Last Tuesday night on a county not far from here my partner and I were patrolling a muddy-icy dirt road beside a corn field and we saw an individual wearing an orange hat, without a weapon, crossing cornrows. It was about 5:30 or so, and dark. My partner identified himself as a conservation officer and the man came back to the road. The man said he had shot at a deer but wasn’t sure he had hit it. My partner checked the man’s weapons in his vehicle, two shotguns, in cases, neither firearm loaded. Then we returned to the patrol truck and asked for a check on warrants and criminal and DNR license histories and after a few minutes, Lansing (Station 20) begins by announcing an “officer caution,” and then began to read a litany of felony charges dating back to 1972. The man is younger than me, but looks much older. His most recent charge was for armed robbery and he plead guilty n 1990. Anyone convicted of a felony involving use of a weapon can never carry a weapon again. So this felon, who is clearly down on his luck, is facing a five-year felony for having any firearms, much less a pair of them. My partenr relieved the man of the weapons and gave him a receipt. Then we tracked and found a small button buck that had been gut-shot, but died, and we confiscated the deer from the guy, and put it in the patrol truck. The man had an out-of-state driver’s license and plates, but Michigan hunting licenses. And he had a letter from the post office indicating they started forwarding his mail to Michigan last month. Still; it’s not ot clear if he is or isn’t a Michigan resident, but we keep the weapons and let him go to his local address and tell him my partner will be in touch. Hunting license retailers exercise no quality control and will generally sell anything the customer asks for, even if its wrong. This is a gliche in our licensing system. Eventually computers will spit out the truth, but there ought to be a computer program that automatically red-flags improper license sales. Oh well.
All of this occurred, as it often does, after dark. The guy was pretty decent and did not get all jacked up like some people tend to do, but my partner and I afterwards talked long and hard about this country and how if you screw up seriously you are pretty much seriously screwed for the rest of your life. Some in society may be given second chances, but these seem rare, and it’s more likely that once you are a felon you are facing a snowball of trouble for the rest of your life. Eventually the snowball can crush you, or you offend again and end up incarcerated for a longer period of time. Companies rarely hire felons except for the most menial tasks — if at all, and if trouble happens, the cops come directly to known felons to check them out. These people begin to go through life with no money and no prospects and even for those with good hearts who happened to screw up, their lives are pretty much over. Many of these people lack education or training, or motivation, and then we wonder why they later turn back to crime? This country pays no more than transparent lipe service to “forgiveness and rehabiliation,” but what we really believe in is punishment. Just like most people pay lip service to supporting our troops, but in reality don’t do a damn thing for them. We are sometimes a country that is more bullshit than reality. Or maybe a lot of America’s reality IS bullshit. I don’t know, but I think about this often.
This isn’t your typical woods cop story, but over the years I’ve been with officers who’ve encountered armed felons, some of whom reacted violently, but most of whom reacted with resignation as the snowball gets just a little bigger and heavier ,and continues the process of slowly crushing life out of them.
It’s not the sort of black/white, right/wrong story most people want to hear, but gray is one of the realities of our society and as I’ve said before — when I go on patrols with officers — the events always get me thinking. Most cops I know are a helluva lot more understanding and open-minded than harshly judgmental like a lot of regular and self-proclaimed religious citizens.
Enough for today. I’ll try to think of more pleasant subjects. Watch the MHSAA championjship games this weekend if you want to have some fun. Nothing more pure than high school football.