it across the hood of my squad car, into the ditch on the other side of the car.

As often happened when I was terrified in Vietnam, time stood still and all of my senses were focused on just what was in front of me. I could see my gun sailing through the air and the driver quickly approaching.

As my vision and hearing seemed to clear and refocus, I could hear him saying, “Officer, I was just on my way to the station, my son just found this gun behind my house.”

It took me a moment and I am pretty sure I was able to conceal the violent tremors in my knees and he probably thought that I was doing a pretty good job of controlling my stutter as I said, “Great, sir. I will follow you to the station and take your report. I’ll just block traffic here for a moment so you can get back safely on your way.”

He nodded his understanding and said he would go straight there.

I have often wondered if he saw me in his rear view mirror as I frantically groped and splashed in the ditch to find my Trooper. I am pretty sure he was too far away to see me holding it up to let the water drain out of it.

 

[This post was originally published in June of 2014.]

comments

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Hey it’s bud! I missed Buds comments and posts.

      Bud,
      Can you post that video of you on the helicopter machine gun?

      1. avatar Bud Harton says:

        That would be up to Dan, he has the article

  1. avatar Paranoid Android says:

    Hahaha wow, thanks for sharing that story!

  2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Wow.
    I visualized that. Then laughed.

  3. avatar Hannibal says:

    …and then changed pants.

  4. avatar danthemann5 says:

    Great story, very well written.

    1. avatar RapidRandy says:

      +1

    2. avatar Michael in AK says:

      +100

  5. avatar Ralph says:

    Veteran, concealed carry advocate, chronicler of the grunts in Vietnam and humorist — thanks Bud!

    1. avatar EagleScout87 says:

      +1

      1. avatar Bobsuruncle says:

        *2 , and a + for your service to this fine country.

        1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          …if he’s still on TTAG five and half years later and reading your comment, lol.

        2. avatar Bud Harton says:

          I am still here and kicking. I wrote Dan several years ago to see if I could write for TTAG and never got an answer. Nice to see that I earned a “re-run”.

        3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Great to hear from you Bud.
          (I chuckled again after reading this)

        4. avatar Ralph says:

          Five years later and I still LMAO.

        5. avatar Toni Smith says:

          PMSL Bud. That is one for the grandkids. Thankyou for your service mate. It sounds like you were one of the better ones most certainly a lot better considering some of todays crop

  6. avatar Anon in CT says:

    Nice set-up and a great payoff.

  7. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    So that’s where they get these stupid hollywood scripts, real life stories…. somehow it’s just better in real life than when Jim Cary does it.

  8. avatar Rich Grise says:

    “it really added to the swagger. You used the strap across the back of your head and that meant you could cock the brim of the hat down over your eyes and coupled with really cool dark sunglasses”

    Did they respect your authoritah?
    http://youtu.be/gx4jn77VKlQ?autoplay=0

  9. avatar Paul B says:

    Now that was humorous. I was on the receiving of that kind of stop back in the day.

    1. avatar Bobsuruncle says:

      Being on a gun sight, I doubt you had a negative outcome because of it.

      1. avatar Joel says:

        When I was 17, I managed to scare a rook into drawing on me. (Maybe I should write up THAT story someday.)
        Short version, I had to talk that guy down. He was crazy scared and If I hadn’t realized it as soon as I did he probably would have pulled the trigger that day.

  10. avatar TRP says:

    Good reason not to carry cross-draw…

  11. avatar Pashtun6 says:

    Made me laugh

  12. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    Sounds like a reality check! I had a good laugh at this because I could just picture the entire semi comedic scene.

  13. avatar Puyallup devil doc says:

    Colt trooper is a hell of a nice pistol. Too bad it ended up in a ditch. 🙂 I would have been changing my under-roos at that point though.

  14. avatar ggrimes2 says:

    I’m still laughing, I’m assuming the department did not find out at the time or you would still be trying to live it down. I’m glad nobody was hurt and the end result was lots of embarrassment on your part and a fool not getting himself shot. I’m hoping you did some additional training with your Colt and the cross-draw rig.
    Thanks again for the post and the honesty, I live in the second largest city in NM and in the last two years at least two officers had added sunroofs to their patrol cars with the shotgun. Not much has been said but they are looking into the shotgun rack as the fault nothing mentioned about the weapons handling.

  15. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    Oh, that was funny. And I’m so glad it happened years ago, because the outcome would be far different today, unfortunately.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      MamaLiberty, RIP.

  16. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    What a great story. I commend former Officer Harton for his candor.
    One wonders though…..how fortunate, that slip potentially saved the life of the motorist and the career of the officer.

  17. avatar bontai Joe says:

    GREAT story!!!! I was pulled over for speeding a day or two after convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard escaped from prison in NJ less than 5 miles from were I lived. The state troopers were patrolling everywhere in pairs and the two guys I got that evening were young, gung-ho and nervous. It was an interesting 10 minutes of my life, and all went well, nobody hurt, but I would not want to relive that moment again.

  18. avatar EagleScout87 says:

    Great story and thank you for your service Bud.

  19. avatar kbad says:

    Ok, now that was funny.

  20. avatar Karen says:

    After reading just a few lines of this post it confirms why most men join the police department… they enjoy the feeling of authority over fellow citizens

    1. avatar Danny Griffin says:

      +1

    2. avatar Bud says:

      Karen, how did you derive that?

      I was just home from an unpopular war where I was in a (literally)day to day struggle to stay alive and the only thing that kept me going was the men I served with. I was shunned by my peer group when I came home so I became a cop so I could rejoin the same type of fraternity that I had just enjoyed in Vietnam.
      I wrote the story to illustrate the comeuppance of a young cop who’s head had grown disproportionately large. Sorry you didn’t notice that.

      Please don’t let your own apparent prejudice read things into what I write that aren’t there.

      1. avatar Mark D says:

        Best entry so far.

      2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        Story was funny but that’s literally what you wrote. You don’t “get to turn the reds on” just to wish someone a nice day, it’s to exercise your authori-tay over others.

        1. avatar Well Done Bud says:

          I am glad that cops have authority – that is what we hire them for. And I notice that many criminals seem to have major problems with authority of any type. I am also glad Bud looked good in his uniform and that he loved his cocked hat, because those things exude professionalism and authority to the general populace and an expectation of seriousness to the morally dubious, such as a large swath of the TTAG readership, lol.

    3. avatar Aaron says:

      wow, Karen. Really?

    4. avatar Gregolas says:

      Thank you for your service Bud. Thank you for the well-written and entertaining story.
      Karen,I worked with cops as a prosecutor, legal trainer, city judge and before all that, an auxiliary cop.
      The distribution of jerks on a police force is no more than, (and probably less) than the distribution of jerks in any other group or profession). having worked closely with them in six different departments in two states for 15 years, I can tell you you’re assumption is completely wrong.

      1. avatar Lahoo Zher is a Serious Vaj says:

        Thank you Greg for clarifying the truth to a bunch of scalded-ass hippies out in Austin and other morally ambivalent western hellholes. They are rapidly getting what they want in their cities.

  21. avatar Jack Leininger says:

    I’ll bet you never dropped that M60 machine gun hanging in the rear door of the Huey you flew in Viet Nam. Sorry I missed you at Ed’s yesterday, Thur.
    PS: My knees still shake, but probably from the Bud Lite I use to drink.

  22. avatar Aaron says:

    Man, that was hilarious. Great story!

  23. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    Yea, nothing quite says “F*ck Me” like having a firearm pointed at you out of the blue.

  24. avatar Mark says:

    My God what #10 pucker! amazing that we survived the first year on the street isn’t it.
    My first gun when I began law enforcement in 1977 also was a Colt Trooper carried in a swivel holster, strong side. We were issued Super Vel, 115 grain mag ammo. Firing 6 rounds ensured that the empties were so stuck int he cylinder that the ejector rod would not eject. That and two dump pouches rounded out the firearm TO&E. After firing the Trooper I bought a Smith 4″. We could carry our personal firearm on duty if it were a .357. Much better.
    Unlike you, I was on the street 11 months before I went to the Academy. I was a certified radar operator before I was a certified police officer. Much has changed.
    I’m glad that encounter worked out for you.

  25. avatar J o e says:

    Pretty crappy submission; your lack of skill is nothing of note decrying other new officers. Cook county sheriff? It would explain everything. Clowns in brown.

  26. avatar Gunr says:

    Great story! I’m wondering though, how the violator was holding the gun as he approached you. That would certainly make a difference in ones reaction.

  27. Oh, look, another opportunity for cop haters to hate on cops.

    Yawn.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Oh S**t, It’s Paul McCain!!!

      I’m getting nostalgic from all the old faces here.

  28. avatar Bud says:

    Haters gotta hate, Paul

    1. avatar Ted says:

      I work for a large urban department. We were following a GPS tracked box of cell phones recently robbed from a cell store. It was my first year on and I was hot to trot. I showed up first and found three guys unloading the box in front of the house, about 9 pm so it was dark. I rolled up quick, at an angle using the car as cover, jumped out. Did the obligatory GET ON THE GROUND! While at the same time racking my shotgun.

      As I stepped out, my radio got snagged on the seatbelt, I turned sideways, dropped the shotgun, fell down on my butt, the car kept rolling forwards because I’d forgotten to take it out of gear, it drug me about 3 feet, got caught on a curb.

      I righted myself and looked up and saw that all three of the men were laying on the ground spread out. About 5 seconds later, all the other PD showed up and I didnt tell a soul. I’m glad we didnt have chest cams back then.

      It’s a small wonder any cop makes it past their first year.

  29. avatar Carmella says:

    Quit stepping on my rights as a gun owner, I’m sick of it.

  30. avatar Bud says:

    And eho eould be stepping on your gun rights, Carmella?

  31. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    Dredging the old stuff out can be fun, but theres a lot of this lately. Dan do you need additional submissions?

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      Indeed.

      TTAG got some serious mileage out of their TTAG reader submission contest for a new gun years back.

      The 500 dollar grand prize was likely the cheapest they’ve paid for the sheer number of articles it generated for them that they later used….

    2. These are good articles, some of which are almost a decade old. Many of our readers haven’t read them. We will continue to mine the archives for these.

      1. avatar Anonymous says:

        Hey you tricked me with this post. I thought I was talking to Paul and Bud in 2019.

    3. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Meh, most sites do it this time of year. The site staff – and more importantly, the readers – want to spend time with the family instead of the site.

  32. avatar Hannibal and the Elephants says:

    You are right, they don’t train them like they used to. Had you not been so busy checking the cock of your hat, you might have noticed the gun in his hand and perhaps had acted even more rashly with an outcome less favorable to everyone. Of course, today such actions are perceived as more of a threat. Yet, LEO today are more concerned with finding threats even where there are none; c.f., the case of Atatiana Jefferson of Fort Worth.
    Thank you for your service and an interesting article.

  33. avatar M says:

    Great story. Who in their right mind would want to be a cop today? I get there are still many towns and counties in the nation where it’s alright, but in most urban areas it’s a nightmare. I am not even talking about the jungle of Chicago, Baltimore, Oakland, New Orleans, and so on, even much smaller town most people think are okay are actually pretty bad in terms of crime and degenerates. We “civilians” don’t always realize it, because normal people stay away from the crazies and criminals, but it’s bad. Agencies sometimes hire people who don’t have what it takes, or lack the maturity, life experience, integrity, etc, but again many of those who would make much better candidates and cops probably choose a normal job and stay far away from law enforcement.

  34. avatar Perfect compromise 2020 says:

    Young everything can be dangerous. But the old ones are dangerous too, particularly behind the wheel. If I become President of the United States, I will mandate a curfew on people of less than 30 and more than 60 years of age. It’s a win win, the young snowflakes can stay home 24/7 dedicating all their time to video games and useless social media apps, and the old farts and grannies can do old people stuff.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      Place your head in a toilet bowl and breath deeply, please. Freedom doesn’t have age limits.

      1. avatar Dave G. says:

        @Jeff the Griz:
        From one old codger, to another: Amen brother!

        1. avatar tommy haltom says:

          I like that “Old People Stuff”, it is a blast.

  35. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Pretty funny.

    Made me think of a recurring skit onmthe John Byner show.

    He was a trooper and kept his sunglasses in the refrigerator.

    At some point in each skit he’d bellow….” we dont need yo kind around here!”.

    Same hat as in the post.

  36. avatar JIM ABRAHAM says:

    Bud, Thank you for your honesty. It takes a big man to find humor in his own mistakes. Moreover, thank you for your service as an LEO and as a soldier.

  37. avatar Gregolas says:

    Bud, thank you for your faithful service in the military and as a Peace Officer. We learn wisdom and humor from our mistakes. Thanks for the great story.

  38. avatar former water walker says:

    Unmentioned was there was no legal ILLinois carry in 1969…

  39. avatar GS650G says:

    I was pulled over once for speeding and the cop took my papers from me. He went back to his car while I fiddled with the radio. Another ticket I’d have to figure out a way to pay.
    He comes back in a minute and says to me ” I don’t know how to say this but I locked myself out of the car. I must have hit the lock with my belt on the way out. Can you help me?”
    The old Ford had those door locks that stuck up on the top of the door and Ford had them close to the window unlike GM cars. I had my GI uniform on hangers on the back seat so I took a hanger from the coat and fastened a hook. Then I was able to get his car unlocked , lights going the whole time flashing in my face.

    I got completely out of that ticket that day.

  40. avatar Dan says:

    But at least you looked good digging around in that ditch for your service weapon.

  41. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Accidentally flinging a revolver into a water-filled ditch … I hope you got the Trooper opened up and cleaned and oiled. That’s a formula for rust inside a revolver…

    It also brings to light one issue with a cross-draw holster. Yep, you can draw while you’re seated in a car, but that movement across your front under pressure can be an issue. I know a gentleman who pulled from a left-side shoulder holster on someone who was trying to carjack him by coming in the passenger side. His right hand hurt like hell from being smacked good and hard on the steering wheel as he drew/swung the gun to index on the carjacker (who back-peddled quite smartly out of the car).

  42. avatar WavyGravy says:

    Standing on a corner in Winslow California , I’m such a fine sight to see.

  43. Your pistol photo is that of a Colt Python.
    The Trooper pistol 357 did NOT have an “enclosed” ejector rod.
    Yes,,,I carried a Python for many years, then the semi-auto became vogue.

    1. avatar Bud Harton says:

      No, it’s a Trooper III not a Python. The original Colt Trooper did not have a shroud over the the ejector rod so you are only half right

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